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Welcome to the wonderful world of capitalism where biases, prejudices, stereotypes, fears, vanity and greed are fostered and then pandered to.

I bought this for my niece when she moved to her own apartment.

Robert - that explains why gender differentiation exists, but not why it's increasing. Diapers and Lego and diet soft drinks didn't used to come in boys and girls. Something has to have changed - e.g. cost of differentiation down, economies of scale in production up.

Stephen - great gift idea! Is that an electronic screw driver, or is it powerful enough to be used as a drill?

Smart cars actually aren't that great on gas for what they are.


You'd think that it would be far better than competing 'real cars' . . .


Francis: What has changed is an increase in competition. This leads many companies in highly competitive markets to seek out any edge they can and appealing to base instincts such as the ones I listed works.

"I'm being defined by who I am, rather than what I choose to be."

To what extent do we choose, really? I think advertisers and marketers realized that not only could they categorize people and then sell stuff to them on that basis, they could also proactive tell people who and what they are, and then sell stuff to them to reinforce the categorization.

Fashion/women's magazines are a great example of how twisted it's all become. My better half (who is much better educated, more successful, and generally smarter than me) positively froths every time we go through the check-out line at the grocery store.

Her: "LOOK! LOOK at this crap! What are women DOING to themselves? Being a media whore tramp is not empowering!"
Me: "Yes dear, it's terrible. Can you reach those canned tomatoes for me?"

I have read since the beginning and I didn't know you were a woman.

I'm unsubscribing because I don't like this sort of thing.

Not to harp on minutia, but were you being serious when you claimed that Coke Zero was invented just to bolster male sensibilities?

Heaven forbid you ever find yourself in a position where you can no longer consume natural sweeteners. When I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, I was thankful for the choice between Diet Coke and Coke Zero. They taste different. Sometimes I drink one, sometimes the other. It depends on what I feel like.

I appreciate having the option. Every other soft drink company uses solely aspartame. A Diet Pepsi has the same basic taste as a Diet PC Cola and a Diet RC Cola and whatever else. Coke Zero has a different sweetener that tastes difference and provides a good change of pace from the typical diet soft drink.

Being unable to consume sugar, I'm glad I have a few options...

Ryan - I agree with you - real choice - as opposed to the same product repackaged - is a good thing.

Still, conventional wisdom is that Coke Zero is marketed towards men, as in its Wikipedia entry "It is a low-calorie (0.75 calories per liter) variation of Coca-Cola specifically marketed to males." Looking at the ads and the packaging, it looks marketed towards males to me.

Keep to economics - "I have read since the beginning and I didn't know you were a woman. I'm unsubscribing..."

I wondered how many readers I'd lose by coming out. But then thought "but on the other hand, there are lots of times when someone is looking for a token female blogger, and why should Jodi and Nancy get all of the good invites?"

Patrick - your wife might like this in The Onion Women now empowered by everything a woman does.

Robert, all the more reason to go for a long walk and look up at the stars....

@ Frances


BTW, we have a very nice drill by Bosch that is fine for small hands. :)

@ Ryan

Yeah, Diet Coke tastes crappy. BTW, I have recently discovered a good alternative (for me) to Coke Zero: Green Tea. No calories and not too much caffeine. :)

Power Tools for Girls

Freudian joke: You mean like mixers and blenders and washing machines? Like vacuum cleaners?

(Sorry, I could not resist. ;))

"Does the average guy's masculinity really need to be bolstered by buying Coke Zero instead of Diet Coke."

I can't speak for others, but I prefer Coke zero because it tastes less like malted battery acid. The problem with Diet coke isn't the "Diet" part - I don't have a problem with diet pepsi, or diet sprite - it's that it tastes awful.

"Second, gender differentiated power tools."

A few years ago, my mother gave my wife, a "gender-diferentiated" hammer and measuring tape. It had sparkles and pink fake fur (and was smaller than a conventional hammer and measuring tape). That's probably not what you had in mind. I assume it was a joke (since my wife owned and used a perfectly functional, real, hammer and tape measure). Me, I'm a progressive guy, I gave my wife a decidely non-pink drill.

There's a chicken and egg element to this discussion. Would woman buy more power tools if they were designed for them, or do manufacturers not built power tools designed for woman because they know they won't buy them. I mean, let's be honest, building higher countertops wouldn't get more men to cook, and you can sell all the pink toy guns you want, little girls are still going to play with barbies. We really shouldn't be surprised if people choose to be who they are.

On the other hand, we see other markets where companies are quite eager to create gender diferrentiated products - the one that immediately came to mind is the thriving market in the US for small, easy to carry, "hand bag" guns and pink tazers, marketed to woman (I guess woman prefer not to lug around a Colt '45 and if you're going to zap a would-be mugger, you might as well look good doing it).

Min - actually vacuum cleaners are an interesting one. Our new Miele has an adjustable sticky-thing so it can be used comfortably by a person of any height. The sales person just really subtly pointed this feature out to us in the showroom. I don't know how height-adjustable vacuum cleaners are in general. But, yup, I was thinking of using vacuum cleaners as an example of something that needed more gender differentiation but rejected it.

Jamie Oliver has a line of somewhat more manly kitchen appliances - solid chunky ones, e.g. blenders for real men who use them to make real margaritas.

I'll check out the Bosch drills, powertoolsforwomen doesn't have much. Small things aren't such an issue e.g. Lee Valley tools makes beautiful screwdrivers with wooden handles.

Non-feminists are star-gazing, going for long walks, and dressing as they please in the most female friendly society the world has ever known as feminists neurotically worry about non-existent threats to their freedom. That's my opinion.

