Scent Masquerade: Gendering your Nose

Do you remember the commercials that promote deodorants and openly appeal to sexist phantasies? Women are drawn in hordes to any male who has sprayed himself liberally with the deodorant – the “Axe effect”. The commercials have been known as the world’s sexist advertising campaign for many years.  The commercial “strictly for men” (1996) can even be viewed as a gender hack: A woman used her boyfriend’s grooming product!  And –  what a surprise! – women in the street are suddenly really horny for her. And, of course, she’s angry! She goes right to her boyfriend: “Hey, did you know about this?”.  In fact, the use of scent is highly gendered.

Crossing the boundaries between gender, scent & culture Claus Noppeney and Bettina Rychener contributed to festival “Ckster” in Bern in March 2017. This documentary features some elements of the workshop and even shares some insights by people participating in the workshop – you can jump to position 11:28:

Bildschirmfoto 2018-08-02 um 17.06.47

Ckster is the art & science festival at Bern exploring hacking as a creative strategy in society and culture. And the focus of the 2017 edition was gender hacking: Scent Masquerade: Gendering your Nose.

During the interactive part of the session the participants individualized and scented a T-shirt. The material offered to odorize the shirt was taken from various lifeworlds: food, party, body odor, perfumer etc.  Here are some snapshots of our session:

Finally, a short presentation reflected on the previous experience in the context of iconic advertising campaigns, scientific insights,  cultural and artistic projects as well as critical inquiry. A summary in four provocative statements:

  1. Identität riechen! Gerüche identifizieren! Geruchsidentität!
  2. Geruch gehört zum geschlechtlichen Selbstverständnis und stellt es zugleich in Frage!
  3. Gender macht Körpergerüche zum Geschäft!
  4. Gerüche kann man hacken: Gender Hacking!

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Thanks a lot to Ckster, Julia Geiser and Adrian Demleitner for making this possible. And thanks to this wonderful crowd of curious and interesting people. We enjoyed this session and our cooperation a lot!

Here is screenshot of the original program: