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Skinny Cow 'WoCave' Competition Promotes Female Man Caves, Emotional Eating

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Who needs a man cave when you can have a WoCave?

That's the question Skinny Cow, the low-fat frozen-dessert brand owned by Nestle, is asking in a new promotion.

Customers who email or text a photo of their Skinny Cow product to the brand will be entered in the sweepstakes, and first prize is a $10,000 check to create the "WoCave" of the winner's dreams. In a press release announcing the contest, Skinny Cow defined a WoCave:

A WoCave (wo-cah-vay) is, you guessed it, a "woman cave" or "lady lair" where the ladies can kick up their heels with their BFFs, unwrap some ice cream sandwiches or delicious candy and dive into a few gossip magazines. It's definitely a place where eating ice cream and chocolate before noon is allowed!

Except that the ice cream and chocolate are low-fat "'big eats' without the 'big regrets.'"

For now let's leave aside 21st-century adults' strange interest in gendered "caves" -- in a January 2013 Reddit thread with 132 comments, users shared how they would furnish their dream "woman cave," and in April USA Today dedicated an entire feature story to people converting their garages into man or woman caves.

Instead let's focus on what this press release reveals about how diet-industry advertisers attempt to attract female consumers and keep them coming back for more.

The promotion explicitly plays to contemporary women's high stress levels -- Skinny Cow even funded its own market research on the issue, despite ample existing evidence that women are, indeed, very stressed. According to the press release, the brand interviewed 1,500 women ages 25 to 54 and found that 40 percent of participants couldn't remember when they last enjoyed some "me-time."

So what's the solution to all this stress? Ostensibly your WoCave, but really, this is about ice cream. Skinny Cow portrays food as a means of escape (retreat to the WoCave for candy and mindless reading!) and rebellion (eat chocolate before noon!), and a source of freedom (go ahead, you're "allowed"). And yet Skinny Cow is designed for women who want to lose weight. The overall message is this: Eat to cope, but do it with our (chemical-packed) low-cal options.

What it doesn't behoove Skinny Cow to say is that if women weren't encouraged to soothe themselves with food, they might be less likely to eat emotionally, less likely to gain unwanted weight and thus less likely to buy and consume diet food in an attempt to lose that weight. That's the skinny you don't hear about in the WoCave.

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