We’ve come a short way, and don’t call me “baby.”

Something about this commercial really pisses me off:

Maybe it’s Kelly Ripa’s perky little grin that says, “Hey! Even though I clearly work out about 6 hours a day and you all know that I have a wildly successful career, I’m really happiest when I’m doing loads of laundry, baking cookies, and waiting hand and foot on my TV-watching kids!” Personally, I tend not to do my laundry in skinny jeans and platform heels, but I’m funny that way.

Maybe I’m annoyed because commercials never, ever show a man doing housework. Actually, let me make a correction: sometimes a man is shown trying to help with dishes, laundry, and/or parenting. He is almost invariably portrayed as a bumbling fool who has to be schooled by his wife or, even more emasculating, his children. (I have to believe that the portrayal of men as inept, undomesticated oafs bugs men, too. I mean, really: “Everydad” can run a hedge fund but can’t wash a dish? Please.)

Maybe the twee little theme song from “Bewitched” is what rubs me the wrong way: “Hey, remember when laundry used to suck? Well, now it’s magical!” (Cue horns!)

No, I think the part of this commercial that really chaps my ass is the tagline: “Be even more amazing!” Which is, of course, code for: a woman is only as amazing as her ability to cram as many domestic tasks as possible into any given day, while maintaining a size-4 figure, impeccable hair and makeup, and, we assume, a professional career, all of which are full-time jobs unto themselves.

WorkingGirlAs retro as Kelly Ripa’s Electrolux commercial is, the ad plays right into the feelings of frenzied inadequacy that haunt many a latter-day feminist. If being “amazing” means becoming Working Girl-meets-June Cleaver-on-methamphetamines, then I’d like to opt out, please. On days when I juggle too many professional and domestic obligations, I don’t feel “amazing.” I feel tired, cranky, and in need of a cocktail. And I don’t even have kids!JuneCleaver

Wouldn’t it be great to see a commercial that showed a father teaching the kids how to do laundry because Mommy’s had a long day? Or what about an ad featuring a family cooking dinner together, instead of a serenely benevolent housewife playing waitress for her own family? Well, don’t hold your breath, ladies.

A March, 2008 report by the Council on Contemporary Families revealed that men these days are doing, on average, just 30% of household chores. And this article at CNN.com points out that, even in homes in which the man helps with housekeeping, a great deal of “emotional labor” (remembering birthdays, making appointments, etc.) is still left solely to the woman.

So here’s a memo from me, on behalf of women everywhere, to the nice folks peddling large home appliances, dish detergents, and weight loss pills: you need to be “even more amazing.” Women are amazing enough already.

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10 thoughts on “We’ve come a short way, and don’t call me “baby.”

  1. Wow that was a great blog posting. I have to agree with you on this one. I must be in the minority because I do a lot of the domestic task and have no problem showing little Frankie how to sweep, and folk clothes. Anyway it is sad that we still haven’t gotten past the stereotypes in ads.

    • Thanks, Joe! I know there are plenty of men who disprove the stereotype; in fact, I’ve had the good fortune to know some of them! But commercials like this give me hives. Until we stop literally “buying into” these ideas, I don’t see anything changing.

  2. What’s seriously troubles me is that these aren’t her actual kids. So she’s in some nebulous commercial house that is cast with children that are not her own. This implies that she is this weird size 2 perky sprite that has just come from the studio to do some other families laundry. And the “Be even more amazing” tag line says to me that we all are supposed to think Kelly Ripa is just soo “amazing” because she “has it all.” It’s insulting to house-wives and stay at home moms to keep bringing this little twit up to be the face of the modern mom. She’s a celebrity plain and simple that can handle how creepy Regis was at the audition. The real victims of this commercial are Kelly’s Maid and Nanny. I would be pissed! Bottom line. Kelly Ripa is an asshole and completely out of touch in the empowerment department.

    • I think that the stand-in kids are weird, too! I mean, I certainly don’t begrudge Kelly (or anyone else!) the luxury of having help in the home. BUT it’s pretty nuts for we “servant-less” folk to try to achieve the standard portrayed by Kelly Ripa & her ilk. I think feminism really went off the rails when we started believing that we’re “incomplete” without being full-time moms and full-time career women. It’s a literal impossibility to play more than one “full-time” role, you know? That’s why it’s called “full-time!” Thanks for writing, Jen!

  3. Hil, thanks for the chuckle. This stereotyping has always made me laugh, as the phrase “whatever” comes to mind. To me, this is just another example of how some people perceive the world, although it is nowhere close to reality. I can speak for myself, even before I became a single parent(of two little girls mind you), because of my work schedule I have always done all the laundry, dishes, and nearly all household chores. Even more so, I schedule and take my kids to every dentist, eye doctor, physical etc. As a single parent, doing all that, plus keeping the house in good shape with home improvements, a nice clean green lawn, paying bills, juggling finances, oh, and squeezing in a mere 56 hours a week of work? Does that make me a super magical amazing dad? I don’t think so, I think of it as just doing the job I signed up for. Plain and simple. I am the Dad. But hey, I wish I could afford a fancy magical steam washer/dryer like Kelly’s.

    • Brian, you’re right. These stereotypes are just that: stereotypes. My father is a great cook, for example. And I know plenty of men who carry their fair share of the load at home. But the vast majority of household products are marketed toward women for a reason: women are still the ones doing, by and large, most of the housework. And with so many women in the workforce (by choice or necessity), more women than men are doing “double duty” with professional careers and domestic responsibilities. In any case, I would definitely say from your post that you are doing an amazing job, despite your modesty! Thanks so much for reading & commenting.

  4. For more observations on sexism in modern advertising, check out Current TV’s “Target Women” here:
    http://www.youtube.com/view_play_list?p=BCC4543D90EF62A6&search_query=Target+women
    Entertaining, informative and aggravating.

    My father set a great example by doing most of the cooking and cleaning. Just once I’d love to see a commercial that featured guys being “even more amazing” around the house. They figured out how to market face wash and moisturizers with a masculine scent, so how about some dish soap?
    Or how about featuring the Brawny guy and Mr. Clean actually doing some cleaning rather than just appearing in the shiny surface some woman just wiped?

    • Great point about Brawny & Mr. Clean! Hey, there are plenty of men who don’t fit the stereotype, for which I am very grateful. But advertising definitely has yet to catch up. Ergh. Thanks for reading & commenting, Ben!

  5. just ran across this… i don’t think john haines imagined the electrolux blue in the commercial 😉

    The Whale in the Blue Washing Machine

    There are depths even in a household
    where a whale can live. . . .

    His warm bulk swims from room
    to room, floating by on the stairway,
    searching the drafts, the cold
    currents of water and liberation

    He comes to the surface hungry,
    sniffs at the table,
    and sinks, his wake rocking the chairs.

    His pulsebeat sounds at night
    when the washer spins and the dryer
    clanks on stray buttons. . . .

    Alone in the kitchen darkness,
    looking through steamy windows
    at the streets draining away in fog;

    watching and listening
    for the wail of an unchained buoy,
    the steep fall of his wave.
    — John Haines

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