Brawny Is Putting a Woman on Its Packaging for the First Time Ever

March  6, 2017

This year, for the first time in the company’s history, Brawny will be featuring a woman on its packaging. The woman will be adorning limited edition packages sold at Walmarts across the country. She has curly brown tresses and red lipstick. Like her male predecessor, she wears that iconic red flannel.

Brawny’s new ad campaign comes in observance of Women’s History Month. Last year, the company brought together a cast of impressive, resilient women who succeeded against particularly stifling barriers in male-dominated STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) fields for a video campaign. This year, Brawny has decided to extend this video campaign to its actual packaging, complete with a hashtag: #StrengthHasNoGender. In addition to creating a video campaign with a new cast of women, the company has partnered with Girls Inc. and has promised to funnel $75,000 to the organization with the endgame of helping "develop girls’ enthusiasm" for entering STEM fields.

Historically, the Brawny brand has been strewn with traditional notions of American masculinity. The mere name Brawny evokes the image of the burly lumberjack who swoops to the rescue of a domestic damsel in distress. Since the advent of the character of the Brawny man in the 1970s, he’s undergone some insignificant makeovers. He began as a pale man with an amber mustache, but in 2003, he shaved his beard, darkened his hair, and gained a more swarthy complexion. With the passage of time, he has grown more nondescript—he's now effectively a flannel-clad, headless torso.

Brawny's usual packaging, circa last year, courtesy Yourbestdigs. Photo by Yourbestdigs

Perhaps this history can explain why the introduction of a Brawny woman onto packaging is being treated like some seismically colossal shake-up. It has been met with warm reception in most corners of the internet. After all, Brawny's aims are unimpeachable upon first glance. It's a corporation maintaining the gloss of progressiveness.

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But isn’t it condescending to suggest that a woman’s strength is marketable only one month of the year? I realize I’m a man writing about paper towel rolls here, but if Brawny were serious about its sudden pivot, I’d hope they would keep this packaging around all year long.

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Top Comment:
“I agree that this is "condescending" to make such a big deal out of doing a one month campaign featuring a woman! Wow, I think they should get rid of the 'brawny' guy altogether, and feature something like...oh, IDK, a spill being wiped up! And a non-gender identifiable hand doing the swabbing?”
— Charmaine C.

What's your take on the new Brawny campaign and packaging? Let us know in the comments.

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Mayukh Sen is a James Beard Award-winning food and culture writer in New York. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, the New Yorker, Bon Appetit, and elsewhere. He won a 2018 James Beard Award in Journalism for his profile of Princess Pamela published on Food52.


Charmaine C. March 24, 2017
I agree that this is "condescending" to make such a big deal out of doing a one month campaign featuring a woman! Wow, I think they should get rid of the 'brawny' guy altogether, and feature something like...oh, IDK, a spill being wiped up! And a non-gender identifiable hand doing the swabbing?
ChefJune March 8, 2017
Quite frankly, Brawny paper towels are not nearly as "brawny" as Bounty, which has featured women in its advertising for as long as I can remember. I've never understood the point of making paper towels sexy. They're paper towels, for Pete's sake!
Steven W. March 7, 2017
If they put a man on the cover of Summers Eve I am out of here.
melissa March 7, 2017
they could've gone with norman rockwell's 1943 rosie the riveter:
Richard H. March 7, 2017
Buyer beware. The Brawny brand is owned by Georgia Pacific which is owned by the Koch Brothers. Vote with your pocket book!
Trixie March 7, 2017
I strongly assert that the generic paper towels I buy do just as good a job as Brawny, they save me money, and the packaging is gender neutral, win-win. Some generics don't hold up to the comparison, or don't offer pick-a-size, not all paper towels are created equal, but the ones I get a Wegmans do the job for me.
Hanna March 6, 2017
ugh ! can't we just let men be brawny ? It's so obvious that strength knows no gender. Women's strength is not comparable to men's strength. Men are brawny. Women are tough but we are not born with the same upper body strength capacity. I would not buy these paper towels. I like the man on the package. What kind of feminist would rather buy paper towels with sexy woman on the package rather than a sexy man? It's trying to capitalize on this whole movement but, what? We don't want help in the kitchen all of a sudden?
Hanna March 6, 2017
OK I just spewed there. But really. I don't see why we need to stop celebrating men.
Kayleigh March 6, 2017
I don't think anyone's saying we don't want to let men be brawny. I think we're saying women can be strong and even "brawny," too. I'm a female Soldier and I know a lot of other women Soldiers and women firefighters and women who are just generally being strong in general. No one is saying we "need to stop celebrating men." We're saying, Hey, maybe women can be strong too!
Whiteantlers March 6, 2017
Right on, Kayleigh! : )
E March 6, 2017
I mean feminism is literally "women and men should have equal rights and equal opportunities" so I think this Brawny woman for Women's History Month is an example of a corporation showing that women can be and are in reality capable of the same strength as men. No one is taking anything away from men by having a special edition packing for Women's History Month to celebrate the inherent and profound strength in women that is often ignored by others, including other women. It's really not a gesture of "stop celebrating men" given that men tend to be celebrated (often times for doing almost nothing) - it's a gesture of solidarity with the women who are strong AF but aren't given their due, like ladies like Kayleigh. Women soldiers, fire fighters, professional chefs are looked upon as lesser by many people, when in fact they are just as good and probably even better than the men in their cohort.

Like Kayleigh said - Hey! Maybe women can be strong too!
BerryBaby March 6, 2017
I agree. It's paper towels! I'm not looking to read into who is on the package. I'm more interested in what's in the package.
Hanna March 7, 2017
Kayleigh, good. I am glad this doesn't offend you. As a tough woman myself, I think something like this is very silly. If they want to acknowledge women's history month, but a vintage picture of a woman. TO me, this woman does not evoke a sense of pride for being a woman. I am maybe offended by the package in that I have never doubted my toughness and yet I do not mind handing the pickle jar to my husband to open.
sexyLAMBCHOPx March 6, 2017
Progress and good marketing.
Steven W. March 7, 2017
We need a Mrs. Clean, then...
BerryBaby March 8, 2017
I hope not! Mr. Clean, Mr. Bubble, grew up with these icons. No need to change what's worked for over FIFTY years! All this IMO is ridiculous. These are products not a political statement. Good grief.
Whiteantlers March 6, 2017
I am with you! Let Ms. Brawny reign all the time!