@Frances - All I know about choice and specialization is what I learned in my intermediate micro- class wayyyy back in the day. My professor taught us that the loss of efficiency seen when a market goes from perfect competition to monopolistic competition is due to product differentiation, real or imagined. She then speculated that the economic explanation for this is that consumers value "just having a choice." I recall us naive students nodding in agreement.

Now the question is "Is the difference real or imagined?" The implication there is that incorporating a "real" difference into my economic decisions is perhaps "more rational" than incorporating an "imaginary" difference.

One view of that matter is that any perceived difference is real enough to the person who perceives it. In other words, if I perceive that my Steinway piano sounds 10x better than my Yamaha replica, I will pay 10x the price. Go ahead and try to convince a pianist that the Yamaha is of equal build quality for a fraction of the price. You will fail, because musicians perceive differences that are real for them, regardless of any evidence to the contrary.

Apparently, our beliefs are valuable to us. We will pay extra to protect them.

The alternative to this viewpoint is the one voiced by my micro- *principles* professor. He was a very old school guy, they pulled him out of retirement to teach my section. He literally worked as an economist on The Manhattan Project. Literally. Anyway, he used to tell us that all advertising was economically wasteful because it created the perception of difference where there isn't any.

My view is that we're paying for *something*. It must be pretty valuable to us, because even in the face of evidence, we still end up paying for it. I don't think it's irrational, I just think it's *human*.

I much prefer Diet Coke because that is what I am accustomed to. I'm a Type I Diabetic and have been for 26 years. Competition in Diet products is not great. I was informed by the cafeteria manager at university that Diet products that are not Diet Coke don't sell in enough quantities to justify stocking them. So that's why it was Diet Coke all the way for me on campus.


My experiences with unemployment, drug insurance and Diabetes made me into a lefty. You're Type I Diabetic libertarian supply-sider. Yin and Yang. ;)

@Determinant - Really? Amazing! Maybe we're imperfect substitutes...

Perhaps we should get our own blog. "Two Diabetics do Econ". Diabetes does make you very aware of things that others overlook, like job tenure, total compensation and the insurance market for drugs. Or as I like to call it "job robustness", how secure is your job to economic fluctuations and how to you, as an individual, accommodate those fluctuations.

Speaking of public policy, I am a member of the NDP and the leadership ballot is in the mail. I will be voting for Martin Singh on the first round because of his pharmacare plan, then switching to Thomas Mulcair. I am a special interest voter when it comes to pharmacare. I told the Mulcair campaign they could have my vote on the first round if Mulcair put out a policy statement in favour of pharmacare on his website but the Mulcair campaign hasn't followed through.

Ryan - economists have historically taken the position "De gustibus non disputandum est," that is, there's no arguing over tastes, people's preferences are what they are, there's no good and bad preferences.

Behavioural economists are starting to try to unpack that, trying to get at the idea of multiple selves - so we have an inner Homer Simpson who can be tricked by advertising into thinking "extended warranty, sounds like a great idea!" It's something I've struggled long and hard with, but there are no easy answers.

Brendan - the extent to which products are being differentiated by gender in our economy is increasing. That's a phenomenon worthy of analysis whatever your politics. I wrote about it from my perspective, but gender differentiation potentially restricts men's options even more than it restricts women's. Women can go all Annie Hall in a suit and tie, but it's a brave man who dons a skirt.

If it's tartan, you wear a Sporran and wear knee-high socks and shoes with buckles, you're safe.

What has changed?

Supply chains and retailers are more sophisticated, and SKU proliferation is a powerful force. In the age of Amazon, with its >3 million SKUs, other retailers face pressure to offer more segmented assortments. A more interesting question is why do people buy them?

As a taller individual, I do a lot of kitchen-based tasks despite the lack of ergonomic work surfaces. The worst is washing dishes, which usually involves leaning into something that is just above knee-height. You adapt by sucking it up and dealing with the discomfort of back pain. Thankfully most products come in taller options, so I can buy socks that have the heel in the right spot and not in the arch of my foot. Unfortunately, tall people are often condemned to buying big vehicles. Every car I've ever driven I've needed to move the driver's seat all the way back, and even then it would be great if it went back a few more inches. I would be willing to buy a subcompact if I fit in one. As it is, I made do with a compact because I found one I didn't mind and also fit in (most were uncomfortable to drive), so I managed to get away without buying a mid-size. We all have our crosses to bear, I guess ;).

Andrew F: "The worst is washing dishes" - try getting an old style plastic or rubber washing up bowl and some kind of six inch high shelf type object to put it on. We found one designed to stack glasses or plates on in a cupboard and that fits into the sink and holds up the washing up bowl. Really helps.

Toyota Matrix has a lot of head room.

Well, not a *lot*. But enough for someone who is 6' tall.

Is there something about Toyota Matrixes and economics professors? One of my colleagues has one identical to mine.

Before middle age shrinkage my mother (now in her 80s) was 5' 8" (~173 cm). When we had our kitchen redone ~45 years ago, she had the contractor put about 2"-3" of wood underneath the counters so that she would be comfortable. Specially sized counters for tall people (or, in this case, men) are not necessary; simpler solutions are available. My parents were only about 3" different in height so this worked well (or would have if my father had cooked much). I'm not sure how you'd solve the problem in a marriage* with a more pronounced difference in height: his and her kitchens?

*I use this term for lack of a better, but intend it w/o prejudice for all who consider themselves married, whether or not the state recognizes their situation.


I think it was Sir Walter Scott who basically laid down the law on tartan: if you're wearing a tartan, you can get away with ANYTHING, even bobble-hats. He's the man who made Scotland into 'Scotland' by creating a Highland culture and mythos (aided by other greats like R. L. Stevenson). To borrow a joke from the Horrible History series-

Rannoch Moor before Sir Walter Scott:


- a cold, inhospitable and savage country in need of radical transformation.

