Let them eat chips! Thousands of women to eat snack in public protest

FILE- This Sept. 26, 2014, file photo shows Nacho Cheese flavored Doritos in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — A bunch of women plan to head to the Texas Capitol Sunday and eat crunchy chips in public, lick their fingers and maybe pour the crumbs at the bottom of the bag into their mouths.

It’s an event that has spiraled in popularity over the last few days, firing back at a recent comment by PepsiCo Inc’s CEO Indra Nooyi on the Freakonomics Radio podcast suggesting that women don’t like the messiness and loud crunch of typical chips. After that comment, she went on to discuss new packaging and design the company is looking into that would take those preferences into account.

This was Nooyi’s response when the host of the podcast asked her about how differently men and women eat chips:

When you eat out of a flex bag — one of our single-serve bags — especially as you watch a lot of the young guys eat the chips, they love their Doritos, and they lick their fingers with great glee, and when they reach the bottom of the bag they pour the little broken pieces into their mouth, because they don’t want to lose that taste of the flavor, and the broken chips in the bottom. Women would love to do the same, but they don’t. They don’t like to crunch too loudly in public. And they don’t lick their fingers generously and they don’t like to pour the little broken pieces and the flavor into their mouth.”

The AP reports PepsiCo said Tuesday that the interpretation of Nooyi’s comments regarding female-specific Doritos was “inaccurate.”

Still, for many women, Nooyi’s comments touched on overall frustration about gender-specific marketing.

“I couldn’t believe she said those things,” said Lexie Cooper, president of the Austin Chapter of the National Organisation for Women (Austin NOW), who promptly organized the event after learning of the comments. The event is titled “A bunch of women eating chips in public.”

“Originally it was just a joke with my friends. A few of them liked that I said I was going to this event [on Facebook] when there were zero people who had RSVP’d, so I definitely didn’t expect to have a thousand going already, that’s nuts,” Cooper said, shocked at the thousands of people who’ve said they’re interested in attending on Facebook.

The event page says “non-women” can attend in solidarity as well.

“Our agenda right now is literally just to stand around eating chips (noisily) and laugh, but it’s possible that that will change. Regardless, this event is all in good fun, and meant to be a way to use humor to point out silly things like unnecessarily gendered products,” Cooper said.

Cooper is aware that PepsiCo has come out with statements clarifying Nooyi’s comments, but thinks the event she’s creating is still relevant.

“This is a great opportunity for us to point out that we’re still facing a lot of sexism and misogyny in our society,” said Cooper. “And a lot of that is ingrained within us, and we need to face that head-on, maybe we need to face some of that with some humor and with some food.”

Kate Pounders, an assistant professor of advertising at UT Austin, said her students and fellow faculty members have been talking about this event. She said many brands have recently been going gender-neutral with their marketing because of this exact type of blowback.

“I think women just want to be seen as equals and they don’t want their own type of chip, they just want to eat the chips that everyone eats,” Pounders said

“And you know Bic did a pink pen set a few years ago and that wasn’t received positively either because women just want to use pens,” Pounders continued, referencing Bic’s “for Her” pens. 

Pounders’ colleague Angeline Close-Scheinbaum, also a UT professor, has noticed this tide of opposition to gendered marketing, especially given the rise of social media.

“I was surprised about how viral it went quickly, especially in light of this product not being made,” Close Scheinbaum said. “This really shows the power of transparency in statements that CEO’s and leaders make to their stakeholders because it shows that one sentence, two sentences of the CEO’s statement have gone viral.”

Close-Scheinbaum explained this incident is a teaching moment on the advantages of social media to empower consumers and the additional accountability it places on companies and brands.

An Austin company, Pauqui Chips, has agreed to provide a couple hundred bags of “Doritos-like” chips at the event for attendees to crunch on, Cooper said. People from all over Texas have expressed interest in attending this event on Facebook.

Currently, attendees are planning to meet at the South end of the Texas Capitol on Sunday, Feb 11 at 3 p.m.