Tag Archives: Gender Roles

Ad Critique: Oh My God– SHOES!


According to The DCist, a Metro ad features a dialogue between two women where one women is informing the other of how it takes over 8,000 miles before a Metrobus breaks down. The other women in response asks, “Can’t we just talk about shoes?”

Unfortunately, this perpetuates the immortal trope of the “ditsy, shoe-crazy woman”. This made me think about how when we were looking over the definition of “gender dysphoria” earlier today in class, there were still specific culturally gender-biased descriptions present.
For instance, part of the definition stated that gender dysphoria includes, “a strong conviction that one has feelings and reactions typical of the other gender” (DSM-5). This part of the definition implies that there has to be certain “reactions” or interest that apply to each specific gender, which is essentialist and false. Also, this seems to reinforce a binary that there are only two kinds of people/two genders in the world.
It’s also interesting to see that the ad features two presumably cisgendered women, since as Spade mentions, “…a central endeavor of feminist, queer and trans activists has been to dismantle the cultural ideologies… that say that certain body parts determine gender identity and gendered social characteristics and roles” (Spade, 2013). This ad seems to further pigeonhole women into these “gendered social characteristics” and implies that women must love to wear heels, thus assigning “femininity” to a body part.
Works Cited:
“Lady Wants To Talk About Shoes, Not Bus Reliability, Implies Sexist Metro Ad.” DCist. N.p., n.d. Web. 3 Dec. 2013. <http://dcist.com/2013/12/ladies_love_shows_says_sexist_metro.php&gt;.
Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5)
Spade, Dean. “About Purportedly Gendered Body Parts.” Dean Spade. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Nov. 2013. <http://www.deanspade.net&gt;

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.

“Team Mom” and Gendered Family Roles


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

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.

Big Question: For What Are We Responsible?

In the essay “Sisterhood: Political Solidarity Between Women,” bell hooks confronts the problem of disjunction within feminist movements. She discusses how mainstream feminism has alienated women of color because of a perception that aspects of their culture are counter to feminist causes–for instance, that black women’s refusal to self-victimize excluded them from feminism. Different groups face different oppressions; yet, hooks points out, mainstream feminism struggles to realize that feminism looks different for different groups.

Last week, Politico Magazine published an article subtitled “How Michelle Obama became a feminist’s nightmare.” The author charged the First Lady with anti-feminist offenses including “gardening,” “tending to wounded soldiers” and “reading to children.” Michelle Obama, the author argued, should be a politically involved activist, not a “mom-in-chief.” She has an obligation to the women of America; she should represent all that feminism has achieved.

But to what extent is one woman obligated to act on behalf of a nation? Is Michelle Obama single-handedly responsible for defying all norms? The demand for a woman to embody a specified role, without room for choice in what she can accept or reject, is constricting and regressive. As bell hooks argues in “Sisterhood,” feminism must account for the complexity of individual experiences. Michelle Obama’s feminism may not be Hillary Clinton’s feminism, but their experiences are equally valid.

With that in mind, are we responsible for making choices with an eye towards what will most benefit women as a population? Or are we free to pick and choose which paths to follow? How much must we consider our individual choices in the context of society?


hooks, bell. “Sisterhood: Political Solidarity Between Women.” No. 23, Socialist-Feminism: Out of the Blue (Summer, 1986), pp. 125-138.

Cottle, Michelle. “Leaning Out.” Politico Magazine, November 21, 2013. http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2013/11/leaning-out-michelle-obama-100244.html?ml=m_a3_1

Free choice and the pressure to “have it all”

It’s very easy as a society to accept the cultural norms surrounding the idea of family and the gender roles of women and men in terms of child care without realizing the very sexist and problematic nature of the societal division of labor. It is an undeniable fact that women are, by and large, expected to do the majority of the upkeep and childcare around the house. At the same time, our progressing society has seen a new rise of “career women” and an influx of women who are rising to the top of the ranks and co-existing alongside men in jobs that 50 years were solely reserved for those of the male gender.

And this is great, right? It’s so exciting that I, as a young woman, am able to look at female role models in every potential career path I could take (whether that be politics, business, etc.). What isn’t so enthralling is the new developing standard for women: now that we are free from the bonds of homemaking and sewing, we need to have high-ranking, impressive jobs. And have a husband. And kids. And be at home to take care of those kids. Instead of women losing the pressure to conform to a societal ideal of femininity in the home, now women are expected to “have it all.” Societally, women that can do everything perfectly are the new ideal.

As our society continues to progress, we can see a new wave of “shared parenting” and fairer divisions of labor within the modern-day household structure (this was discussed in Lisa Belkin’s article, “When Mom and Dad Share It All”). But will this idea of “having it all” disappear as we break down societal norms? My hope is that with a more societally pervasive practice of “shared parenting,” or at the very least, a fairer division of labor, that the conception of “having it all” could more realistically be attained instead of an inaccessible ideal. Women have a right to access and choices surrounding her own source of income and occupation, family life, and motherhood, and should feel free to choose one or any combination of the above and more to create for herself a fulfilling life. It is when societal pressure forces women to conform to an impossible ideal that the choices women have worked so hard to obtain become debilitating rather than freeing.

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