Reinforcing Gender Roles Through Advertising

In this lab test, one sheet of Bounty leaves surfaces THREE TIMES cleaner than the bargain brand.

You probably remember this statement in the hundreds of cleaning commercials that skid through the media on a daily basis. Bounty, along with its high quality competitors, use “facts” such as the one above, to steer your attention away from the stereotypical gender roles that are being reinforced throughout the commercial. Although Bounty may be a more effective brand than others, commercials such as this one, open a door for viewers to internalize the decades-old gender norms that are being portrayed. In the commercial, the father and son are messing around in the kitchen and spill the salsa, but instead of cleaning it up, the mom, who is shown as the stereotypical “housewife,” swoops in to clean the mess for them.

In her Keywords essay “Gender,” Erica Hateley describes perceived gender roles in children’s text which  present males as “movers, doers, explorers, adventurers, etc.” Where as girls were perceived as “subordinate to boy in initiative and daring, passive, emotional and as domestic souls in training to be housewives and mothers”(p.88). Unfortunately, this portrayal of gender roles since the nineteenth century, has continued to prevail through media and text today. The so-called “domestic and housewife” gender role that women are said to inhabit, is prominent in the book “Little House on the Prairie,” by Laura Ingalls Wilder. In the book, Pa fulfills the traditional masculine role of hunter, gather and builder. He provides for the family by doing the work outside of the house. On the other hand, Ma and Mary fulfill the more feminine roles by looking after the family and cooking/cleaning. Mary is seen as the more traditional female, specifically in the chapter in which she takes care of the baby while Pa builds the door. Furthermore, Laura may attempt to break the boundaries of gender norms by helping her father with the door and trying to be his ‘little helper,’ unfortunately she is constantly forced into a feminine role throughout the novel. Despite efforts to diminish stereotypical gender roles, texts such as this, show why girlhood has been sanctioned around a domestic and housewife-like gender role.

So, when looking at advertisements, such as Bounty’s, which continue to normalize stereotypical gender roles that were prominent in the nineteenth century, we must as ourselves how we can break away from this?  It is important that people are aware of the messages that media is sending to viewers. Although the Bounty commercial might have been subtle in the way it depicted gender roles, it is important to denaturalize the gender stereotypes that should have been long gone by now.



2 thoughts on “Reinforcing Gender Roles Through Advertising”

  1. Before talking about certain keywords or gender roles in this class I never really realized how they were performed in our present day society. You are so right, ads such as simply cleaning items or grocery items always represent a female role. These ads are aimed at attracting moms and wives, but it really shouldn’t have to be that way. The dad or husband should have just as much of the same roles as the woman. I think it’s starting to become a little better and a larger inclusion of all roles for each gender in the household. However, I think there are always going to be the kitchen jokes or the expectations of women that shouldn’t be present. Even with awareness, these messages still occur. I think respect of each gender is something that we definitely will need to strive for. Like you said, how we do it is really the difficult task.

  2. It is interesting how you bring up how the men in the commercial don’t make a move to clean up their mess. This only instills the idea that women should do house keeping but also that men and boys are more wild or messy than women. Its crazy how these roles reveal themselves so often in everyday things.

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