It was a hot late-summer afternoon at the ballpark and I was thirsty, but I was tired of beer (never thought I’d say that). Then I happened upon a beverage vendor selling an attention-getting concoction called BuzzBallz. It was packaged in a plastic container that approximated the size and appearance of a baseball. The Texas Rangers logo (one of the product’s “proud partners”) was also displayed. Hardly enough to slake one’s thirst, but at 15% alcohol by volume, this pre-mixed cocktail offered roughly three times the buzz of a beer for the same price.
I selected the Pineapple Colada Chiller and took a closer look at the container while I indulged. Included were the obligatory government warning about the risk of alcoholic beverages, the deposit paid for the container in certain states (15¢ in Vermont!), the kosher seal of approval, the bar code, etc. Then I noticed something out of the ordinary. Right below the “Please Drink Responsibly” plea was “WOMEN OWNED.”
Well, I’d come across this phrase before. I’d seen it in storefront signs and print advertisements for various small businesses. But this time the O in WOMEN had a graphic in its stead so it looked something like W❆MEN OWNED. In the teeniest-tiniest type possible, a “TM” was appended to the phrase.
What a revelation! All this time I thought women-owned was a compound adjective. When I wasn’t paying attention, it morphed into a trademark!
Well, my curiosity was piqued so further investigation was warranted. As I suspected, W❆MEN OWNEDTM was not a mere statement of ownership but a certification. No surprise that it was the result of a public-private partnership of government agencies (e.g., the Small Business Administration) and industry trade groups. While there are some slight differences in the definitions of female ownership, the consensus seems to be that the enterprise must be “at least 51% owned, operated and controlled on a daily basis by one or more (in combination) female American citizens.” One might wonder about that discriminatory “American citizens” qualification. The SJW’s have some unfinished business here!
Now as you may expect, a product has to pass a smell test to get that W❆MEN OWNED trademark. As often happens with set-asides and affirmative action programs, a number of women (and minorities) are set up as corporate figureheads when in fact they have little power. Yet businesses have every incentive to showcase a female impersonator, so to speak, as the titular head of the enterprise.
The Center for Responsive Politics, a D.C. research institute that tracks government spending, estimated that the federal government awarded $25.4 billion in contracts to women-owned businesses in 2017. That’s peanuts by fedgov standards, but big bucks for small business owners. Could make the difference between mediocrity and prosperity…or bankruptcy.
Of course, that gynocentric imprimatur comes with a bureaucratic jargon. There are a number of acronyms out there with overlapping meanings and missions. Admittedly, a lot of them sound like radio station call letters. Among them are:
WBE or WOBE – a woman-owned business enterprise.
WBENC – Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (these are the folks behind the aforementioned W❆MEN OWNEDTM movement.
WOBC – Woman-Owned Business Certification (a program in Texas). Ironically, WOBC (91.5 on the FM dial) is also a student-run radio station at Oberlin, one of the wokest (or is it wackiest?) of the woke colleges, and now one of the weakest of the woke, thanks to a $44 million damages award as a result of a lawsuit stemming from their wokeness.
WOSB – Woman Owned Small Business (and let’s not forget EDWOSB, with ED standing for “economically disadvantaged”). Add one more qualifier to that acronym and you have the makings of an eyechart.
WOB – a woman-owned business, but according to the Free Dictionary web site, there are 29 such acronyms, so context is key. In other words, if you’re a fan of the World of Beer chain of gastropubs, beware.
But we’re just getting started. Also involved are the U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce and the National Women Business Owners Corporation. That’s just in the USA. Other countries have their own organizations and acronyms. And don’t forget the global do-gooders, in this case WEConnect International.
But let’s get back to the Buzzballz. As it turns out, they are the brainchild of a high school teacher in a Dallas suburb. The baseball container is a variation on the company’s original multi-colored containers that have been on sale at liquor stores, supermarkets, and other outlets in 40 states. After ten years of product development, there are currently 13 flavors available (including such racy flavors as “Choc Tease”) and more are on the way. Appropriately enough, given the potency of the beverages, the founder’s name is Merilee Kick. Only a Rockette would be a better fit for such a moniker.
