Student outraged by Pepsi’s ‘sexist’ iPhone app

Several university administrators and faculty received an e-mail from senior Kathryn Pogin who was outraged by the recent release of the iPhone application “Amp up before you score.”

“I think the app is absurd,” she said. “I think the ad is incredibly offensive and I think that by continuing to buy Pepsi products on campus, we’re essentially endorsing that. And as a Tommie, I’m not okay with that.”

Pepsi is the campus distributor for soft drinks and other beverages.

The application was launched by the Pepsi-owned Amp energy drink. The application offers men pickup lines and background information on different types of women. As of Oct. 16, the application is the eighth most downloaded free application on iTunes.

The application has been heavily criticized for stereotyping women in blogs and Twitter feeds.

On Oct. 12, Pepsi issued an apology on Twitter, saying “Our app tried 2 show the humorous lengths guys go 2 pick up women. We apologize if it’s in bad taste & appreciate your feedback.”

Pogin sent e-mails to university administrators and faculty including the Rev. Dennis Dease, university president, and Mark Vangsgard, vice president of business affairs. The university’s center for women also received the e-mail from Pogin who wants change on campus.

“I hope that they switch to a different soda on campus or they get rid of our contract with Pepsi,” she said.

The application was released Oct. 11.

19 Replies to “Student outraged by Pepsi’s ‘sexist’ iPhone app”

  1. I’m not going to lie–I like Coke more. However, think of all the different soda companies. Now, think about the athletes they endorse and the advertisements they pump out. Is it practical to make sure that every aspect of a company whose product we sell is in perfect allignment with our university’s and our student body’s views? I honestly don’t know the answer. Does Coca-Cola have a crystal clear advertising campaign? If not, are we going to start buying an obscure, morally pristine brand of cola and hope that it doesn’t affect soda and energy drink sales on campus?

  2. I would concur that most companies engage in questionable marketing methods and we’d have to abstain from all consumer goods if we only bought from perfect companies; however Pepsi’s app is beyond the pale. The application encourages users to “score,” offers a way to let them keep track of their conquests (titled the “brag list”), then connect to email, facebook, or twitter to brag to their buddies. As consumers (and human beings), we should be sending the message that if marketing tactics are blatently disrespectful and demeaning then we don’t want their products. Look at the way interest in going green has changed marketing in the past year alone- consumers have the power to change how business operates. We just need to use it.

  3. The app is dumb I agree, but if that is all you have to worry about that your life is great. Forget all the killing of innocent human life in the culture of death in todays society. Forget about the complete lack of catholic identity on this campus. Forget about the injustices being committed everywhere, forget about the absured amoun of disrespect and drinking that came with some students at the Tommie Johnnie game. Sure the app was dumb but aren’t there more important things to be worrying about?

  4. I agree that this campaign is offensive, but by asking an entire campus to stop selling Pepsi is a bit of an over reaction. The lost profits of UST are not going to make a dent in Pepsi’s overall market share. Why don’t you share your input directly with Pepsi?

  5. why are there TWO stories on here about this ? So let’s see here…. Coke: apparently has something to do with murders of unionized workers in Columbia. Pepsi: makes a “sexist” joke app for the iphone.

    we’d have to stop receiving half of our cable channels here if we were really going to jump and do something about EVERY instance of this type of thing.

  6. Kathryn if you really want the school to drop the Pepsi sponsorship you need to think bigger…go the Star Tribune and get all the feminist on your side against UST and the Pepsi sponsorship because of a un-PC joke (totally unexceptable today in our culture)..then some change will happen…dream big!

  7. I’m with Kathryn on this one. Sure, there’s more important stuff in the world. Sure, there’s more important stuff on campus. There always is. We’re always going to be fighting for human dignity, for social justice, for the Catholic identity. I’ve done that often enough within the pages of the Aquin alone. But we *also* need to fight for the dignity of women. I mean, c’mon, fellow Catholics: haven’t you read Mulieribus Dignitatem? Pepsi’s actions were offensive to women (and to men, and to a fully human conception of sexuality in general), its apology was a non-apology (hint: anything apology that contains the phrase, “We apolologize IF…” is not an apology), and UST has an opportunity to send a small message here. That message might be small, and (assuming we’re the only college in the country to do it), it might not really hurt them. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t send the message. Let’s dump ’em. Amen, Ms. Pogin.

  8. It is powerful to see UST take a stand on Pepsi’s sexist app, and I disagree with John coining the argument as “less important.”

    Women are constantly objectified in the media, and if action isn’t taken against the people/companies that reinforce sexist stereotypes, it is going to keep happening.
    Also, how is this issue allowing us to overlook issues of losing Catholic identity? How is being aware and appalled by these sexist forms of advertisement adverting people from other issues? People are intelligent – they can act and respond to more than one issue at once.
    Lastly, I agree that there is injustices occurring everywhere, but how is this injustice lesser than others? The stereotyping Pepsi displayed in their app plays right into why there isn’t full gender equality still today. Isn’t inequality an injustice?

  9. “Women are constantly objectified in the media, and if action isn’t taken against the people/companies that reinforce sexist stereotypes, it is going to keep happening.”

