I’m fired up. In one week, I’ve been confronted with two examples of the tiresome old issue of sexism. The first is more food for thought but the second is a real experience which happened last week.
Readers may have heard by now that Mars Incorporated., the parent company for the M&M candy brand is giving its famed cartoon M&M candy characters an inclusive make-over, stating a “global commitment to creating a world where everyone feels they belong and society is inclusive.” The “male” characters are undergoing internal transformations; the orange M&M will embrace his anxiety and the red one will become less alpha and be kinder. But no changes are scheduled for their physical appearance. This may be because no clothing or accessories were ever added to them in the first place.
On the other hand, the Green M&M has swapped her “sexy” go-go boots for sneakers, and the brown M&M (who recently joined this group in 2012) switched from her “sexy” high heels she’s worn as a chocolate business executive (that’s in her bio) to a lower heel shoe. Well, that’s a relief. They’ve also removed some of the Green M&M’s eye make-up. Additionally, the female M&Ms, who were previously known as Ms. Green and Ms. Brown, are now dropping those titles to de-emphasize gender.
I did a bit of research and learned something interesting from the Wall Street Journal (yes, they are covering this story.)
“The green M&M made her debut in a 1997 Super Bowl commercial. Her long lashes and pouty lips were a departure for the candy company at the time, which didn’t assign genders to its cartoon candies before that, even though they walked, talked and had other humanlike characteristics.”
Since the goal of permanently removing sexism from well, everywhere, was already underway in 1997, and Mars already had a better genderless marketing formula, the question on why they decided to sex-up the green candy is a head-scratcher. (I watched the ad which introduced her. The song in the ad was Jimi Hendrix’s “Foxy Lady” as she strolled down a city street to cat calls.) Insert eye-roll here. Why they decided to fall back on stereotypical, fantasy-type go-go boots and stilettos for two random colored candies as a sign of femininity only set Mars up for a problem they were always going to have to reverse.
And now that the reversal has arrived, they are still scrambling. Their brand-new marketing campaign is inadvertently highlighting their past mistakes and have us questioning their choices even further. I still wonder why there was never any clothing choices needed to define the males. Truly, they never should have split them up to gendered candies. It was more fun for the viewer to read into the characters whatever personalities they wanted to see.
And here’s the second half of a frustrating week. My husband Dennis and I traded in my old car in May, 2019 for a new one. Not only did I explicitly tell the salesperson at that time that it was going to be my car (my husband does very little driving due to eyesight issues) but I was the one who test drove it. He sat right next to me. I was the one who decided yes or no on the car. I assumed that the purchase would be put in my name. I believe that a man would assume that if he was in the driver’s seat.
But I was wrong. It was placed solely in Dennis’s name. Although they didn’t say this, I believe this was because my husband had a higher yearly income. If that was true, did they think I wouldn’t be able to meet my financial obligations on the loan? The inference is insulting. At the very least, it should have been put in both of our names. Talk about not being seen.
When snail mail and emails began arriving, of course they were all addressed to Dennis. This really irritated me. I did make an attempt to correct it in the fall of 2019, but by then, I was being tested and scanned for my cancer and I let it go.
Fast forward to December 2021. Dennis received a really good offer in the mail from one of those popular satellite music services for cars. Since I still see it as my car, I chose to start the subscription. I typed in the website, clicked the link, added my credit card with my name and it was instantly processed. No account set-up was required.
Then, once again, snail mail arrived thanking Dennis for signing up! This was too much. I went back online and went through the steps to create an actual account with this music service company using my name and my phone number. They already had my credit card. I figured that the name one the account would activate my name as the primary customer. When the last page appeared after the set-up stating “Thank you for registering, Dennis”, this was my reaction:
I clicked on the Chat option and first went through a couple of responses with a bot. It sensed I wasn’t going away and found a live person. The following is what happened next:
Is your query related to your 2019 car purchase?
Are your trying to change the name on the account?
Yes. I’m the one who wanted your service and I ordered it. Why in the world is it in my husband’s name?
Yes, I would like to inform you that I can modify the name but we are not authorized to completely change it. I am making it as DENNIS and MELANIE.
(I have referenced that this would have been alright if it had been done from the beginning. I was way beyond that now.)
Ok, then I’m just going to cancel the service. Thanks.
I apologize but we are not authorized to make changes on name.
I understand, but my name on the credit card is good enough for you to bill every month. Is there a manager who can help me?
Alright! I apologize for the inconvenience caused. If I will make it a combined name, that would be fine too, right?
No, it’s the principle. This is MY account – my husband didn’t even want this service! If you can’t assist, please send me to support where I can either change the name on the account I just opened or cancel the service.
Sorry to hear that, since you’re our valuable customer, we do not want to lose you, please allow me a few minutes and let me check our best deals for you.
I’m not interested in deals. Why can’t you put me through to someone?
I would like to inform you that we have specialized team for this, you may contact them to modify your name. You may call our Listener Care Team at 1-866-635-XXXX or 1-866-XXX-2349 Monday – Friday: 8am – 8pm EST.
So, you are not transferring me to a manager? I understand that you, Mary (a pseudonym) have no control regarding the policy. You are the messenger. But just so you know, this is 2022, not 1822, and women have accounts all on their own. I will never understand why the creator of the account, using a credit card in my name is not good enough. I understand you can’t help me and I guess I have to call. But hopefully, you don’t run into this yourself in the future because it is very frustrating.
I apologize but we are binded to the policies and norms, I can only modify it, I can’t change it whole. Is there anything else I can help you with?
No. Thank you for your time.
I had an appointment on the day of my “Chat”, so I couldn’t make the call. I plan on it though. In the end, I understand that it’s the dealership which created this issue. The name Dennis was typed into the name field and that is permanently trickling down to all car-related services from there. If I can, I’m going to have to pry it out of there with a crowbar. I have learned a valuable lesson as I will never return to that all-male sales team. Either they didn’t get it, or they didn’t care.
And really, more importantly, this exchange made me think about women who are divorced or widowed, or who never married. Do they face additional challenges when buying a car? A home? If so, what are they? Do they have to take extra steps to assure they can pay? What if a couple divorce and the woman wants her car or home in her name? How difficult is that process?
This massive headache was really two headaches as there was the issue of putting the car in my name and also a separate company not recognizing me as the purchaser even though I created the account and used my credit card. The latter was the moment which broke this independent female’s back.
I am keenly interested in learning whether this is isolated or a prevalent issue for women today. Please share if you’ve had or heard of similar experiences.