I have a niece and a nephew graduating college this year and another niece and a God son graduating high school. That not only puts me on the hook for a fairly sizable chunk of change (thank you to our sibs for having a collective 10 children, by the way....Love them all madly!!!!) but four graduation cards. So off I went to Papyrus, which is based right here in the Bay Area, to see what I could find. There were a number of neutral cards (though the overuse of the word "awesome"--as in "I think therefore I am....AWESOME!" put me off so there was no way I'd by them). A certain number of pink cards because I this generation of graduates would be at the front end of the pink-is-the-only-color-girls-could-possibly-ever-want wave. Obviously, I wan't going to buy those. But here's what really got me: all the cards with pictures of actual PEOPLE on them showed males. Now, I see on their web site that there was ONE retro-looking card with a male and a female in cap and gown, but it wasn't in either of the TWO stores in Berkeley I went to. So if I wanted to buy my nieces cards with people on them, they would have to feature guys. They probably wouldn't notice, because they're probably, as females, used to the universal male. This was ESPECIALLY true for funny, slightly insulting cards like this one:
In a way, it's the inverse of what a marketer once called "the pink factor" in marketing to little kids--or, more specifically, their parents. If parents have a boy first they'll buy the blue crib sheets/blankets/ball/bat/clothing/computer etc. Then if they have a girl, they get so excited that they'll buy everything all over again in pink. On the other hand, if they have a girl first, they'll by all that pink and then if they have a boy second they'll HAVE to buy a whole new round of stuff for the boy who can't possibly use pink. Either way, sales are doubled.
In this case, conventional wisdom holds that people won't buy something with a female image on it for a male. But they will buy something with a male image on it for a girl or woman. So if you put a female image on a graduation card you instantly HALF your sales. Better just to use the universal male. Same thing is true in many movies, TV shows, etc.
I couldn't resist. I wrote to Papyrus to complain. If you want to do it too, here's the link