Teen Vitamins Promote Healthy Bones and Sex Stereotypes

Offender: One-A-Day Teen Advantage Vitamins

Media Outlet: Commercials airing nationwide and products on store shelvesVAW 2009 Hall of Shame

The Offense: Bayer, the maker of One-A-Day Teen Advantage, is peddling sex-specific vitamins that claim to promote healthy muscle function for him (in a blue and green box) and healthy skin for her (in a pink and orange box).

NOW’s Analysis: According to the One-A-Day website, among the the “top health concerns of moms and teens” are the fact that teenage girls need to have healthy (read: aesthetically pleasing) skin, while teenage boys should have healthy muscle function. In case potential consumers aren’t picking up the difference, the vitamins come in color-coordinated boxes, the pills themselves have been dyed pink or blue, and “for Her” and “for Him” appear on the boxes in fonts that were clearly chosen to convey feminine or masculine vibes.

In reality, most of the actual ingredients of the two products are the same, working toward the same ends: supporting a healthy immune system, bone strength and energy. The issue here is not the contents of the pills, but rather the way in which these differences are marketed. The message sent to girls is that looks are paramount, and by contrast, their own strength is unnecessary or irrelevant. Likewise, boys are encouraged to be active and adventurous — there’s even a Major League Baseball logo on the boys’ box, while the girls’ box features a breast cancer awareness ribbon. But, why shouldn’t girls be concerned with having healthy muscles? And surely boys would like healthy skin, too, right?

While having sex-based differences in nutrition is understandable — women typically need more iron, for example — the method of packaging and advertising that Bayer employs is insulting. Not to mention, promoting these sex stereotypes to girls and boys during their teenage years lays a foundation for a lifetime of buying into rigid gender roles.

Take Action: Write to One-A-Day Vitamins and Bayer and tell them what you think.

Jess Hobbs, NOW Communications Team

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