“Skinny” Diet Pepsi: At Fashion Week, Even Cans are Too Fat

Fashion Week starts today, and Diet Pepsi has a big fat announcement! From their latest press release:

In celebration of beautiful, confident women, Diet Pepsi presents the taller, sassier new Skinny Can at New York’s Fall 2011 Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week.

Finally! Our unrealistic beauty standards for women—oh, excuse me, just “beautiful, confident women”—have made the jump to inanimate objects! Is it just me or are regular soda cans looking like total fat asses right about now?!?

skinny pepsi can
Oh, my, god. Becky. Look at her can. It is so big.

While basically ridiculous in its premise (everyone knows Diet Coke is the fashion industry’s drink of choice! also, the skinny can idea is just terrible), this new can design is still a troubling development. A close read of the aforementioned press release reveals language like “sleek,” “slim,” “attractive,” and “perfect.” Though they may not explicitly say it, Pepsi is clearly sending the message that thin is beautiful, even when we’re talking about metal cans. It’s a discourse analysis dream come true!

Not content to just peddle their “thin is in” cans at Fashion Week, where this type of misguided stunt is sadly to be expected, Pepsi is planning to distribute these cans to insecure women everywhere beginning in March. As part of the promotion, they’re even creating “Skinny Can Fridges” to drink the skinny cans from. You don’t want to look fat, do you? Then don’t drink from a stupid fat aluminum can you got from a stupid fat refrigerator, you fatties! Skinny Pepsi will make you look skinnier and cooler and better and less fat! Especially if you get it from a skinny fridge! (No it won’t.)

As if Pepsi’s racist, sexist Super Bowl spot wasn’t enough already, now they’re shoving body issues down our throats in the form of shiny drink receptacles. Newsflash, Pepsi: We get enough messages about being “skinny” already—we don’t need to feel self-conscious about the SIZE OF THE CAN WE’RE DRINKING FROM.

In other news, Pepsi also owns Frito-Lay. How will they reconcile that one? With a “skinny” bag of All-Nighter Cheeseburger Doritos?

by Kelsey Wallace
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Kelsey Wallace is an editor in Portland, Oregon. Follow her on Twitter if you like TV and pictures of dogs.

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14 Comments Have Been Posted

Kelsey, you sound sort of

Kelsey, you sound sort of hysterical. I'm sure it isn't a soda company's secret agenda to try and make people feel badly about their weight. Soda is one of the biggest contributors to obesity, and chemical-filled "diet" varieties aren't that much better as alternatives. Clearly, this is just a promotion to appeal to people who are already of a particular mindset.

In any case, if you want more soda, by bigger cans/bottles - they aren't ceasing production for other sizes. And if this really offends you, then drink other brands. Personally, I don't care much either way, but I do think that offering smaller sizes is a good thing.

Would it be better if the new size weren't tall and slim? Would it be less offensive if it were pear-shaped?

Not quite the point.

Hi Anonymous,

Accusations of hysteria aside, I would argue that Pepsi most certainly is trying to make people feel badly about their weight. If you look at the Pepsi press release I link to, you'll see multiple conflations of thinness and perfection, made only more clear by the tie-ins with Fashion Week (an event celebrating an industry that is notorious for promoting unrealistic thinness).

This post isn't about me personally wanting bigger bottles of Diet Pepsi (I don't even like Diet Pepsi, not that that matters), but rather about how Diet Pepsi is finding new ways to fat-shame women by equating, yet again, being "skinny" with being attractive. And to answer your question, yes, I would find this campaign less offensive if it was about celebrating pear-shaped bodies with pear-shaped bottles, although given Pepsi's recent track record I'm sure they'd still find a way to make it problematic.

It is absolutely the soda

It is absolutely the soda company's "secret agenda" to make people feel bad about their weight. The entire product was born from size anxiety - that's the only reason for it to exist, and the only basis they have for selling it. (It's certainly not because it tastes great.) The marketing for the product hinges on making women feel bad about being fat and trying to make them think that they'll feel better if they "do something about it," like drinking Diet Pepsi.