Rannoch Moor after Sir Walter Scott:


- a beautiful, unspoilt and romantic country in need of relentless conservation.

So, if you want to avoid one set of cultural pigeon-holings, the easiest way out is to be part of ANOTHER set of overlapping cultural pigeon-holings. I can wear a kilt whenever I like, but I will also have to explain NOT wearing a kilt on various occasions (e.g. Burns' Supper, when it's just too anachronistic for me).

As a Waterloo Math alum, I know several former classmates who bought Matrixes (Matrices?) in part because of the name. I agree that they are pretty good for head room. Believe it or not, head room is not usually the problem (more cars these days have height adjustable seats, and failing that you recline the seat some more), it's more the distance between your hips and the pedal. It's awkward to drive with your legs bent significantly. You have to angle your ankle quite high to change pedals.

My 'trick' for washing dishes is usually to soak whatever I'm washing and put it on the counter mostly empty of water and scrub it if necessary (pots and pans). It works. I have also been known to use a stack of cutting boards when I have to do a lot of knife work. I think tall people get used to it. My desk at work poses many of the same issues. I just use stacks of paper to make things a bit more ergonomic. At least the chairs are designed to be adjusted to suit people from 4'10" and 80 lbs to 6'6" and 300 lbs. I marvelled at them, actually. Lots of clever design work. A bit ruined when you have fixed height desks, but nice nonetheless.

The premise of the article is reasonable, but the examples are a bit odd, and maybe point up the rarity of the purely marketing-based gender differentiation. One reason a single height of countertop works because taller people have longer arms (it's not perfect, but most people can reach to 36"). With power tools, as in other markets (cameras come to mind), functional considerations mean that these tools are available in a variety of sizes, with the caveat that if you want a very beefy tool with a very dainty handle, you may be out of luck.

The elephant in the room of non-functional gender differentiation is clothing, as alluded to already, but I dare say most cultures (and most individuals) seem to find it highly convenient to be gender-identifiable with ease, and I think it won't take an economist to figure out a few perfectly selfish reasons.

Regarding kitchen counter heights, I don't understand this. I have constructed lots of kitchens (has to do with the fact that in Germany you rent/buy places without a kitchen installed) - and mostly used Ikea kitchens. The cupboards are constucted on supports with adjustable legs (absolutely necessary anyway because the floor will not be level). You can raise them or lower them as you wish (up to 10 cm).

"Power Tools for Girls

Freudian joke: You mean like mixers and blenders and washing machines? Like vacuum cleaners?

(Sorry, I could not resist. ;))"

Reminds me of a funny story. Long ago I went with my wife to a Joan Baez concert. We went somewhere else on the way there, and it happened she had a cake mixer in her backback. The security guys didn't want to let he in. Seriously they thought she might attack someone with a cake mixer - a Joan Baez concert!


.... didn't want to let HER in.

reason - I never knew that about German kitchens. The interesting question is - do people take advantage of those adjustable legs to have counter-top heights other than 36 inches? That would provide information about people's revealed preferences over counter heights.

Ryan: "maybe point up the rarity of the purely marketing-based gender differentiation"

I was reading this comment and a Burger King ad came on TV for The Baconator... "You don't just eat this burger - you conquer it" Followed by a truck ad "this truck doesn't just have balls, it has stones..."

Perhaps men like bacon more than women do - or are more willing to eat it. That's the impression you'd get from watching Epic Meal Time videos on youtube anyways.

But the point is that marketers take a little wedge, a small gender difference, e.g. greater propensity to eat bacon, and magnify it. As a result - because gender is such a fundamental part of our identities as people - the wedges get bigger and bigger until a girl can't sit down to a serious steak without feeling somehow wrong and unfeminine.

The saddest part for me of Deirdre McCloskey's book "Crossings" was when she described how she enjoys knitting or sewing now that she's had a sex change operation. And I was thinking "why did she have to endure all that pain to be able to do things she wanted to do? Why couldn't Don have taken up knitting and sewing?"

Or enlist in the British army or become a coal miner. I'm not sure , but IIRC knitting and seing were taught to soldiers and miners. useful in repairing gear and an esay way to keep busy. If british veterans ot miners could provide more information...

I can sew on a button and other things, it comes in useful as a bachelor when a shirt loses a button.

It's the same reason I learned to cook roasts: they don't cook themselves and I want something nice.


the very most German kitchens have the same 36 inch height (well, mine measures 35.85),
you have to fit the fridge and other machines underneath, which come in standard sizes.

For the Coke Zero, I saw the story that KO tried actually for a few years to get the unintended "girlie" image off the Diet Coke, just didn't work.
And people don't buy "brown sugary water", they pay twice the price for a certain brand image. That is what they buy.

In general, the cost of producing things in much smaller batch sizes have gone done rapidly with CNC machines and the general trend to "just in time", reduced storage volumes. You don't do any more "1000 green BMW", every single car is custom made, not only the colour, but other things as well.
Some companies even ship partially finished stuff from Asia to Europe, and then do the customization for the individual countries in their hub and spoke center.

And people love to get tended to "individually", and if it doesn't cost anything, why not.
With small cars, I know a few men, who drive Mini Coopers.

And I mean, how long does kitchen duty take ? If it takes longer, you sit at the kitchen table.


In North America kitchen cupboards are built-in and the refrigerator is 1.5 metres tall (human height) with a freezer. The refrigerator and stove are part of the apartment and come with the rent.

