Smells like… TMF

deodorant_ad_CCIn this Tired Marketing Fail I am actually calling myself out as much as anyone else.

As many regular readers know, I suffer from a variety of allergies to things in the natural world, as well as products at the grocery store, to things in the medicine cabinet. For the past few months I’ve been trying to find a new deodorant, as my old one has started causing me to break out into a rash. Bleh.

In my search, I feel like I’ve tried just about every brand and type out there. Even the hippie kinds that don’t work for shit. Then, the other day, I was shopping for my husband and I walked through the men’s deodorant aisle. I stopped for a moment and turned and looked at the products lining the shelves.

I think Oprah calls this an “Aha moment.”

I picked up some of the men’s deodorants and started reading the labels. I didn’t see any of the offending ingredients that were plaguing me just one (feminine) aisle over. And then I bought a couple and tried them out. Eureka!

Now I have to admit, I feel sort of stupid for not thinking of it sooner. Why didn’t I try out a men’s deodorant before? Well, partly I think it’s geography. They were in a whole different aisle. Out of sight, out of mind. But that isn’t the whole story, of course. A big part of why I didn’t think of it is because of my own internalized sexism. Those products are for men.

And, of course, this raises some questions about our assumptions of cleanliness, smells, and hair removal standards for women as well as men. I am sure I have not been the first feminist offended by commercials for products like Axe, marketed to men as a macho brand that will get you laid. There’s a master’s class in propagating the gender binary right there! A product for dudes is aggressive and will entice women to have sex. (Presumably, dudes only want to have sex with women, in the hetero-normative world of personal hygiene.) Likewise, women’s products aim to not only maintain “freshness,” but also the illusion that women never sweat at all. And, naturally, women will be applying their feminine deodorant to hairless armpits, shaved religiously to avoid the implication that they are dudes.

So much gender-coding and it’s only deodorant!

All this aside, I am happily wearing deodorant that works for me now. (And I think it’s safe to say as summer approaches in Las Vegas, everyone else is happy, too.) But what a waste of time and money I spent with such a narrow search! I was blinded by my own internalized sexism! (One interesting side note: Deodorants marketed to men are just as overwhelmingly loaded with fragrance as ones that are marketed to women!)

We all have it these sexist stumbling blocks. And that’s why I write about TMFs so much. Because even though we can see it in some aspects of our lives, sometimes we can’t see it in others — even when it is blaring at us like a big neon sign. Dismantling sexism and the institutionalized patriarchy all around us is hard work and it takes all of us. I’m no more perfect at it than anyone else.

And that’s why I encourage you to speak up and share your experiences! Send me your tips and photos of offenders! Let’s keep this dialogue going, that we all might be liberated, one post at a time.


  1. What has really annoyed me is that a deodorant that I am sure was originally marketed and shelved as a womens deodorant is now being shelved in the men section at the supermarket! Just because it says “Sport” and does not use the words men or women. This is a Rexona pump spray deodorant that both my husband and I have been using for at least 15 years. I swear it used to be shelved rigjt next to the other pump spray Rexona deodorants which was labelled womens, otherwise I daresy I would never have started using it. Just recently I could not find it on the shelf at my supermarket under the giant sign saying deodorant, but it turns out it does not include mens deodorant. But it seems to include non-gender specific deodorant such as Tea- Tree Oil Deodorant. Meanwhile there is a sign saying Mens Grooming which includes mens deodorant.

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