Much ado about M&Ms

There are a lot of things worth getting upset about and debating. Anthropomorphized spokescandies are not among them, I would submit. But in the midst of the culture wars, we are arguing about talking candy, too.

Some time back, Mars, the owner of the M&M brand, decided that its iconic spokescandies weren’t “inclusive” enough. The folks in the Mars marketing department responded by making the female spokescandies generally less svelte and less feminine.

(This raises questions about what “inclusivity” actually means. What about inclusivity for slender and conventionally attractive women, after all?)

That might have been the end of it. Then Tucker Carlson of Fox News got involved. In a blistering commentary, Carlson denounced the new, frumpier spokescandies:

“M&M’s will not be satisfied until every last cartoon character is deeply unappealing and totally androgynous, until the moment you wouldn’t want to have a drink with any one of them. That’s the goal. When you’re totally turned off, we’ve achieved equity. They’ve won.”

Would I want to “have a drink” with any talking candy? Hmm…let me get back to you on that. Tucker Carlson has a point, to be sure; but perhaps there are better points to be made out there.

It’s foolish for a candy company to agonize over whether or not an anthropomorphized chocolate candy is “inclusive”. This is the kind of nonsense that only Ivy League MBAs worry about. The rest of just want our M&Ms.

Tucker Carlson, though, overreacted to a situation that could have been dismissed with a “whatever” and an eye-roll. Not that he was going to do that, of course. Tucker Carlson’s business model requires that he constantly present his viewers with fresh sources of outrage.

And then Mars provided the final overreaction. This past week, the company breathlessly announced that the spokescandies would be retired because of all the “controversy”. Henceforth, Maya Rudolph will represent M&Ms in ads and TV commercials.

I did enjoy Maya Rudolph’s performance in The Good Place, so I don’t mind the change. But was there ever really that much controversy, beyond the aforementioned Tucker Carlson commentary? I don’t recall any calls for conservatives to boycott M&Ms, or anything like that.

Even CNN, no fan of conservatives or Tucker Carlson, was skeptical. Perhaps this final overreaction was a Mars publicity stunt, calculated to stir up attention for those little pieces of hard-coated chocolate.


Airlines, gender-neutral uniforms, and agendas that belong on the scrap heap of history

There is a new trend among some of the major airlines: to phase out gendered uniforms altogether.

What gives? As you’re probably aware, some of us now regard the acknowledgment of gender-based differences to be oppressive. This mindset has taken particular root in academia, journalism, and the corporate boardroom in recent years. While not all Democrats feel this way, pretty much everyone who does feel this way is politically left-of-center.

This is actually an old idea, going back to the Chinese Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), at least. Chinese Red Guards wore “gender-neutral” uniforms, as did the hierarchy of the Chinese Communist Party. (These are commonly referred to as “Mao suits” in the West, often with an air of derision.)

Even the madness of the Cultural Revolution had its limits. China’s Red Guards had no pretensions of being sexually fluid. But we can recognize a trend here: far-left movements have always shown a predilection for the androgynous. Similarly, political lefties have long been hostile toward conventional notions of sex appeal. Proof that one does not need to be a Bible-thumper in order to be a puritanical killjoy. There are secular puritans and killjoys, too.

As the above paragraphs might imply, I am less than enthusiastic about the current obsession with gender fluidity. That said, where the airline industry is concerned, I do see a possible silver lining here—which may outlast the cultural neurosis of the moment.

The wife of one of my longtime friends is a flight attendant with one of the major airlines. I won’t say which one, to avoid any possibility of getting her in trouble, but you would immediately recognize the name.

My friend’s wife has to comply with a long list of appearance-related rules that apply only to female flight attendants. For example: she has to apply makeup for every flight. She has to wear shoes with heels. She has to wear earrings. Et cetera.

Male flight attendants are not subject to these rules, obviously.

Delta Airlines recruiting ad, 1969

And yes, there is a genuine unfairness present here. In no other industry are such gender-specific rules commonplace.

But then, a certain degree of sexism has always existed in the airline industry, as the vintage ads and recruiting materials posted above and below demonstrate. Female flight attendants used to be pressured into retirement at the ripe old age of 32. That’s younger than NFL quarterbacks.

As is so often the case, our society veers from one whacky extreme to another. While I have my issues with the gender fluidity excesses of the present, I also take issue with the Eastern Airlines recruiting process of yore, which the company described as follows:

“We pass up around 19 girls, before we get one that qualifies. If looks were everything, it wouldn’t be so tough. Sure, we want her to be pretty…don’t you? That’s why we look at her face, her make-up, her complexion, her figure, her weight, her legs, her grooming, her nails and her hair.”

Most men don’t look at a woman that closely before asking one on a date. All I need from a flight attendant is basic friendliness, and perhaps a willingness to get me a second cup of coffee if I ask politely. That other stuff is part of another, bygone agenda. Leave in the LBJ era.

And what about that newer sexual agenda—of citing one’s pronouns, just to be politically correct? Or denying that scientifically objective distinctions of male and female even exist at all? Or pretending that millions of years of human evolution can be erased by a decade of progressive ideology—provided the demands are shouted loudly enough, and there are sufficiently harsh consequences for the ideologically  noncompliant?

That agenda, too, belongs on the scrapheap of history. Even in China, gender-neutral Mao suits have become something of a joke.