By Micco Caporale
Dr. Pepper just delivered its newest member of the Pepper family, Dr. Pepper TEN, a 10-calorie drink being sold as “Not for Women.” The slogan has triggered an angry feminist blogging frenzy, but the company has been very transparent about choosing this man-centric marketing strategy.
Research suggests an untapped niche of men who want to drink diet drinks without feeling like sissies. Cue TEN, the drink that comes in a manly package (complete with rivets!) and just enough calories to fend off a vagina.
This whole Dr. Pepper TEN conflict reveals two troubling attitudes about weight and food: one, that men feel pressure to watch their weight while feeling more pressure not to admit it; and two, that women really want an equal opportunity to be sold crap. Because seriously, folks, this drink is crap.
Here are Dr. Pepper TEN’s ingredients:
Carbonated water, high fructose corn syrup, caramel color, phosophoric acid, aspartame, sodium benzoate, caffeine, natural and artificial flavors, acesulfame potassium and sodium phosphate.
TEN has all the same unpronounceable mystery ingredients as regular Dr. Pepper, but it’s combined the nefarious forces of both high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and aspartame so men can feel manly without getting fat. This idea of calories and consumption and taking up space defining manliness — that’s so much to dissect, it’s a whole other issue. For now, I just want to focus on HFCS and aspartame and why women shouldn’t care that Dr. Pepper isn’t trying to sell it to them.
Scientists have overwhelmingly demonstrated a link between HFCS, weight gain and elevated triglycerides. The liver metabolizes HFCS differently from table sugar because, while HFCS is mostly a different ratio of the same simple sugars (glucose and fructose) that make up table sugar, the refining process unbinds the fructose in a way that makes it more readily absorbed by the body. Contrast that with table sugar, which adds an extra metabolic step before utilizing the fructose. Hence, weight gain.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with weight gain, but there is something problematic about elevated triglycerides; it’s been linked with ailments like diabetes, cancer and coronary disease. So when Dr. Pepper uses copy like “Not for Women” in reference to a beverage with HFCS, doesn’t it kind of suggest that diabetes, cancer and coronary disease are “not for women,” too? I don’t really want that to be for men, either, but for now, that’s an attitude I can get behind.
I can also get behind this attitude that aspartame is “not for women.” Aspartame was denied approval the first eight times it went before the FDA. The FDA lists over 92 potential side effects from aspartame including memory loss, nerve cell damage, migraines, reproductive disorders, mental confusion, brain lesions, blindness, joint pain, Alzheimer’s and nervous system disorders.
There is a lot of conflicting research about aspartame (and a lot of companies with a vested interest that aspartame stay on the market), but there’s enough doubt about how sweet it is to consume it that there are aspartame support groups. Food additives such as MSG don’t even get their own support groups — which isn’t evidence of anything, but it does suggest something about aspartame. It’s enough of a Franken-food that I have to ask, “Do I really want to consume this? Really?” So I’m totally mystified by all the ladies begging for Dr. Pepper to market TEN to them.
Maybe there’s a part of them that, like me, would love to be seen in public drinking something that could have been made at The Anvil — but remember that TEN’s marketing campaign doesn’t actually prevent me from buying TEN. It just suggests I wouldn’t be interested in TEN — which I appreciate.
A lot of advertising is about creating insecurities so those insecurities can be voided with products. Dr. Pepper already tells me I’ll be more cool and fun if I drink regular Dr. Pepper, and they tell me how much “guilt” I won’t have if I drink diet Dr. Pepper. Neither Dr. Pepper nor Diet Dr. Pepper actually help my health, so why should I be angry that the company isn’t targeting me with yet another gross product?
Feminist bloggers telling me to be incensed that Dr. Pepper doesn’t want me drinking this is kind of like telling people of color to be upset they weren’t invited to the whites-only cut-off-a-finger party. Or telling queers to be upset they weren’t invited to jump off a cliff with all the heteros. Hello, I’m kind of more upset that I’m paid roughly 70 cents for every dollar a dude makes doing the same work. Excuse the vegan anachronism, but …
Doesn’t feminism have bigger fish to fry?
Contact Micco Caporale.