In the interests of full disclosure, this post was inspired by Tristan, who ranted about PajamaGrams and got me thinking about them several weeks ago.
As many readers are aware, I listen to a fair amount of National Public Radio (NPR). Sometimes NPR makes me want to scream and hit things and other times it’s ok and interesting. NPR also tends to have recurrent advertisements (or underwriting spots, or whatever they are called). Some of these ads have been running for, well, decades. As a kid, for example, I thought NPR was sponsored by “the few charitable trusts” and I thought that was funny, and was rather sad when I learned that it was the Pew Charitable Trust.
One of the underwriting spots that comes up now and then is for the PajamaGram. PajamaGrams are pajamas which are overnighted as presents. Now, to be fair, I actually think that this is kind of weird and I don’t really get it. I mean, I wear pajamas around the house, but not to sleep, and I might actually be a bit creeped out if someone bought pajamas for me. (Or clothing in general, really.) But, ok, some people are really into pajamas and undoubtedly someone out there would be tickled pink to get pajamas as a present, and even more tickled to get them overnighted (as opposed to, say, shipped ground at lower cost). Whatever. No judging here; not to my preference but that doesn’t make it bad.
But here’s what annoys me about the PajamaGram people. Sexism o’clock, is what annoys me.
The “women’s” area of their website features things like “flirty” and “feminine” pajamas. Because, of course, even in PJs, you need to be flirty and feminine. It’s overwhelmed by pink, red, purple. “Comfy and cozy” pajamas all look kind of schlubby because, of course, you cannot be comfortable and flirty! Or comfortable and feminine!
I view pajamas as “those things you wear around the house to avoid flashing the neighbors when you do not feel like wearing clothes.” I get that other people do not, and that is fine. But must women be drenched in pink and red to be “flirty”? Can “comfortable” things not be well tailored? Is it possible that women have varying tastes and might not all think of the same thing when they hear “flirty”? Why must the fatigues be lavender for Pete’s sake?!
And I’m kind of not a fan of the idea of sending “flirty” pajamas to the women in your life. What if they feel like you are sending the pajamas because they are not “flirty” enough? What if they can’t tolerate polyester and that’s the fiber used to make them? What if they hate pajamas? What if they have their own ideas about what is “flirty” and don’t appreciate your input? What if you buy the wrong size (accidental or not) and it is read as pressure to be thinner? I’m telling you, people, buying clothing for other people is a minefield.
Does the “men’s” area have “masculine,” “flirty,” and “cozy” categories? No it does not. It just has “fun” and “classic.” And the model is wearing green and blue. These are manly pajamas for men. No pink or lavender to be seen.
And, of course, what about people who are not “women” or “men”? I guess they are not worthy of pajamagrams, because there is no section of the site for them, not even an irritatingly named “unisex.” They’re on their own. What about fat people? Sure, the site goes up to 3x, but that’s not that far, and I am willing to bet it’s a small 3x. What about women with nonstandard body types? “Women” is a big category and women’s bodies vary quite widely.
You’re thinking “but this is just a silly website that sells pajamas.” And that is true. But in the process, it’s reinforcing widely held cultural beliefs and values. It’s also, of course, choosing a customer base and opting to ignore people outside that base, which is an accepted and common practice in advertising. They’re assuming, correctly in the case of this writer, that people who are fat and nonbinary are probably not interested in having pajamas overnighted to them.
I should note, too, that this is not limited to PajamaGram. Pretty much any website which sells pajamas divides them into men’s and women’s sections which are very much gendered. It’s the same with most clothing sites, which inform viewers about which things are for boys and which ones are for girls and leave no room for blurring of the lines.
And, you know, it’s yet another example of sexist tropes in advertising which constantly prime people with messages about gender expression. Of course the women’s pajama section has a bunch of subcategories and is deluged in pink. Naturally the men’s pajama section is small and practical. When you have these ideas reinforced again and again, you start to believe them, on some level.
And let’s say that you do know someone who would love to have some pajamas overnighted to them. And you go to PajamaGram because it’s a well known name in the overnight mailing of pajamas business, and you feel alienated by the site. Even if the recipient of your gift would absolutely love it, you might feel hesitant to buy from a company which makes you feel uncomfortable. Do you buy anyway and accept that you are supporting a company which reinforces harmful gendering norms, because you want the recipient of your present to be happy?