Most lower and middle rent apartments don't have a dishwasher, for a one-bedroom apartment dishwashers are impractical and a dishwasher is the only machine that fits under the counter here.

Laundry machines are usually by themselves if they are in the apartment but many buildings have coin-operated machines in laundry rooms, or there are commerical laundromats. I used a laundromat in a former apartment of mine, in my student house we had a washer and dryer but no dishwasher.

I'm curious to hear people's thoughts on the transition from gender neutral children's toys (e.g. lego as shown above) to the current practice of explicit differentiation.
( http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/hamleys-toy-store-removes-sexist-281600 ; sorry the Mirror was the first hit on my search :)

I have trouble believeing that market competition has resulted in market segmentation while still holding rational preference assumptions. If this was true, since many households own multiple cars, there would be catering to Male / Female cars - as seen in bathroom towels.

Product brand differentiation works if you do not want to compete on price and can convince the consumer that they are different products. (Think of deoderant, airline seats, cereal, etc.) In other words, competition amongst homogenous goods implies two outcomes: price change or branding. What shifted in purchasers perception of preference (in this case parents purchasing for children) that allowed toys to become gender specific? In other words, how is it that rather than losing half the market, companies were successful? In effect, the company is saying "our relatively more expensive toy is Made Just For Young Men" rather than adjust the price to compete with the generic toy. (Same applies to the vitamin and deoderant market - strong enough for a woman, priced for a man. But in these cases the preference of the consumer and the purchaser are the same.)

I lived for 7 years in NY. I still have about 2 pounds of quarters, somewhere : - )
Btw, I had a mechanical, how should I say this, "hacking machine" ? in the kitchen sink.
Is this normal?

With regard to what is built into a place, this comes in Germany in all kinds of different versions. In Munich I never bought anything, here it is the fridge and the laundry, but the oven is pre installed. And I enjoy "Kochwäsche" back here, real 95 deg C laundry. Other people own the whole kitchen installation together.

But somehow we never get away from the 36 inches height, right ?

I believe that books and Lego is pretty much the only gender neutral toys I remember. Fischertechnik, mechanical, electrical, tin soldiers, the miniature railway, all male.
Probably others are better at female stuff.


There are US/Canada differences and that "hacking machine" is one of them. It's a "garbage disposal" or "garbeurator". They are very rare in Canada but common in the US. Another is that electric stoves and ovens are the norm in Canada in general and universal for rental units, gas oven and stove are more common in the US. Canadian landlords take the view that electric ovens/stoves are safer.

It may also be an effect of market supply. Thomas Ahearn of Ottawa held several early patents on electric stoves and his marketing efforts were directed at the Canadian market, logically. Ahearn & Soper, his firm, is still in business but not in the kitchen appliance field.

Peter: "In effect, the company is saying "our relatively more expensive toy is Made Just For Young Men" rather than adjust the price to compete with the generic toy."

Take a look at this article on Jezebel that swaps the voice tracks on male and female Lego commercials. Worth clicking on, honestly. What's immediately apparent is that the basic engineering and form of the two products is the same, only the packaging is different.

So I think it's your first intuition, that firms preserve market share by creating multiple different versions of what is basically the same good.

@genauer: "In general, the cost of producing things in much smaller batch sizes have gone done rapidly with CNC machines and the general trend to "just in time", reduced storage volumes. You don't do any more "1000 green BMW", every single car is custom made, not only the colour, but other things as well."

I'm sure that's a huge part of what's going on. The marginal cost of producing a Facebook page that is exactly tailored to my demographics is close enough to zero as to make no odds.

@genauer and @Determinant:
in the US., as in Europe it makes no sense to burn gas or oil to produce electricity to generate heat ( cooking or space heating). Might as well use the heat directly.
In most of Canada , where electriccity is generated by hydro-power ( for non-canadians, that's why most utilities are named Hydro-something and we refer to electricity as "hydro" as in "the hydro bill went up"), it is rational to cook or heat with electricity.
However, today it makes more and more sense to use hydro-electricity in chemical or metallurgical industries and in Québec, Montréal and Québec City in particular, there was a push to convert the old coal-gas networks to natural gas so as to use less electricity for domestic purposes and more for industrial uses. In fact, Hydro-Québec (a state-ownwed utility) even bought a stake in Gaz Métropolitain (a private one).

From monetary policy to german kitchen arrangement and origins of North American electricity to moving houses in New Zealand, this blog is fast becoming the new Wikipedia...

Actually most electricity is generated though coal, coal being cheaper than oil and both are quite a bit cheaper than gas.

Hydro is very, very cheap because the fuel is free, literally, most utilities in Ontario don't pay royalties on their water rights. There are a few dams not in OPG's possession. Ontario gets 50% of its electricity from nuclear which is cheap enough on running costs, the capital costs are astronomic.

Ontario Power Generation is phasing out its coal plants and has one dual-fuel oil/natural gas plan at Kingston for peak periods. We also have interconnections with New York and Michigan and to a lesser extent with Quebec.

When we buy hydro from Quebec they have to take the Quebec plant off-line, unplug it essentially from Quebec's network and tie it in and synch the generators with Ontario's phase.

Frances: I am not sure I fully understand the telos of your entry, but I did want to stress that more choice, whether segregated or not is usually a good thing, no?

In this way I disagree with your (Frances’) above reply "Ryan - I agree with you - real choice - as opposed to the same product repackaged - is a good thing."

In my view, an existing product, but repackaged and remarketed to a different demographic/segment often breathes new life into the product itself, and arguably promotes its future development (if necessary). I can think of no greater instance of this than the very nature of blogging itself! Once a product used and maintained primarily by technically inclined I.T. people (mostly men?) who wished to stay 'in-the-know' so to speak. Fast forward to blogspot, typepad, wordpress, and you begin to see the product segregate into a more and more diversified markets; this "mainly Canadian economics blog" being no exception.

