Here's How Changing Gender Roles Are Shaping Your Grocery Store

July 31st 2017

As views on traditional gender roles continue to evolve in the U.S., many grocery stores are following suit. However, the way these stores are continuing to traffic in stereotypes are striking some people as problematic.  

A survey by Harris Poll on behalf of Men's Health found that 84 percent of men said they're the primary grocery shoppers in their household. However, the study only polled men. Surveys that include women suggest that women are still the primary shoppers, although men are increasingly adopting the role. 

“The study’s results continue to challenge many gender stereotypes related to food shopping and cooking,” Men’s Health Vice President and Publisher Chris Peel said in a press release. “Men have an active role in each stage of the food purchasing process — before getting to the store, while there, and when cooking the food they’ve bought. Food retailers are uniquely positioned to appeal to men throughout this cycle and to evolve their marketing plans based on this compelling data.”

A recent piece in The Washington Post by Abha Bhattari outlined some of the ways the supermarket industry has begun targeting male shoppers. 

“Men are not terribly strategic,” David W. Stewart, a marketing professor at Loyola Marymount University told The Post. “They walk in and buy what they remember is needed. They’re buying for right now, or maybe tonight. Anything beyond that is too long-term.”

Paco Underhill, chief executive of behavioral research firm Envirosell also underlined what he saw as the differences in the ways women and men shop. He used a hunter-gatherer example. 

“Men tend to be hunters: They want to kill something quickly, drag it out and feel successful,” he told the Post. “Women, though, they’re thinking ahead and planning accordingly.”

As a result, some stores are positioning items to appeal to men, based on the idea that they are more influenced by brand names and immediate suggestions for dinner, rather than long-term meal planning. Another tactic has been to group all the items for one meal in the same location. 

“Part of what they’re doing is trying to make the shopping process more fun,” Underhill told the Post. “Men tend to get easily frustrated.”

Some people accused marketing professionals of using reductive gendered stereotypes to address changing gender roles. 

Men often receive praise for doing things women do all the time.

As Ellen Friedrichs noted in a 2014 piece for Everyday Feminism, societal norms often subtly enforce vastly different expectations for mothers and fathers, as household caretakers. 

"As a society, we continue to have overall lower expectations for fathers than for mothers," wrote Friedrichs. "The result is that mothers continue to be viewed more critically than fathers, who are often given credit for simply showing up." She encouraged people to fight against this unequal treatment. 

"Speak up when you notice people commenting on how awesome it is that a dad is at a playground on a Sunday morning and not sleeping in," she wrote. "Call people out when they talk about a dad 'babysitting' his own kid. Neither of those things are anything out of the norm. They are just part of parenting."

ATTN: had previously reported on the sexist comments dads often receive when taking care of their children and that gender stereotypes can leave women with a larger share of household responsibilities, even when balancing a job. 

Gender roles are changing in the U.S. 

In 2012, the Pew Research Center reported that more American women said that a high-paying career is important to them then men of the same age, with 66 percent of women between 18 to 34 rating their career high on their list of life priorities, compared to 59 percent of men. This is significant shift from just fifteen years earlier, when 56 percent of women prioritized their career compared to 58 percent of men.

Both men and women placed being a good parent high on their priorities list but there were still significant differences, with 59 percent of young women and 47 percent of men saying being a good parent was "important." Still, this reflected a shift for men, as fifteen years earlier, only 39 percent of men listed being a good parent as a top priority. 

Related: Nev Schulman and Laura Perlongo Say It's Time to End Gender Stereotypes for Parents

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