Sexism in Cleaning Ads

By Kyla

When you look at the center of this advertisement, you see charming details: beautiful blue water surrounded by paradise, an image of a dreamy and fresh vacation. Zoom out and you will notice the scene is framed by the silhouette of a hand; it’s as if the paradise is literally in arm’s reach. Within the details you will find a different meaning than a perfect vacation. What is the hand shaped like? The wrist is dainty, the fingers are thin and shapely- and at the end of each finger is a finger nail that protrudes about a fifth of an inch out. The nails are obviously manicured; it’s a woman’s hand. Zoom out again and you’ll see the advertisement is for Dawn dish soap. The slogan reads, “Send your hands to a spa without leaving the kitchen.” This magazine ad is promoting a product that will bring paradise to your life, a seduction of serenity, all through dish soap, and this ad obviously is targeted to women specifically.

For as long as we’ve been civilized, men and women have had their own strict gender responsibilities. In the 20th century, women were bombarded from every angle to be the perfect house wife. Husbands put bread on the table, that is their role, and in popular culture men are given a scapegoat: they do not have the time to clean like women do and they do not know how to as well as women. So women keep the house clean, Mom cooks dinner and does the dishes, your sister cleans the bathroom and your brother mows the lawn- the expectations can start so early to be the perfect you in your gender role. Maybe things are not as stereotypical in the 21st century, yet we still have these dish soap ads targeted directly to women. Do you think a man would stop to look at this advertisement while flipping through a magazine? Do you think he would really see those fingernails and think, “Hey, maybe this would apply to me!” This ad is automatically dismissible to men. They have their own gender role and expectations, and manicured nails are not forgivable to be checking out in a magazine.

This advertisement is a couple years older, nowadays Dawn advertises with pictures of cute baby seals and talks about how they’re soap helps save the planet (thankfully you cannot find much sexism with eco-friendliness.) These gender expectations run deep in our media: mop advertisements show actresses cleaning. You even see new Swiffer commercials with women “breaking up” with their old mops for their shiny new Swiffer mop-boyfriends. Why can’t a man have a romantic relationship with a mop? Do mops have to be boys? Perhaps that makes lawn mowers girls, which is why men are comfortable using them. If we are still talking about sexism, perhaps mops have a higher yearly salary than lawn mowers?

Women cleaning, cooking, modeling lingerie and taking the kids to soccer practice, that is all magazine ads and television commercials make me feel good for. I feel pessimistic when I see this ad: will soap ever be targeted to a masculine market? I want my paradise soap to be humanity-friendly. It was not until I started taking Sociology classes that I noticed the vast amount of ideology in the media and popular culture affecting my life. It makes me wonder if everything my generation aspires towards is artificial or real.

How is the average 20 year old female supposed to feel? Most American women this age feel overweight, and that has nothing to do with their BMI number, but the way they compare themselves to a Victoria’s Secret model, who is probably not much older than each young adult woman that feels this way, and although the model may be very pretty, she’s digitally altered. I feel unsuccessful because I do not have time for all of my favorite hobbies while I am attending school, and I will not feel successful until I graduate with a Master’s degree and also have time for those hobbies, 5 years from now, not to mention I have to be married by age 30. This ideology makes me think of my mother, at age 54, who still cleans and scrubs her entire house every day, even after her major neck surgery. I think this Dawn dish soap ad, and many others, got to my mother, and many other women, deep down.
The only solution I have to offer is awareness. I feel better knowing that I am aware that I do not have to strive to be the perfect housewife. A lot of women think they have to be a size 2 to be sexy, but I know for me that is physically impossible and thus unrealistic and not worth my time. I know men that know how to clean their house just as well, if not better than I do, and I know women who make more money than minimum wage, and that gives me hope that our society is not so far away from giving up on these ridiculous gender expectations.

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This entry was posted in Fall 2011, Student Posts, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

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