After the 2011 fiasco of “Dad-Mom”, Tide seems to be turning over a new leaf. Their latest advertisement, released in January of this year, addresses a growing population of men who share the housework. Unlike Tide’s earlier overcompensating attempt, this dad doesn’t feel the need to “use brute-strength” or go do push-ups after folding his daughter’s frilliest dress. Rather, he behaves like a normal person, a parent taking care of their normal (neither ultra-feminine nor ultra-boyish) child, and in essence, like how a dad should behave. He plays with his daughter, launders her clothes, and in general just takes care of her. He doesn’t feel the need to posture his masculinity or reaffirm his manliness despite helping out around the house. In fact, this ad completely removes the idea of having to reaffirm masculinity. Unlike “Dad-Mom”, this ad doesn’t gender housework. This dad isn’t doing “women’s work” and compensating by being overly manly. No, he is doing “parent work”, un-gendered work, necessary for keeping up the house and taking care of his daughter.
Tide’s advertisement is representative of the new direction media should be taking. Bucking gender roles is far more complicated that merely placing a man in a stereotypical women’s role. First, the concept that there are “women’s roles” must be done away with. This is particularly difficult as evidenced in Tide’s unfortunate (but well-meaning) “Dad-Mom” and even in Katrin Bennhold’s In Sweden, Men Can Have It All article. Bennhold starts off her article by describing Mikael Karlsson, snowmobile driver, hunting dog owner, and a true man’s man as an ideality of what a dad, who still helps take care of his daughter, should be. Her insistence on using such stereotypically masculine men in her article implies a gendering of child-care. While she argues that men should play a part in childcare, she is still defining it in terms of “women’s work” in the sense that she is trying to say “Look, here are manly men, with undiminished masculinity despite having the ability to change a diaper”. Even her title – “Men Can Have It All” – implies some kind of exclusivity of childcare between the sexes. In contrast, Tide’s quiet “ordinary dad” advertisement refuses to gender childcare and housework, consequently going a lot farther in establishing equality between the sexes than Bennhold’s article. While Bennhold’s intentions are good, pointing out that housework and childcare should be shared, her attempt is eerily reminiscent of “Dad-Mom” and could have done without the gendering of different kinds of work.
Bennhold, Katrin. “In Sweden, Men Can Have It All.” NYTimes. The New York Times, 9 June 2010. Web. 20 Nov. 2013.