Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Electrolux and The Perfect Woman

I watch Top Chef, so I see this commercial for Electrolux starring Kelly Ripa a lot.  The background music is from Bewitched or some other show that helped to normalize the woman-at-home, men-at-work model.  It shows her rushing form finishing hosting a show to cooking a perfect roast to hosting a dinner party to looking for monsters under the bed with her children.  Cooking is the main sell, as the commercial is for Electrolux's line of kitchen appliances.  

What is wrong with this picture?  Where is the man?  I think this is exactly what the "second shift" is about.  The woman is doing everything, and there's the implication that it's actually possible.  I grew up in a single-parent household, and I know that is not the case.  Things slip.  People get mad at each other.  We had take-out every night, or "catering," as we preferred to call it.  

I think it's rotten that there is this thread in contemporary culture that expects women to be everything: the perfect worker, the perfect wife, the perfect mother, et al., but those are the main three.  The perfect worker keeps everything professional despite the emotional ups-and-downs that are part of everyday life.  The perfect mother is always around to provide a hearty meal and comfort from a bad dream.  The perfect wife, well, that part's not in the commercial, but lord knows how she would fit anything else into her schedule and still get time for rest....  Everyone's needs are taken care of, and the implication is that's what a woman is like.  Doing all the work in the household and her part on the job - taking cares of everyone else's needs - satisfies her.

I would say, first, the picture portrayed is too perfect.  For women who are actually trying to juggle work and home like Kelly Ripa is shown in the commercial doing, it might be downright discouraging.  Nobody's that perfect.  Second, I would find it severely disheartening if there are woman (and I believe that would be the majority) who are not satisfied with just taking care of everyone else, but feel like they have to do so because of some commercial they see on television.  Finally, men!  Darn it, why is running the household something you are constitutionally unable to help with?  

Since I grew up with a single mother, I'm not entirely sure what a man helping to run the house and care for the children would look like.  But I can guess.  My father remarried, and he helps vacuum and wash the dishes.   I think that the work he does still leaves in places this idea of the mother as primary caretaker, since most of the time my step-mother cooks.  But, darn it, at least it's a start.  A lot of men I've met in my life have this need to play "the big man" somewhere.  Since most of the time it's not at work, they do it at home.  I would say to them, get off your high horse and get real.  If you love the person you're with, you should love them enough to help with the housework and get those notions of "a woman's place" and "a man's place" out of your doggone head!

1 comment:

Lisa R. Pruitt said...

What your post reminded me of was my mother-in-law's recent visit. She was a stay-at-home mom (obviously of a different generation), and I don't think she understands all of the balls I juggle as a woman who works outside the home -- and is a partner and mother. I feel as if she expects from me the type of perfection Ruthann describes being depicted in the Electrolux commercial -- that or, perhaps, no one would be good enough for her son.