Lexie Cooper’s decision to throw together a rally in response to the PepsiCo CEO’s comments last week regarding snacks designed for women was intended to be a tongue-in-cheek joke.
“I want to be clear, first of all, that this event was started as a joke,” said Cooper, who serves as president of Austin’s chapter of the National Organization for Women. But after the event quickly drew a lot of attention online, more than 7,000 people marked themselves as interested on Facebook — along with a fair amount of online criticism and ridicule — Cooper wanted to transform the attention into an object lesson.
“(Indra Nooyi) didn’t make those statements in a vacuum,” Cooper said. “She made them in a society that still expects women to be a certain way … smaller, quieter and less obnoxious in general … Those are rigid standards. … I thought this would create an opportunity for a dialogue.”
Despite the draw on social media, the near-freezing temperatures yielded only about a dozen protesters, along with several reporters, at the state Capitol on Sunday. More than a hundred bags of chips were being passed around.
The online furor started two weeks ago when Nooyi mentioned during a Jan. 31 episode of “Freakonomics Radio” that Frito-Lay — which manufactures Doritos and is owned by PepsiCo — was considering making snacks designed especially for women. They would include “low-crunch” chips that don’t “have so much of the flavor stick on the fingers” because women “don’t like to crunch too loudly in public” or “pour the little broken pieces and the flavor into their mouth,” according to a transcript of the interview.
The comments drew a strong response online. Suddenly, social media created “Lady Doritos,” a fictitious, less crunchy, less messy product that aimed to be more women-centric. The speculation prompted the company to issue a response.
Frito-Lay had no plans to make such a product, and Nooyi’s comments had been inaccurately represented, the company said. “We already have Doritos for women. They’re called Doritos, and they’re enjoyed by millions of people every day.”
Still, that didn’t stop the gathering from showing up Sunday at the Capitol, clutching bags of crispy, crunchy non-Doritos-brand chips, smacking loudly and hoisting a sign declaring “Sorry, are we too LOUD?”
“I don’t know a single person that’s like, ‘Oh, this chip is too loud for me and I don’t enjoy this scrumptious flavor on my hand,’” Emily Robinson said at the rally.
“It might seem silly that we’re protesting chips, but it’s demonstrative of the larger problem of not seeing women as people,” said Kathleen Conti. “And they don’t listen to us at the women’s march and they don’t listen to us when we call congressmen, but they might listen to us if we stop buying products made by corporations.”