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Gender’s Multiple Meanings – Changing the narrative for a new truth

Ujwal Arkalgud, EVP & Group Director at Lux Research

Ujwal Arkalgud

EVP & Group Director, Anthropology

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Jason Partridge photo

Jason Partridge

VP, Client Success

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Welcome to “Why Meaning Matters”—a Story Studio Network podcast hosted by Erin Trafford with MotivBase cultural anthropologist, Ujwal Arkalgud and MotivBase president, Jason Partridge.

In episode three, Erin begins by highlighting the changing meaning of gender and asking Ujwal and Jason how they work with corporate clients as the meaning has shifted.

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Welcome to Why Meaning Matters. A Story Studio Network podcast hosted by Erin Trafford with MotivBase cultural anthropologist, Ujwal Arkalgud and MotivBase president, Jason Partridge.

In episode three, Erin begins by highlighting the changing meaning of gender and asking Ujwal and Jason how they work with corporate clients as the meaning has shifted. Ujwal shares a story of a “cringe-worthy” marketing campaign that once landed in his inbox. UJWAL [00:02:35] “They just launched a line of clothing that was all the color gray. First of all, it looked terrible. I mean, who wants to dress their children in gray? It’s a boring color. Come on. And then on top of that, they completely misunderstood the core concept of what gender-neutral could mean, could imply. Nobody there sat back and asked, ‘What should this mean?’” Jason elaborates on the surface-level and, arguably, insulting interpretation that was made by a major retailer. JASON [00:03:17] “It was the, you know, desire to play in something that is forward-thinking and provocative and important for a large group of consumers and people moving forward, but not taking the time to actually consider what does this mean to this group of people that are trying to leverage gender-neutral clothing? Why is it important? What are the requirements that will make it relevant to them?” MotivBase has and continues to study the meaning of gender extensively. In the context of the 100-year-old model referenced in episode two, meanings around gender are still in the myth stage. Ujwal shares some examples out of the five or six major interpretations that currently exist. UJWAL [00:4:53] “So some of the myths that exist at the moment, early-stage, early consensus stage, one of it is about literally not feeling ostracized if you were in the boy’s section shopping for your daughter. That’s one example of gender, right. And I’m sure all of us have been in this situation. I mean, there’s so many times where I have bought clothes from the boy’s section for my daughter because she loves robots and the boy’s section has robots and I buy that and the cashier will say, oh, but this is for boys.” Erin asks how do we start to change that narrative when we, as individuals, don’t buy into the old truth anymore? Jason says people are naturally rethinking how an individual’s rights could (and often do) mean more than their own preconceived notions. JASON [00:07:29] “I almost think of it like a magnet. Okay. The idea of being open and aware and more cognizant of individuals and their rights to basically express themselves is slowly drawing more and more people to the party, because at the end of the day, people are starting to really start to understand that if they were in that position, that’s something they would want people to do for them.” Ujwal reminds us that, at this stage, we’re still talking about multiple meanings, plural, not meaning, singular. Eventually one or two will come out on top dependent on the strength of the ‘magnet’. UJWAL [00:08:43] “You can kind of think about meanings as if you know, they’re a bunch of boxers. You put them all in a boxing ring. Eventually one or two of them will survive. And that’s just culture for you. Right? And so our job becomes to figure out which of these meanings is more likely to survive. And we can do that by tracking how much consensus it’s getting over time.” The idea of the gender binary is one meaning that is heading out the door but it takes time because it is infused in every aspect of our lives from the way we hire to who we believe plays videos games. Jason shares some examples of brands shifting their messaging because of this. JASON [00:11:58] “The reality is, is that as Ujwal referenced, you know, we’re talking about meanings, not just meaning, and these things are interconnected and these things are putting tension in the marketplace and reshaping kind of expectations, not just specifically around gender, but in the associations that gender are linked to.” Erin sets up the next episode with mention of ‘Pink Tax’ and the myth of feminism. What it means now. How it is shifting. Stay tuned for episode four of Why Meaning Matters. If you want to contribute to the conversation, make sure you drop us an email at hello [at] storystudionetwork [dot] com. If you enjoyed this episode, be sure to SHARE it, RATE it, and SUBSCRIBE to the show!

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