Also, if I may also touch on your comment about the auto industry, I think men in general have more of a love affair with their cars then women do, especially those of us who take the time to get to know them (sounds weird I know!). What I mean is those who tinker with their cars, as my friends and I do, learn to appreciate them and become more attached to them than those who don’t; at least this is how it is in my experience.

Moreover, on average I feel that men are more likely to get-down-and-dirty in repairing their cars. Perhaps men are simply more cheap/fugal with their money and cannot admit that the prescribed repair is actually worth eighteen-hundred hard earned dollars; but more likely, I think, it is because many men seem to have a natural fascination to learn how cars work.

Lastly, and I may be completely off base here, but have you ever met a woman who named their car? Or treated it with some kind of physical/personal identity? I haven’t. But almost every young guy I know does, especially those who ‘take her to the shop’ or ‘wash her’ or have picked up a new x y z for ‘her’. Cars and their accessories are the big toys for boys, and I don’t see any problem with it being so.

Jacques Rene - "In most of Canada , where electriccity is generated by hydro-power"

You know, if BC and Quebec could just get rid of those provinces in the middle, they'd get along just fine. Quebec, yes, BC, yes, ROC, not so much.

@Scott P Bacon

IRL Nick Rowe, the macro blogger around here and Frances co-worker, is a gearhead. He has a Mazda MX6 which is his baby.


Ontario does nukes, hydro and oil/gas as a peak unit. I took a course on this. Beck at Niagara Falls is a wonderful thing.

Manitoba gets most of its power from hydro.

Determinant - yes, hydro plays a crucial rule in peak power generation, also has exciting potential when used together with wind or solar, but it's not powering this computer.

R.E. Cameron - fair cop, clearly I've been living in Ontario too long. Alberta has a lot of hydro power too.

Jacques Rene, my apologies.

AB is mostly coal and gas. Very little hydro.



"Lastly, and I may be completely off base here, but have you ever met a woman who named their car? Or treated it with some kind of physical/personal identity? I haven’t. But almost every young guy I know does, especially those who ‘take her to the shop’ or ‘wash her’ or have picked up a new x y z for ‘her’. Cars and their accessories are the big toys for boys, and I don’t see any problem with it being so."

On an episode of the British show Top Gear, Jeremy Clarkson stated that only women named their cars. He asked women in the audience if they had and most sheepishly raised their hands. Maybe gender-specific traits are very culture-specific?

Yes - fitting standard sized appliances underneath is an issue. But if you have cupboards on the side (as I do) without appliances that is not an issue. And you could make them higher if you wish.

Scott: "In my view, an existing product, but repackaged and remarketed to a different demographic/segment often breathes new life into the product itself, and arguably promotes its future development (if necessary). I can think of no greater instance of this than the very nature of blogging itself!"

Good point. There are many examples of this phenomenon, e.g. Kleenex repurposed from gas mask filters, Lysol from disinfectant to feminine hygiene product and back again, thalidomide from cure for morning sickness (really. not. a. good. idea) to drug with use in cancer treatment, viagra from heart control medication to ED.

Yet not all differentiation and marketing expands our effective choice set. Our identities (see, e.g. Akerlof and Kranton Economics of Identity) are strongly tied to our gender. Consuming something that is not gender appropriate feels wrong - and sends out the wrong signal, as someone pointed out earlier. People spend more for gender/age appropriate goods because consuming the wrong good gives us psychic pain. It's all about, as Peter pointed out earlier, convincing people that "our relatively more expensive toy is Made Just For Young Men"

This is the brilliance of marketers. We don't pay lots of money because it makes us feel good. We pay lots of money to avoid feeling bad, being shamed by owning gender-inappropriate stuff, or not owning gender appropriate stuff.

The Onion has a lovely article on "Pantene introduces new behavioral conditioner". ""As you can see here, Pantene's psychomanipulative agents go straight to the parts of the frontal lobe where they're needed most," said Dyer, pointing to a computer-enhanced graphic of a model dramatically tossing her silky blonde hair in slow-motion. "Desirable behaviors such as beauty-product consumption and fashion-worship are rewarded with positive stimuli, including feelings of approval and increased social acceptance. And Pantene's patented nutrients and moisturizers keep working all day long, seeking out and punishing the slightest departures from social norms with painful, burning sensations to the scalp.""

By the way, if the MX6 has a name it's a deep dark secret. I've named cars in the past, but just don't have that degree of affection for the Matrix. It's a functional car, not a loveable one.

On gender limiting automotive choice sets: I really hope Nick will enter into this discussion, but here's my best attempt to substitute for him. Look up hairdressers car in the Urban Dictionary, or google MX5 hairdressers car. Perfectly good cars don't get bought because they're insufficiently heterosexual. That seems crazy to me.

I suspect one reason why people on this blog are having issues with this thread relates to my earlier autistic economists post - anyone who scores high on the asperger's scale will tend to see through framing effects, and if you see through framing effects, none of this stuff matters. You'll happily put your little boy in a pink snowsuit if the pink snowsuit is the warmest one available.

