Tag Archives: Cowan

Pine-Sol’s Cleaning Fantasy

This Pine-Sol television commercial shows a woman coming home to find a muscular, shirtless guy mopping her floor. The screen then pans to this female character blissfully lounging in her bed as he continues to mop, surrounded by bottles of Pine-Sol. The campaign uses the almost ubiquitous methods of objectification and sex appeal to play to the potential fantasies of buyers, though in this case the typical situation is reversed between genders. In this particular case, the male is being objectified, and at no point is his full body shown. Instead, the camera focuses on his torso and arms. Additionally, in order to further create the environment of a fantasy, effects such as overly dramatic music and lighting and panning of the camera are used.

The commercial can be viewed from two different perspectives, with one as reinforcing gender norms and one as a progressive step towards equality in gender portrayal. On the one hand, while this is playing to a female sexual fantasy rather than a male one, it can be seen as reinforcing the fact that it is not typical/not the role of the man to be doing housework – i.e. why it would be a “fantasy.” Additionally, the marketers know/suggest that the primary target audience of these ads and subsequently the product, are women, and the use of a heteronormative fantasy continues to reinforce “the assignment of household work to women” (Cowan 151) which, as Cowan shows, was continually supported throughout the twentieth century, and the idea that they are the ones both buying and using household-related products.

On the other hand, the fact that advertisers are willing to play to a woman’s fantasy rather than a man’s for once is an exception itself. Additionally, this ad can also be seen as progressive as African-American actors are used to portray these characters, rather than the typical white characters found in almost every other advertisement. If anything, the commercial is atypical and will certainly catch people’s attention. If in this process a discussion is begun on gender roles/race, then I think it is certainly a positive thing.

Cowan, Ruth Schwartz. More Work for Mother: The Ironies of Household Technology from the Open Hearth to the Microwave. New York: Basic Books, 1983. 151-247. Print.

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Clorox Wipes for Women

This ad for Clorox Wipes is problematic because it perpetuates gender role stereotypes. The text, “Your husband wasn’t quite as accurate as he likes to think he is,” is placed over the image of a woman’s hand cleaning the toilet, meaning that there is a huge disparity between the husband’s perceptions and the actual reality of the household. Implicit in the ad is the idea that cleaning is solely the wife’s responsibility, as well as a heteronormative perspective.

The ad reflects the historical role of women as housewives, responsible for domestic tasks such as “cooking, cleaning, managing fuel and laundering” (Cowan 168). This is still as true today as it was in and before the early 20th century, the period that Cowan describes in More Work For Mother. According to the University of Wisconsin’s National Survey of Families and Households, on average the wife spends twice as much time doing housework as the husband, even if both hold full time jobs (Belkin 4). Studies show that this lopsided ratio holds true within all families, regardless of socioeconomic class.

This advertisement is clearly targeting heterosexual women. It serves to further normalize our society’s deeply entrenched perceptions about gender roles. It does nothing to challenge societal convention and conveys the message that it is okay for men to sit back and let women take care of the household tasks. Furthermore, it makes cleaning seem like a woman’s obligation rather than a chore that should be split between the members of the household, creating unfair expectations for women.

Belkin, Lisa. “When Mom and Dad Share It All.” New York Times 15 June 2008: 1-15. Print.

Cowan, Ruth Schwartz. More Work for Mother: The Ironies of Household Technology from the Open Hearth to the Microwave. New York: Basic Books, 1983. 151-247. Print.

A Woman Cleaning? Shocking…

Here is yet another traditionally gendered commercial from the house cleaning industry (surprise, surprise). In this ad, a cute puppy, woman, and her vacuum are terrorized by the frightening dirt monster that arises from the woman’s carpet. By using Resolve deep clean carpet cleaning powder, the woman is able to persevere over her dirty carpet and is free to happily play with her puppy on the spotless shag.

The cleaning powder advertisement reflects cultural norms surrounding the gendered division of labor in the home, a division of labor that has not changed since the 1900s despite the numerous household technological advances described in Ruth Schwartz Cowan’s “Household Technology and Household Work between 1900 and 1940.” Naturally, it is a woman who is found cleaning the carpet; Resolve cleaning company feels no need to challenge the traditional belief that women are responsible for the upkeep of the household. But unlike most cleaning commercials, Resolve’s features a male presence (both the narrator and the dust monster are men). The husky quality of the narrator’s deeply rich and masculine voice conveys clear authority; of course a male authoritative figure would help market a product in an ad clearly directed towards women (because not even women listen to other women).

The portrayal of gender in the commercial is merely a mirror of societal norms, as the assumption of the female role of house organizer and caregiver is discussed in Lisa Belkin’s article “When Mom and Dad Share it All.” Perhaps by itself, the commercial is not so alarming; but when every household product advertised on TV is automatically marketed alongside traditional gender roles, there is some serious cause for alarm (which is much more worrying than Resolve’s dirt monsters).

Belkin, Lisa. “When Mom and Dad Share It All.” New York Times 15 June 2008: 1-15. Print.

Cowan, Ruth Schwartz. More Work for Mother: The Ironies of Household Technology from the Open Hearth to the Microwave. New York: Basic Books, 1983. 151-247. Print.