Also, saying "it's just a promotion to appeal to people who are already of a particular mindset" negates the value of examining what mindset this marketing aims at, and whether it's a good thing to support and promote it by verifying it and treating it as worthy of an appeal. If the marketing were aiming to validate and pacify people with sexist or racist mindsets - "The shiny silver can accents blonde hair and pale skin for a cool, glamorous look!" - would it be more offensive, or less "hysterical" to question it? Certainly, we could all ignore all of these messages in our cultural dialog and just "use other brands," but isn't considering and questioning pop culture messages what Bitch is all about?

I have to agree that this

I have to agree that this blog sounds a little hysterical. It sounds a little like reaching for things to be pissed about. I know it might sound apolitical to say "it's just a can," but really, this time, I think it's just a can. Products are always trying to rebrand and reinvent just to be able to present something new.


If the new shape of can were released without comment, it might have been "just a can," but the marketing around the new design, especially the emphasis that this is the "Skinny can" *for model week*, makes it pretty clear that this is about female bodies.

Also, you may want to look up the sexist origins of the term "hysteria."

Pepsi has clearly made a

Pepsi has clearly made a major marketing mistake. Why would anyone drink from the skinny cans? Clearly the older fat cans will make our older fat bodies look skinnier by comparison!


Hilarious. Skinny can or fat

Hilarious. Skinny can or fat can, the stuff inside is still a huge contributor to obesity.

Maybe if our packaging reflected the nutritional benefits (or lack thereof) inside . . . what would THAT look like?

I didn't think this was for real at first!

#1) Responding to a feminist criticism of anything with the term "hysterical" is ironically sexist in itself. It's ok to have an opinion, but that's quite a dicey word choice.

#2) Failure to see how these can shapes comment on and endorse modern beauty standards is willful ignorance. Perhaps if it were just a new can shape being put out there with no reason or stated agenda attached, it would be one thing, but marketing them specifically for introduction during fashion week, and using such specific language in the press release (like the stuff Kelsey already pointed out above, plus lines like, "Our slim, attractive new can is the perfect complement to today's most stylish looks") pretty much gives this away for what it really is.

#3) Reminds me of Virginia Slims. "You've come a long way, baby." *gag*

Hysterical or Humor

While I agree that this is clearly an attempt to make America "the beautiful" tall - thin - tin, this is also a funny blog to read. I mean honestly I want to drink my can o' chemicals from a thin can in a thin fridge to compliment my my thin thighs... I do agree that having a smaller can is beneficial for consumption control - obesity is a problem but vanity is a bigger one.

Seriously, I thought this was

And another problem with these cans ...

Thanks, Kelsey, you said it really well! The idea that we should worry about our cans being too fat is ... well, an old and frustrating one, but now it's our <i>soda</i> cans? <i>Really??</i>

As someone trained in engineering, my second thought about these cans was, "Won't they just tip over much more easily?" Smaller base + higher center of gravity = poor moment resistance if even slightly tipped.

Watch out for spillage at Fashion Week, people, and don't let your uncomfortable shoes slip in puddles of Diet Pepsi.

...not to mention

Not to mention the fact that now that they basically have 2 Diet Pepsis, they have to differentiate them based on gender. Pepsi Max is now the so-totally-dudetactuar drink of the NFL and apparently Diet Pepsi is the perfect, slim women's drink. Yikes.

They're equating beautiful

They're equating beautiful and confident with tall and skinny. I'm pretty sure they're trying to shame people who aren't skinny.

I actually like the can. I

I actually like the can. I have small hands, and to be frank, holding a "regular" soda can is a tad uncomfortable. That being said... the whole "skinny" thing, the whole comparing to to women, the whole calling it "skinny" and at the same time saying it's celebrating "sexy women".... yeeeesh! Why not just redesign the can without any justification or without any names for it? Call it the new can. Other carbonated beverages have cans like Diet Pepsi's yet they don't call them "skinny" cans. Blargh.

AND ON TOP OF IT, unveiling the can at FASHION WEEK. Gee, I wonder what those cans are supposed to represent? Oh yeah, models.

It's anything with the word "skinny" in it too.... I even hate the name of my favorite drink at Starbucks (the skinny vanilla latte).

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