Random thoughts:

Sample of two. I have tried, and failed miserably, in getting my daughters keen on fixing cars. I bought them each a (used) car. I can barely get them to check the oil, despite these being old high-mileage cars where you really do need to check the oil. The tools I bought them sit unused in the trunk. This depresses me, and scares me too. One of them drove for nearly a month vaguely wondering why the red idiot light was on. (Seized alternator pulley, so it was running on battery power only; thank God she didn't try to drive it up the 401 and just did a few trips around town, and that I happened to visit and notice it.) But maybe boys are as bad too, nowadays. I drove 100kms to diagnose a "funny noise", looked under the car, saw the exhaust hanging down, wired it up with a coathanger to get the car home. None of them (3 girls 2 boys) had thought to look under the car. They abandoned the car, went swimming, and phoned Dad. Maybe my attempts to help them have backfired miserably, and simply made them dependent on me.

I have only personally known one girl, 40 years ago as an undergraduate, who was keen on fixing cars. I have met a small number on the internet car forums where I sometimes hang out. But those forums are nearly all guys. Except for a couple of women who really know their stuff, most women posting on the tech sections are asking for help, not giving it. There is one garage on Bathhurst in Toronto that is an all-women shop. I can't ever remember seeing any other women working as auto mechanics.

The "girly car" thing is a big deal. Google "MX5 hairdresser (or chick)" to see. Here is the FAQ on that subject on one Miata site. The fact that they have an FAQ speaks volumes. It is a truth universally acknowledged by petrolheads that the MX5 is one of the very best driver's cars out there (here's a nearly stock one on the 'ring). But is it a chick car? I would love an MX5, but my legs don't quite fit. And then, well, it's a convertible, and, well, convertibles aren't really serious, are they, and what I mean is, is it really me? So I drive an old MX6. Sure, the MX6 is a very cute car too. But it's an 18 years old car, (and manual transmission). So it can't be a girly car. It says "this car is driven by a man who is capable of fixing cars". Signalling is very important. Especially for men, because women choose men, and so make men, in the very long run. (A higher percentage of women than men have children.)

Our clothes, cars, drinks, haircuts, are all signals of who we are.

Why do some women wear "boyfriend jeans", marketed as such? I can't see men wearing "girlfriend jeans". There are few spaces left for men nowadays. We value the few we have left, even if they are only symbolic spaces.

I want to do a "gender switch" experiment. Suppose there were a car, marketed mainly to women. In the owner's manual it gave instructions on how to check the oil etc. But at the end of those instructions it said "Or, give it to your man, it's his job". How would you interpret that? Offensive to women (they are too incompetent)? Or offensive to me (it's a man's job)? Now read this, and see what the reaction is when we switch genders.

I wish I could start writing stuff on "masculinist economics", but I'm not really up to the job.


I wish you would write some masculinist economics too - you understand feminist theory better than I do, and have things to say on the subject.

But on your substantive points. "There are few spaces left for men nowadays. We value the few we have left, even if they are only symbolic spaces."

Yes, in countries like Canada, there are fewer spaces for men than there were in the days when women's participation in life was limited to kinder kurche küche (kids kitchen church). But just as you wouldn't want the women in your life restacking your dishwasher in a vaguely superior and disapproving way, I want to be free to walk into the Harvard University library, or even just down the street - something that women weren't free to do in the past, and still aren't free to do in some countries in the world. So can we agree that some of the decline in the masculinity of public space and the femininity of private space is a good thing?

I think there's also a difference between male space and male products. A male space is something like Brothers Brick which is a blog maintained and devoted to Lego enthusiasts. Almost all of the pictures/creations are by men, but they aren't necessarily "macho" images, e.g. there's a Lego building split in half by an earthquake, a Justin Bieber concert, even (the one I liked best) a little diorama showing a dad tieing up his children, taking over their lego, and building stuff with it. They also aren't made with "macho" lego - e.g. there's a Flash Gordon rocketship made with "Friends" i.e. feminine Lego. Yes, it's a mostly male space, but it's not an exclusively male space, and within it men are allowed to be free, to channel their creativity.

Male products are totally different - product differentiation is about getting parents to spend more money, because Mark has to have boy Lego and Emily has to have girl lego. They're limiting, not expanding.

You know, perhaps we should have a Gail Collins/David Brooks type debate about this. What do you think?

Frances: I only read your comment after writing mine!

I used to name my cars. Mostly girl's names. "By the way, if the MX6 has a name it's a deep dark secret." A clue: the original owner of this name was a bicycle belonging (I think) to Lemmy (now of Motorhead).

Thanks for this post, Frances.

My two cents, @ Scott P Bacon in particular, is that gender differentiation of products doesn't just add choices to the marketplace. It also (in my perception at least, I have absolutely no data on this) pushes out the choice of buying gender neutral products. What do I get for the sibling or friend who is transitioning genders or who does not fit on the gender binary? What about a toy for a friend's daughter that doesn't push her into "feminine" gender roles?

Sailors name their boats, very often with a feminine name. So do military pilots.. Not civilian airliners, named boringly by dolts in the C-suite. Except once when David Letterman chartered a 747 for some stunt and named it the "Connie Chung".

@Frances: "This is the brilliance of marketers. We don't pay lots of money because it makes us feel good. We pay lots of money to avoid feeling bad,". Marketers have discovered the mechanism by which armies function. Nobody wants to be a hero, knowing the usual costs. But even less do soldiers want to look cowardly in the eyes of their squad mates.

Paul Fussel in his "Wartime: understanding and behavior in the Second World War"

showed how, while publicly disparaging Italians for their supposed cowardice and lack of fighting spirit, everybody admired them for having reached the perfectly sensible conclusion that dying for Mussolini was profoundly stupid and anyone with a brain should get the "/$% out of there...


at first I wanted to take the hint, that this is turning into a wikipedia, and just shut up :- )

With regard to Jezebel & Coke:

it is not the corporations, it is the customers, who force this gender specific marketing.
KO (a.k.a. Coca Cola, for those who do not know the ticker symbols by heart :-)
surely didnt like to introduce the Coke Zero. I have some details on that.

fuel costs are just about 2- 3 cents / kWh. Another 2-3 cents are power plant installation. The rest is distribution (roughly 5 cent, well, here in Germany) and tax (12 cent) and
subsidies for renewable (5 cent)

Fuel costs are nearly negligble against installation /distribution, and fitting houses without any coal or gas makes perfect sense.

