Why do men need their own laundry detergent? Allow this male feminist to explain.
Last week, Mic wrote about the brand Frey, which is selling laundry detergent specifically "designed to fit man's lifestyle" and "offer men a laundry product of their own." We critiqued Frey, which is trying to "break down stereotypes" of who should be doing laundry, for gendering a product that is not currently gendered.
We had reached out to Frey for comment prior to publishing the original article, but didn't hear back until after it was published. We've since spoken with Frey co-founder Erin Frey about why their products are needed on the market and how the company might encourage more men to, as we so nicely put it, "suck it up and break the stereotype" that laundry is traditionally a women's domain.
Brands like Tide and All don't target one gender over another, but Erin Frey insists the products are very much gendered. "No, there may not be many detergents out there that are explicitly marketed as 'for women,' but that does not mean that many, for example the Laundress, are made essentially for women," he said. "But when the overwhelming majority of advertisements, scent names, colors, images, etc. are clearly tailored to women, the industry feels gendered."
And therefore the cycle of men not doing laundry continues. Until they have their own men's detergent that is.
"We think that by creating a detergent tailored to men, we can begin to breakdown this stereotype that it should be the primary responsibility of women, and break the cycle," Frey said.
In an email, Frey made it clear he and his brother identify as feminists, strongly insinuating the detergent was not a way to further separate men and women, but to equal the laundry playing field. And make men do their own damn laundry.
"Why should women still be more often expected than men to do laundry, even if not explicitly stated."
"We are all in this together, and all deserve to be treated equally," Frey said. "So why should women still be more often expected than men to do laundry, even if not explicitly stated? Sometimes the unstated stereotypes and expectations are the ones most ingrained in society.
"By creating a laundry detergent specifically for men, we are making a statement, not that men should use a laundry detergent because it will get them laid, but that men can, and should be doing laundry."
The company specifically included the words "for men" on its packaging instead of just marketing to men. Why? To sell products and create a following.
"The laundry and household products industries are massive, with a few big brands that run almost the entire industry, with very established customer habits and brand loyalty, and little change in the industry," Frey said.
"We, on the other hand, are a brand that is less than a year old, completely bootstrapped, and attempting to change many aspects of the industry. So, our branding and marketing had to make as big a 'splash' as possible, to get the most bang for our buck."
This "splash" needed the words "for men" because dudes might see it and, as Frey said, think "Well I'm a man," leading them to switch detergents.
"We thought about not including 'for men,' and once we have managed to get into the market more, we will likely lose it," he said. "For the time being though, we wanted to really make an impact so that there is no doubt in anyone's minds about what we are shooting for."
In the end, Frey hopes that his company's product can simply be an option that encourages some more men to do laundry.
"We are just providing a way to get them excited in a way that hasn't been done before and turning a previous chore into a positive experience."
"The last thing we are trying to do is tell people what a 'Real Man' is," he said. "In fact, we went through a huge change in our company, completely changing our name, because our previous brand was called 'REAL' and people thought we were trying to tell people what a 'Real Man' is. In reality, we were just trying to say that 'In the REAL world, men do laundry too.'
"There is already a shift in household responsibilities towards more men doing these chores. But we do believe this is one of the most effective ways in introducing a rapid change in the market. A gender-neutral product would not have the same impact... We are just providing a way to get them excited in a way that hasn't been done before and turning a previous chore into a positive experience."
While, yes, men should be encouraged to do their own laundry, gendering a product that isn't already gendered is not going to magically erase the misogynistic stereotypes that have for so long been engraved within society. Only time — and sales — will tell if a detergent created for men can actually make them want to do what was for years, and kind of still is, a "woman's job."
But, for now, we are going to stick with our suggestion that says men should just get over their macho selves and walk into a Target and pick up some Tide.