As if gender norms aren't reinforced enough in the world. As if girls aren't incessantly told that pink is their color, that they belong in the kitchen, and that they should be playing with barbies, not cars.
So one may possibly understand my shock after coming across what seems to be a gendered chocolate bar ... as if we needed this extra sugary layer of gender norms. Milka, a brand owned by American multinational confectionery, food, and beverage company Mondelez International, reinforces these stereotypes with its chocolate bar titled LEA. You may have heard of LEA's male counterpart, LEO. The latter is wrapped in purple packaging, not blue (surprise, surprise) because maybe Milka didn't plan on dividing the sexes back when it first named and packaged its (male?) chocolate bar.
I came across this appetite-suppressing chocolate bar (maybe you think I'm being dramatic, but it's true) as I was scrolling through my Instagram feed. Sams, a famed market in Lebanon's vibrant neighborhood of Hamra, was promoting it through its stories on the platform. I had never seen the bar in markets across the country, but apparently it's been on the shelves - not just in Lebanon - for a while.
LEA is a limited edition white chocolate raspberry version of LEO, a milk chocolate wafer cookie bar that resembles KitKat in its overall design.
Whatever reason LEA was brought to life doesn't justify its existence. Yes, the bar had been made for Breast Cancer Awareness Month, so we understand why the color pink was chosen ... but why attach a girl's name to a chocolate bar? And why still sell it when October ended three months ago?
Haven't we learned enough from other brands who have made the same mistakes only to fall flat on their faces? "Lady Doritos" and "Bic for Her" are two examples of brands that have attempted to cater to women ... by treating them like aliens.
The former was a failed attempt to make a cleaner, quieter version of the snack, exclusively for women, because God forbid someone hears us crunching our Doritos and licking the flavors off our fingers, right? Munching sounds and indulging in spices are reserved for men only. As for the latter, its approach was quite different. "Bic for Her" attempted to create pens that are "more comfortable" for women by designing pens that "fit in a woman's hand" and come in two colors: pink and purple ... because that's the only way to get a woman comfortable writing?
Color-coding products and packages that are meant to be unisex only pulls the conversation regarding female empowerment backward. There is nothing inherently feminine about the color pink and baby dolls, just as there is nothing masculine about blue and toy cars.
So why advertise products in a manner that perpetuates these narratives? To exclusively target women ... on products that are not exclusively for women. Most of us have successfully gotten out of the "princess fairytale" myth we were once drowning in, meaning pink packages don't lure us into purchasing anymore.
So save us the pinkish messages and work on creating products that really cater to women when there is a need to and not just for the sake of added revenues.