I will not have anything but electro and some wood burning fire place in my future home.

Hydro is a nice thing to have in Canada or Norway, but not in other places feasible to be really significant. Even if we would plaster all the Alps with concrete monsters.

Boys & Cars
not me ! I do not even have a car! Makes no economic & convenience sense in my place. Everything, but not a parking space, is in walking distance (population density > 10 000 / square km).

I even got my bicycle fixed, because I was not in the mood, and labor is pretty cheap here around.

do the cost calculation here ! How often does a good car break down ? And how much can you still fix for yourself ?

I am pretty sure that this recent Language paper is just statistical bollocks. How to ask this guy politely to present his data in detail and what he did with them ?

@ R E Cameron
This Clarkson had a wonderful parody on youtube ("Berlin - Warsaw, in one tank"), which was countered by some polish folks with "Berlin - London, daily delivery"). Both were pulled from youtube. Does anybody know how to get such precious lost art, somewhere ? I can pay !

"Determinant - yes, hydro plays a crucial rule in peak power generation, also has exciting potential when used together with wind or solar, but it's not powering this computer."

You're on my ground now. ;) I took a course on this in my last year. Beck has the capacity of half a nuclear plant, 2500 MW, and is dispatched as a base unit. The nukes are dispatched as base units because they can't be scaled. So yes, you're getting some of Beck's capacity right now.

The balance of Ontario's hydro capacity comes from the Ottawa River, a few St. Lawrence dams and some of the northern installations like Longlac. Most are "base" units because of the cost and there is some peak capacity there. There are also very small installations along the Trent-Severn canal system that are mostly base units, again due to cost and the fact that they can't control their water levels because that is the purview of the Trent-Severn Waterway which runs for navigation.

The residual hydro capacity is used for peak as is the oil/gas unit at Kingston.

In extremis we can purchase power from New York and Michigan and to a lesser extent Quebec.

OPG is for practical purposes a nuclear/hydro outfit.

Nick: ""By the way, if the MX6 has a name it's a deep dark secret.""

That's not a name, that's just an excuse for a Hawkwind reference.

Some gender neutral toy stuff:

a little antidot to Italians:

Fukuyama “Trust”, “The virtual corporation and Army organization”, Basslord in Military Review Journal: “Cohesion, Personnel Stability and the German Model”

and from the leader of a small Czech party, who wants to leave the EU altogether:

Please note, that nearly half the money is allocated for "cohesion"

I think I have bitched enough about the Language paper. But there is something, what we still dont understand really, culture, nation, does not cut it, really. See the fault lines in Huntington "clash of civilizations" 1993, Greece is NOT part of "western",
Croatia is.

One book I still see as important is Simone de Beauvoir "All men are mortal"

Nick says, in his London centric view, lets just have a loose free trade union somewhere around Europe.

But the center, which I locate between Paris, Berlin, Warsaw, Prag, Vienna, wants more.
That does not mean that all others have to join it, or stay adjoined. There is such a thing as a divorce, and the Czechs are the go-to guys for doing it peacefully.

I thought a little while about your canadian federal way of doing things.

As Trudeau said: Nobody hates Canada.
2000 year old European bitching: Because you never had the chance to give people a good reason for it : - )

Seriously: you Canadians never killed each other in significant numbers, right ?
Europe is DEFINED by never being unified internally, despite so many very bloody attempts.

And that means, that rules and regulations have to be harder.

genauer - A critique of the language paper using Canadian savings data is on my to-do list.

"Seriously: you Canadians never killed each other in significant numbers, right ?" Do Aboriginals count? Actually Aboriginal/European relations were different in Canada as compared to the US, because the fur trade could use Aboriginal labour, whereas agriculture required that Aboriginal people be run off the land.

One thing that I find a bit strange about Europe is that the fact that, over there, I'm an Aboriginal person.


first a solution for the 36 inch problem, when I was just 18 month old:
use the drawers! or some stepping piece, when you get more weight : - )

When there is a will, there is a way !

The picture actually tells a more complicated story.
Age 1.5, I was able to use the drawers to get to the sweets. My parents blocked that with nails, movable from the side drawer. I figured that also, and they had to use a key lock for the side panels. That was too much for a 2.5 year old, becoming a lock picker : - )

Side stories: gender neutral kitchen duty, half a century ago. Child labor !

Second, an analysis of other, canadian data, does not cut it. The calculations of Mr. M. Keith Chen are simply wrong. I am pretty sure of this. I have some eye for such things.
It is not primarily about, what kind of analysis is legitimate. This is a very daring thing to say, without having access to the detailed data, but I want to see it.
How is this organized nowadays ?

There was the Seven Years War when France and the UK fought each other for control of North America. It was a forgone conclusion since the British Colonies which became the US were ten times as large as New France (Quebec). Sorry Jacques, but the numbers for New France were bleak. First Acadia fell, then Quebec City, Montreal, and then the Treaty of Paris in 1763 ceded New France to England. France lost the war and was given the choice of keeping New France or Guadeloupe, which was a sugar source. They chose the sugar.

Then there was the American Revolution which was a much a civil war in North America as a rebellion against the UK.

The last big war was the War of 1812 which we are commemorating this year, that was the last time there was open and prolonged international conflict in North America north of the Rio Grande.

