Everything You Need to Know About the ‘Lady Doritos’ Controversy

A bag of PepsiCo Inc. Doritos brand snack chips is arranged for a photograph in Tiskilwa, Illinois, U.S., on Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2016. PepsiCo Inc. is scheduled to release earnings on September 29.
 Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Sometimes you come across a story that makes you think, ‘Maybe that was blown out of proportion.’ But that’s not necessarily the case with the Lady Doritos controversy that’s taken over the Internet in the past few days.

On Jan. 31, PepsiCo chief executive Indra Nooyi was invited to speak on a Freakonomics podcast in which she shared some news about a potential new venture: female-friendly Doritos that don’t make as much noise as the standard version. The tidbit made its way into the wider news ecosystem this week and drew predictably shady responses everywhere from The Washington Post (“Doritos is developing lady-friendly chips because you should never hear a woman crunch”), to Salon (“Pepsi is developing Lady Doritos because chips are so hard for girls”).

On the podcast, Nooyi—who as one of only 27 female CEOs of a Fortune 500 company is far and away one of the most powerful women in the world—was asked whether there were any differences between the way men and women snack.  Here’s what she said: “Especially as you watch a lot of the young guys eat the chips, they love their Doritos, and they lick their fingers with great glee, and when they reach the bottom of the bag they pour the little broken pieces into their mouth… Women would love to do the same, but they don’t. They don’t like to crunch too loudly in public. And they don’t lick their fingers generously and they don’t like to pour the little broken pieces and the flavor into their mouth.”

She later added, “It’s not a male and female as much as ‘are there snacks for women that can be designed and packaged differently?’ And yes, we are looking at it, and we’re getting ready to launch a bunch of them soon.”

Because of course, women would prefer to delicately eat bonbons—careful not to sully the fingertips, of course—from the privacy of our homes. Ladies’ fingers shouldn’t be tainted by neon nacho dust, and heaven forbid someone hears a woman munching!

After reading a litany of side-eyed commentary across the Internet, Doritos started issuing statements: Despite its boss’s insistence, the company has no plans to launch a gender-specific line of snacks, and its social media team, at the very least, seems to recognize that the notion of a line of genteel snack chips for women is as ridiculous as the imagery in that last paragraph.

 

Marketing in a day and age when everyone with half a brain can acknowledge that the genders really are equal shouldn’t resort to outdated, oppressive, offensive stereotypes. But just because it was presented poorly doesn’t mean quieter, less dusty Doritos are a bad idea. They just have to be marketed the right way. Instead of presenting them as lady optimized, why not call them office-friendly, movie theater-friendly, or I’m-wearing-white-pants friendly snacks? After all, those are environments (and situations) where loud crunching is annoying—no matter the gender of whomever creates the noise.

Just a thought.