The TV goes to a commercial for air freshener. A woman is spraying air freshener so her family will be happy. Then to a commercial for a very thin panty liners so a woman can wear a dress and dance and meet the man she will later air freshener for.
Clean and bleed. Bleed and clean. - Gone Girl, Gillian FlynnNow don't get me wrong, I think there are a plethora of other ways in which commercials are degrading to women, and men for that matter. Sex continues to sell, and overt sexualization and objectification of women in commercials affects the way women feel about themselves and the way men feel about women.
The effects of women portrayed as responsible for housework is more subtle and therefore harder to criticize. hit the nail on the head, stating "the commercials from the 50′s are no different from the commercials aired today — in the present — during the day, reminding women and their children where women belong: in the home, baking, cleaning, mopping, baking and cooking, diapering, mommying, and looking sexy and good while we’re at it." In a recent commercial, Clorox reminds us that even though the times have changed, Clorox and gendered housekeeping has remained constant.
Is there laundry to be done? The mom's got it covered! The house doesn't smell good? Don't worry, a woman has bought the most recent glade candle to make sure the house smells like autumn. Mom, are you too busy after a long day of work to make dinner? Don't worry, hamburger helper will help her make the meal. One particular Bounty commercial never fails to make me fume with rage. The father and son literally stand around gaping at the spill while the mother rushes to clean up their mess.
Every time I watch television, I hope something will change. I will with my mind that the husband in the commercial will pick up a paper towel or cook his family a meal. The pattern remains consistent; it does not matter whether the woman is single, has a family, or even a full time career. At first my husband would laugh at how upset I would get, but even he is now acutely aware that these commercials are unwavering in their opinion that women do (and should do) all the housework.
Despite our best attempts, these repeated motives define femininity. They define what women are compelled to do both by our partners and ourselves. By denying the ultimate gendered stereotypes these types of visuals create, it naturally transforms them into matters of personal preference. In the 1991 Yale Law Review, Deborah Rhodes states,
Women continue to assume about 70% of the domestic responsibilities in an average household and employed wives spend twice as much time on family obligations as employed men. Yet many husbands find ways to deny or rationalize their lighter burden. A recent in-depth survey of dual career families by Arlie Hochschild with Ann Machung illustrates a range of strategies. One is to revise reality in such a way that women's extra tasks appear matters of personal choice, not joint responsibility. Rather than accept an equal division of cleaning, cooking, or childcare obligations, some men redefine their share as unnecessary; they don't mind unmade beds or frozen pizza, and their infants will do just fine with extra time among their "friends" at daycare. The result for many women is that "I do my half, I do half of [my husband's] half, and the rest doesn't get done.More than two decades later, I think Rhodes' statement still rings true. Women are still plagued with "the second shift," doing 80 percent of household management. I do not think men do this on purpose (well, I hope they don't), and I admit this continues to persist because woman are equally complicit. We have been so brainwashed that we believe that it is indeed our preference.
Worse, we believe we do the chores "better," and therefore if we want to get things done right, we have to do it ourselves. For the "intellectual elite," we have embraced the notion of being the ultimate goddess, successful in our careers while being Martha Stewart in our little spare time. In her holiday survival guide, Joan Williams' points out,
there's been a speed-up in American family life in the past 20 years, a sense that no Halloween is complete without a homemade costume, and that no Hannukah is complete without homemade applesauce. If I were a conspiracy theorist I might point out that the sharp increase in household standards came at precisely the same time that married women joined the workforce in large numbers, ensuring that women would run themselves ragged staying up til 2 a.m. making Christmas cookies -- and still feel they weren't meeting their own standards either at home or at work.This new perfecting of womanhood is not limited to mothers or even wives. We run ourselves ragged, never feel we are good enough at anything, and slowly (or quickly) start resenting the men in our lives. They sit back, tell us we wear the pants in the family, and we think we hold all the power (when all we hold is a spatula and a sponge). Things need to change. It begins with men valuing household management as valuable work. Once valued, it should be something that is shared, and in order to be shared, women must be able to relinquish control of the home domain. The icing on the cake would be if ad campaigns refrained from relying on promoting stereotypes to sell products. I dare you Clorox. Show a man cleaning the toilet. Trust me, both genders like a clean commode.