This AT&T iPhone ad has been airing this Christmas/Black Friday season, and though it’s harmless or even cute at best, it shows a lot of performed gender roles as they are reinforced within the family. The ad is called “Team Mom Hits the Mall.” The mother brings her son and younger daughter to the mall and hypes the kids up for finding Dad a gift.
The gender performances that lie under these simple show a difference in the way the mother treats each child. It’s true that the daughter is younger and that could add to the more condescending tone the mother uses with her, but it also shows the typical “man is strong” and “woman is weak and incompetent” tropes being assumed and catered to within the family. Sally is sporting a pink puffy coat and hat while Jack is wearing dark blue and a brown coat.
If we accept the construction of gender as Judith Lorber states it, as a structure and process, an important part of the way gender norms are perpetuated is the teaching and reenacting of gender. When are these gender roles and performances learned? From birth, “because parents don’t want to be constantly asked whether their baby is a boy or a girl” (Lorber 114). So perhaps it is a combination of societal pressures on the child and on the parents to raise the child as a gendered body that contribute to this indoctrination.
Lorber, Judith, Reconstructing Gender: A Multicultural Anthology