Women are no strangers to double-standards and inequality. Though many vapers experience scrutiny and prejudice, women receive harsher judgment than men. Perhaps this has to do with cultural perceptions from smoking stereotypes, lingering like the stench and ash of a stubbed cigarette. Maybe it has to do with the way vaping is marketed. In the petri-dish of a new market, many gender issues are exposed, and if the vaping community fails to reform, vaping may be a permanent boy’s club.
From pay inequality to lifestyle choice to cleanliness, women have had it rough. Women couldn’t even vote until 1920. Barbaric medical practices targeted “female hysteria” for hundreds of years; symptoms including anxiety, faintness, loss of appetite, and “tendency to cause trouble” were prescribed wildly unscientific treatments, including forced hysterectomy and admission to insane asylums. Though womens’ rights have advanced since the early 1900’s, stigma and injustice continue to haunt more than half the world’s population.
The vaping world is a cartoonish burlesque of sexism. While the number of female vapers is rising sharply (women are more likely to switch to vaping than men), most vapor marketing continues to appeal to men, and ludicrously so. Scantily-clad, near-pornographic images of vaping women sprawled over sports cars flood the internet. Labeling commonly features masculine imagery and innuendo. 10 percent of the US adult population vapes, and roughly 25 percent of that population are women. That means that around eight million women are misrepresented and are vaping in a prohibitively manly environment. With the increasingly rapid rate of smoker-to-vaper conversion in women, why are we still marketing this way?
Culture is key. Stale gender philosophies dominate much of the world; many cultures and religions restrict the behavior of women. Even developed countries have staunch, retrogressive laws and attitudes towards women. Vaping itself has a culture, and its representation is screwed towards men. Flip through a vape culture magazine, and you’ll see what I mean. Since the culture of vaping is so young and malleable, there is still time to correct this misrepresentation, before vaping will forever be a machismo-laden circus of testosterone.
What can we do to make women feel more welcome in the vaping community? Well, for starters, vaping companies should steer away from overtly demeaning/chauvinistic advertising. This would create a friendlier atmosphere for female vapers, and improve the image of vaping as a whole (in my humble opinion). Secondly, I’d warn against the opposite extreme: condescending flowery and/or hot pink vape products. Vaping is meant for all of the adult population, and we shouldn’t favor one gender over the other. Lastly, on an individual level, I would be supportive of a woman’s right to vape. If you know any vaping women, be encouraging, but never patronizing.
It’s not too much to ask for the vaping community to treat women with respect. It would increase vaping’s popularity, improve our image, and diversify society’s idea of vaping. Eleanor Roosevelt, a pioneer in gender equality, once said, “It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness.”
Let us cast away the darkness with a ponderous flame.
Something to think about:
What steps can we take to make the vaping community more accessible to women?