If you’re curious, you can go to the company web site and see for yourself that Merliee Kick is indeed the CEO. In fact, she was prominent enough to be the subject of an interview in Forbes. Look a little further, however, and you might come to the conclusion that the operation is really a family business. Her husband is the CFO, one son is President, and another is Vice-President. Also, one Andrew Kick is West Coast Sales Director. One has to wonder…if Merilee Kick kicks the bucket, does the W❆MEN OWNEDTM seal of approval have to be removed? Or is there some wort of W❆MEN FOUNDED trademark out there? Not yet but stay tuned.
Given the bureaucratic maze a company has to negotiate in order to get that prized W❆MEN OWNEDTM status, some positive effect on the bottom line must be anticipated. Doubtless a certain percentage of feminists and white knights may be persuaded to choose such products, even without any substantive competitive advantage. Needless to say, there are no MEN ❆WNED certification programs out there and there never will be.
Now I’ve never given much thought to who owns the products or services I patronize. I know that some of them are women-owned, but I never took a poll. Yet that W❆MEN OWNEDTM logo sticks in my craw. It implies that the product is superior simply because it comes from a woman-owned company. Just as the Non-GMO or Organic logos imply benefits above and beyond products that lack these logos, the W❆MEN OWNED status seems to indicate a superior product.
Of course, offering a superior product at a decent price has always been a workable business model, but in recent years, something new has been added. It’s not enough to please just stockholders and customers. Today a company must show profits with a human face. So capitalism is trending warm and fuzzy…let’s call it the Ben & Jerry’s syndrome. Yeah, we’re trying to make a buck here, but our hearts are in the right place. Buy our product and you’re not only indulging yourself, you’re helping to make the world a better place. Buy from a W❆MEN OWNEDTM company and you’re enhancing female empowerment. So you can feel good about yourself with every purchase you make from us…the more you buy, the better you’ll feel!
Considering how few people scrutinize the small print on labels, it’s easy to dismiss the certification program as small potatoes. In years past, there have been other ways of tapping into identity politics. Back when Yellow Pages were ubiquitous, there was such a thing as the Christian Yellow Pages. I suppose that’s just a way of keeping money in the family, so to speak, but in some quarters it could be considered anti-semitic, anti-Muslim, anti-atheist, anti-Buddhist, anti-Zoroastrian, or whatever. Not quite up there with the Brownshirts painting Stars of David or “Juden!” on Jewish-owned businesses but perhaps a baby step in that direction. So one could hypothesize that W❆MEN OWNEDTM is in reality anti-male. After all, if businesses owned by women are garnering larger and larger market shares, then men’s businesses must be losing market shares.
That W❆MEN OWNEDTM logo is a major turn-of for me, but I certainly am not advocating an across-the-board boycott. Here’s why:
I enjoyed my Buzzballz adult beverage at the ballpark. As the name of the product implies, I did get a buzz. I can foresee a time when it is available at ballparks nationwide, as the pseudo-baseball container could certainly be adapted for other major league teams (maybe they’ve already done so), especially for teams that need to beef up their roster of female vendors to satisfy local statutes or ordinances. From baseballs it’s just a short step to tennis balls, mini-soccer balls, mini-basketballs, mini-footballs, etc. The containers could catch on with the collectibles/sports memorabilia crowd. Hell, if the company goes public, purchasing some stock might be a good idea.
But that’s blue-sky thinking. The current reality is that I can get buzzed, blitzed, or something in-between while underwriting the empowerment of women. I regret that I have but one liver to give for my countrywomen.
In a sense, this type of female empowerment is not as toxic as the old-school type. A century ago armies of hatchet-faced harridans succeeded in making alcohol illegal nationwide. Now that third-wave feminists have identified booze as a revenue stream, demon rum has sprouted wings and a halo.
In a world getting more and more gynocentric by the day, that W❆MEN OWNEDTM logo may become commonplace. It may go beyond business. Perhaps one day W❆MEN OWNEDTM will be tattooed on the wrist of every adult male just before he is admitted to the local concentration camp…privatized and W❆MEN OWNEDTM, of course.
But it’s all good – and for your own good, guys. In the service of gynocentrism: Arbeit macht frei.