Female-friendly chips - just another way to silence women?

Credit: iStock
Credit: iStock

When I was young my dad often took me to work with him.  

He had a small dental surgery in Eersterus, a township located just outside of Pretoria’s city centre.

He often drove between Eersterus and the township next door, Mamelodi, to help patients out.

Instead of carting me around with him, he left me with Aunty Joyce.

Sometimes Edgar, her son, was around and we would go to the spaza shop to buy Joystix chewy sweets (I don’t know what the fancy name for these are) and we would share a pack of Wizards chips.

I haven't seen those chips since childhood and never outside of the hood either.

The packet (the size of a snack pack of Big Korn Bites) was this metallic blue that started chipping off if you sucked on the bag too hard. And we did.

When the chips were done, we sucked the bag and then we sucked our fingers.

If I remember correctly, the “Wizards”, was written boldly in yellow and orange on the front, and in the centre of the bag is where you found the grim reaper.

Hooded villain. Sickle. No face. Red eyes. The wizard so to speak. And he was the biggest selling point.

The second selling point was what you found inside the bag.

When you opened a bag of Wizards you could not inhale too enthusiastically.

The fumes from the stuff preserving it escaped too quickly and took refuge in the back of your throat resulting in a cough.

Once the dangers of a possible asthma attack passed, the party started. We dug in and fished out blood red maize chips the shape of Nik-Naks but much more potent.

No cheese flavour, just spicy redness that burned and stained the tongue and MSG that stuck to the fingers like a beetroot stain on your favourite white tee. 

When the chips were done, we sucked the bag and then we sucked our fingers. Not your regular “one, two, three, four, five, done” kind of suck. But suck-suck. We sometimes even used our teeth to get that thick layer of powder, flavour and chip crumbs off our fingers.

It was delicious. It was… joy.

And now, decades later, I am thirty-three and the little girl that enjoyed those chips with reckless abandon has just learned that women don’t do that and so we need silent snacks.

READ MORE: Are we paying some kind of 'fat tax'?

Like the new female friendly Doritos.

Here we are, in 2018, being told by big corporates that what women really desire is a chip that does not make a noise when we eat it.

Honestly, there is no more perfect metaphor for the literal silencing of women: “Here you go female folk. Keep busy and chew on this. Quietly. In the corner”.

A lot of people (men) are going to defend this decision and say that it’s okay, because the CEO of PepsiCo, the holding company of Doritos is Indra Nooyi. A woman.

There have been multiple stories written about Indra's struggles to make it to the top and stay there as a woman of colour. Articles supported by #bosslady. Obviously.

Indra is an Indian immigrant who graduated from the Yale School of Management. She was also a lead guitarist in an all-girl rock band. According to Forbes, she is one of only 27 female CEOS heading up a Fortune 500 company and listed as one of the most powerful women in the world.

Frequently a guest speaker on women’s leadership, Indra is not a head count, a demographic nor is she a seat-filler.

By the sounds of things, I'd dare guess she was a feminist.

“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.”
Indra Nooyi

So did she make this his-and-hers decision alone? Is making decisions like this part of Indra's latest struggle where she might have to battle with predominantly male boards and teams?

One female CEO does not patriarchal economies eradicate so I'll give her the benefit of the doubt.

In an interview on a Freakonomics podcast, Indra does describe the noisy Dorito as one of women’s least favourite things. Further she states that the company was trying to solve these problems. One of their solutions was a female-friendly chip.

“Although women would love to crunch crisps loudly, lick their fingers and pour crumbs from the bag into their mouth afterwards, they prefer not to do this in public,” she said.

She then went on to passionately describe how different the experience is for men: “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, because they don’t want to lose that taste of the flavour, and the broken chips in the bottom.”

And then she hit the point home one last time: “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.”

READ MORE: We need to talk about the C-word

I have never, not once wished for someone to come and save me from this dilemma. Have you?

And I wonder if female-friendly chips aren't just the new pink tax women are forced to pay.

Like how women have to pay rands and cents more than men for the exact same items just because of different marketing?

From toiletries to clothes to dry-cleaning services to goddamn gendered cut steaks, products targeted at women usually cost more than similar items for men.

I will not do it for a pink razor and I will most definitely not pay more for a silent chip.      

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