    To be fair, so are men.

  10. The main reason why St. Thomas will never get rid of Pepsi is completely monetary. Since Pepsi gives St. Thomas $50,000 every year for being a Pepsi exclusive campus, we will stay that way until that money goes away, or they get a better offer from Coke. No matter how good your argument is, when it comes down to it, St. Thomas is more concerned with money than its Catholic identity.

  11. Alright, Tyrone…easy. “When it comes down to it, St. Thomas is more concerned with money than its Catholic identity.” Now we are just starting to make ignorant comments. The University goes out of its way to show that we, as an institution, are ethically responsible. If you take a look around campus I think that you will also find that most everything (academics, student life, administration, etc…) is rooted in the Catholic Identity. The University is plenty concerned with maintaining this.

    That said, I don’t think that the University is going to find an iPhone app, however sexist it may be, a big enough reason to sever a contract with PepsiCo. That is what it comes down to- not a matter of the Universities commitment to Catholic Identity.

  12. Maybe if Genesis were to put the man in the lesser postion (and in no way do i agree with Genesis, while we’re on the subject) then we’d be having a completely different argument. This issue of women being seen as lesser individuals, or being objectified, etc, is rooted a LOT deeper than most of us would like to think.

  13. Seriously? This is ridiculous. Men are objectified in the media too. Pepsi apologized for the app, which in my opinion isn’t even CLOSE to sexist. This reaction just shows how vulnerable we are to sexism, to the point where women are offended by a company that is not sexist at all. How do I know? The CEO and chair of PepsiCo is a woman! Indra Nooyi would not promote a sexist company. Kathryn, pull your head out of the sand and pay attention to sexism where it REALLY exists. Seriously, this reaction is like going to a country that promotes racism and calling out the government for depicting a white person on the country’s currency. I can’t stand sexism, but THIS WAS NOT SEXISM. Get used to the fact that men and women have different approaches to life, and deal with sexism where it actually happens.

  14. Mark- Would you mind telling me why you don’t think this was sexist? And for the record, I consider sexism against men sexism as well. If you read my comments on the letter (posted under the opinion section) I pointed out that I thought the app was insulting to men as well as women.
    With respect to the CEO of Pepsi being a women, do you think there’s sexism in Pakistan? They’ve had a female president, who had a fantastic chance of being elected again before she was assasinated. That doesn’t mean the country is devoid of sexism. Much like having a female CEO doesn’t entail a company being devoid of sexism.

    And lastly, since Pepsi did eventually pull the app from iTunes, I’m no longer concerned with having our contract with them terminated.

  15. So…. they took the app down, and now all of a sudden you dont think they’re a threat to our morality anymore? Why did you even START this whole argument?

  16. Honestly? If you are going to bring Pakistan into this, I think you need to take a step back and realize how small this whole thing is in the grand scheme of things. We are talking about a place where women aren’t even allowed to show their ankles without being beaten. Pepsi made an app. You can find more sexism than this on any given cable channel at any given time. The point is, it’s people like you that lawyer up over the most pathetic things. Women cant show skin in Pakistan, and you are worried about a game; a game that, God forbid, implies that men actually are ATTRACTED to women. Who can honestly condone heterosexuality? (Sarcasm intended) You know, sometimes it’s much better to find ways to be entertained in situations rather than actively seeking out ways to be offended. I’m not implying that this argument was humorous, but it is easy to be offended by ANYTHING. Rather than being offended, just look for humor. You will be a much happier person.

    And Tony, you will also be much happier if you try to find humor and enjoyment rather than offense. It is good to fight against moral criminality. It is bad to be offended by everything.

  17. what? Did I say i was offended by everything somewhere? If so, I didn’t mean it… I thought I said that i just ignored things that were offensive. I really don’t get offended by much.

  18. Mark- first, I’m not sure if you realize this, but that was exactly my point in reference to that fact that you said Pepsi couldn’t be sexist merely because they have a female CEO.
    Second, my taking offense with this had absolutely nothing to do with the notion of men being “attracted” to women- it is entirely about the objectification of women. You can’t tell me that an app with the express purpose of teaching men how to get women into bed with them by pretending to share the same interests isn’t objectifying or demeaning. Are there larger instances of sexism? Sure, but that doesn’t make this instance ok.
    Third, a study on the effects of sexist humor showed that sexist humor impacts actual behavior toward women. One of the faculty members involved in the study said this, “Our research demonstrates that exposure to sexist humor can create conditions that allow men – especially those who have antagonistic attitudes toward women – to express those attitudes in their behavior…The acceptance of sexist humor leads men to believe that sexist behavior falls within the bounds of social acceptability.” See here for more:
    And last, this is irrelevant to the topic at hand, but just a clarification, purdah practices in Pakistan vary with regional/ tribal/ religious/ and socio-economic factors. See here for an example of Pakistani women publicly showing their ankles:

  19. Well played, Kathryn. You win this round. I’m glad you can continue to take things seriously, but never forget to spice things up with a little humor occasionally. Fixing the injustices of an easily offended world is not easy. Just make sure to laugh along the way.

    Much love,


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