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.
As 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!
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.