We have a long, sad and sometimes troubling history of insensitive food. A quick wallow in the ad campaigns of the 70s and 80s tells you that the way we market dinner has come a long way from the days when anyone who wasn’t white, male and straight was nothing more than a pro and a punchline. That being said, some businesses make it painfully clear that we still have a long way to go.
British high street discount store Poundland might not be the first place you’d expect to unearth controversial food product. Built on the promise of offering a range of well known bits and bobs for the princely sum of £1 or less, Poundland is popular among the sensible and the spendthrift alike. However, the business has landed itself in hot water this week, with the release of a new range of sexually suggestive and arguably misogynistic marshmallows.
The sweets, which will set you back 50p for a packet, come in two distinct shapes, resembling female breasts and buttocks. The packaging itself is inscribed with phrases like “be gentle” and “squidge my cheeks”, and comes complete with a sexually suggestive cartoon. The buttocks were described as “bootylicious”, whilst the boobs were characterised as “A cracking pair”.
Unsurprisingly, reaction to Poundland’s latest treats was swift and hostile. Gemma Aitchinson, who first spotted the sweets in a Bolton branch, tweeted, “What exactly are you trying to say with these products, Poundland, to the families who come in store? No sign of any male things to sexually assault. No testicles to grab at? Why do we have candy like this, usually made for children?” She went on, adding, “I know they are marshmallows and I understand that marshmallows aren’t the end of the world. But I also know that sexual objectification is linked to violence and, for companies, profit. Corporations create and profit from sexual objectification but don’t want any responsibility for it. We need to call them out on this.”
She wasn’t alone in voicing her outrage over the offending items. Josephine, also writing on Twitter, stated, “Oh my goodness. That is APPALLING. The sexualisation and objectification of women even in marshmallow form? And that pornified illustration… I’m absolutely flabbergasted that anyone thought these names and illustrations were in any way acceptable. Like something out of an Ann Summers catalogue. Dear lord, Poundland, it’s still 1972 in your stores. This is an absolute disgrace. So damaging to normalise such appalling sexism and objectification.”
After the story made headlines last Thursday, Britain’s ‘Metro’ newspaper reached out to the powers that be at Poundland for some sort of comment. In response, the supermarket stated, “If something’s offended you, we won’t force you to buy it. It’s fine for you to look the other way and ignore it. Here at Poundland, we think it’s ok that sometimes we don’t always get it right for everyone. Because, frankly it’s impossible to do that. Just because someone doesn’t like something we do, we also believe that doesn’t give them the automatic right to stop us doing it for thousands of other people who like it.” Though they may not have intended to cause offense, it is increasingly obvious that the brand’s new NSFW range have not been as warmly received as the business may have hoped.