Engendering my unease
Over the past week or so, I've been involved in several projects which have some element of gender-specific copy as part of my brief. This has obviously got me thinking overtime.
Being asked to do something like this confuses me no end. In principle, I don't believe I should necessarily have to 'speak' any differently to a woman with my copy than I do to a man. I'm not of the opinion that a 'girly' tone of voice is automatically going to resonate with more females, for example. Maybe this is me being stubborn and refusing to accept that it actually works. Maybe it's high time someone asked why we conform to stereotypes.
I don't know, it's just how I feel about the whole thing. This is doubly true when the thing being described and sold isn't gender-specific in and of itself.
There are certain products and services that are, by their nature, marketed specifically to either men or women. Things like tampons, razors, clothes, accessories, and so on. Marketing those with a more specific angle, I can accept. The target market for each of those items is narrower, and that makes it easier to write in a certain way.
And there are just as many items which can be used by almost anyone. I feel like a universal product is marketable with a universal TOV.
One of my tasks was to write male-specific and female-specific copy for a service that's used pretty much equally by both genders. It took me hours to get my head around this idea. I had no clue where to begin. Sure, it seemed like the simplest way for the client to do split A/B testing. But where do you draw the line to avoid stereotyping or putting people off?
You might think that my work with Funny Women means I understand exactly how to write for female readers. That's just as dangerous an assumption to make. I imagine plenty of men have read my articles there. From my perspective, I just write. Apart from the odd 'am I right, ladies?', I've never gone out of my way to try and sound like a woman. I am a woman. I sound however I sound.
Going back to talking about the menfolk for a second... The other thing I've been asked to do is write like a bloke. Not just for a primarily male audience, but 'like a bloke'. The target audience for this particular campaign is extremely specific. There's no wiggle room to make it any more female-friendly than that.
Being handed a defined tone of voice on a plate is really nice. I love it when that happens, I really do. I don't have to interrogate the client on what they think they want to achieve. We don't go through five rounds of tweaking because they've got no idea what they're aiming for. There does, however, come a point when the TOV is established enough to be sort of restrictive. It almost feels too easy, because there's only one logical thing to say in every situation.
The client is fully aware that I'm a short, tiny woman and not in the market for their product at all. So presumably I should feel proud that I'm potentially being trusted to take on a whole new persona. No wonder I'm so confused right now...