The American Civil War was a huge killing match but that never got further north than Pennsylvania other than a few trivial actions.

The Fenian Raids then followed that but they did more for Canada then they did for the Irish Fenians.

The UK Government frowned on open rebellion and hostility between colonies, just as the US Government frowned on hostility between states. Such actions are called treason and treason against the Crown was political suicide in Canada in the 19th Century. It is one of our odd things, but we have always been "Loyal" and "Not Americans", loyalty to the Crown was the 19th Century expression of this.

Both Canada and the US have spent the last 200 years learning to talk it out, with the only notable failure being the American Civil War.

Canada's Aboriginal policy was a kinder form of neglect than the US policy, we didn't have mass deportations to the West. Other than that it has been similar. Though the RCMP was formed with the express purpose of preventing "Indian Wars" of the kind that happened in the US and by and large it was successful in this.


Your MX6 is named "Silver Machine"? ;)

Ah, the glories of Google.


do you have numbers for dead and/vs living people at those times ?

Did they ever show you , e.g. a typical Russian / Polish / German "age pyramid" in comparison ? This may help a little bit to understand why things here are a lot more difficult.


Your question was North American wars, of which the last one was the American Civil War.

WWI and WWII are different questions, those were wars in which we sent troops overseas to Europe.

I don't see how a thread on Power Tools for Girls has turned into one on the World Wars and their impact on current European politics.

By the way, your comments that some nations like Iceland or Greece are not "Western" are not moderate and sound more like shrill exaggeration. I don't want to argue over hyperbole.

This whole effect (going back to the original topic, not that I am opposed to drift...) has been amply blogospherically argued, including here.

But I think Nick (inadvertantly?) touched on the issue when he said that he feels that there are very few truly masculine spaces left. The idea that there needs to be a thing that men can generally do that women can't is ingrained deep in our social subconscious, and is driven by what one may call "womb envy", which isn't literal envy of having a womb, but fear of being reproductively superfluous. A good feminist bloggy take is here. The discussion in the comments is fun (in which yours truly bloviated to some extent so obviously it's awesome).

This "subtractive masculinity"---manliness is whatever is left over that women do not do---is what advertisers are responding to whether they realize it consciously or not.

Mandos - I don't think this has to be either/or. We can have masculine spaces without dividing the world into exclusively masculine and exclusively feminine domains, and as I argued earlier with my comment on Brothers Brick, masculine space doesn't necessitate masculine stuff.

One theory about masculine resistance to having any girls in the clubhouse is Claudia Goldin's "pollution" theory of discrimination. Something, e.g. driving a forklift truck, looks really manly and strong, until one sees a woman doing it, and then instantly one realizes "one doesn't have to be manly and strong to drive a forklift." When women enter an occupation (or space more generally) it signals that that occupation doesn't require as much strength/manliness as we all thought. Hence women "pollute" occupational status - which is why men fight strongly against their admission.

Goldin's theory never got a lot of traction, but it makes a lot of sense to me.

On Masculine and feminine domains - I spent some time in places where these are much more heavily demarcated (India and Iran). In both, a number of women I knew said that it was their preference that it was that way. They had the home absolutely (including kids and finances) - the men could only run around in the street. They thought that relaxing the barrier would mean less real freedom and power. I could see the point - as the home became less of a female domain in C18 and C19 England, women first tended to lose out.

The picture changes in *very* class-stratified societies where it is a luxury to some women to be able to be at home, and where the work and life outside the home still treat women particularly badly and the work is not very interesting.

@R. E. Cameron - Interesting point, I tend to treat anything on Top Gear as an authority in all things automotive, so perhaps your right about "gender-specific traits" being "very culture-specific".

@Peter T - You point out an observation I have also come across, but not so far east. In rural Italy, Amalfi coast to be exact, many of the family run businesses (shops, auto repair, restaurants, etc) I encountered run on a sharp female/male divide whereby the finances and other domestic affairs were managed by the women (wives), while the men (husbands) ran the shops/businesses and interacted with the local economies at large. Does this not represent a more efficient state of affairs, perhaps even a socially optimal one? Given, of course, that women in these environments truly believe that "relaxing the barrier would mean less real freedom and power."

@Frances Woolley - "I don't think this has to be either/or." Really? Touching on your point w.r.t. Brothers Brick, can you not also see their work as a creative development rather than a sharp division/battle of the sexes? Doesn't creating specific products which can later be combined with other specific products create the possibility of original innovation? I think Lego is an excellent example of just how this may occur: one may use pieces from a female and a male marketed set to create a completely new design or product (regardless of the authors gender).

Or, more abstractly, a paint set sold for young girls, and a paint set sold for young boys; presumably combining the two would offer more breath of colour, more possibilities of detail, but would not each separately also leave something desirable?

For me they certainly would, and so in some cases, it should be that products are sold specifically for males and females. Your point earlier on smaller hand drills and other similar products I think reinforces my claim.

Lastly, returning again to your potent Lego idea, you wrote that by marketing to specific genders leads to a "limiting, not expanding" outcome. Could you please expand on that idea, as I am unsure I understood it fully.

@ Frances Woolley: "I wondered how many readers I'd lose by coming out."

I suppose, you may have lost a reader, but I would say I'd not have come across this blog had I not read that your research interests included "feminist economics". I certainly didn't have a clear idea of what that meant at that point as I was a naive sophomore registered at Carleton as a visiting student.

Anyways, I'd say I'm a feminist too, and of the opposite sex. Although, I don't really know why I had to disclose that. But, I feel it makes a stronger assertion when a man asks for equality of women, when an able person makes the case for people with disabilities, and so on.

I wonder what the response would have been, had your fellow bloggers posted this article.


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