I Want to Watch a Man Cleaning the Kitchen on TV

Have you ever noticed that women are the people selling us cleaning supplies? In a world where women are supposed to be equals with men, advertisers still choose only housewives as their spokespeople to sell us everything from dish detergent to super sponges. And this phenomenon is not limited to cleaning supplies. Every commercial that wants to sell cooking, cleaning or washing supplies features a motherly figure slaving away over delicious meals, fresh laundry, or sparkling toilets.

What is the deal with that? Why do retailers create commercials that reinforce gender roles? In our ‘modern’ society, why do marketers continue to portray women as housewives?

Look, I know that advertisers are trying to make money. And the truth is: women are still the primary purchasers of household goods such as food and cleaning supplies. So advertisers know that to sell products, they have to target the buyer: women! Seems logical. I can’t hold it against marketers for doing their jobs.

BUT I do have a couple of issues with the tactics they use. First, I would argue that portraying women in traditional cleaning roles reinforces those roles. I feel that as long as the media continues to establish and portray norms in which men go to work and come home to a meal on the table, or women are continually shown as being the tub scrubbers of society, that will continue to be considered normal.. Seeing women as the only people who cook and clean in advertising reinforces the idea that these are women’s tasks, an idea that supposedly died years ago when women fought for the right to equality.  Our society can’t claim to have moved above and beyond sexism and traditional gender roles if marketers continue to portray women in those roles. The advertisers might argue that their commercials are a reflection of the way things currently are, but I think that their advertisements do more than reflect. I think they have the power to subconsciously influence our ideas about how things should be. After all, isn’t that the point of advertising? To sell us an ideal life, brought to us by their amazing products? If the marketer’s idea of an ideal life includes women slaving away to cook and clean, then count me out. Sell me your product in a world I want to live in. Which, by the way, is not a world where I have to do all the household chores (even if your product lets me get them done ten times faster).

Which brings me to my second issue: women may be the primary purchasers, but they don’t have to be portrayed as the primary cleaners/cooks/doers of laundry as well. The role of buying products does not necessitate using them. A clever advertiser might consider showing a woman walking into her house and handing her husband the leading brand of dish detergent, so that he can load the dishwasher. Or a woman could be shown commenting on how good the clothing her husband just washed smells, to which he responds: “It’s that new detergent you bought.” It’s a bit of a tricky thing: the woman has to be shown as the deliverer, not the fetcher. She’s the one with the buying power, not the errand runner for the man. But when done correctly, I think that an advertiser can (and should!) subvert traditional gender roles while still (successfully) marketing to the people with the purchasing power (women).

After all ladies, wouldn’t you buy food and detergent from a good looking man who cooks and then does the dishes afterwards?

An Open Letter To (Young) Canadian Women About Winter

Dear Canadian Women (especially all you younger ones),

It’s cold outside. That’s a bit of an understatement, but that’s the gist of it. The water on the ground is frozen, there are piles of snow everywhere, and standing at the bus stop is agony, because it’s cold. I am telling you because you’re giving me the impression that you don’t know this. It seems that you missed it somehow, and are instead convinced that it’s a balmy 25 degrees.

I think that might be because your brains are frozen. Literally. On Tuesday night, we had a large snowfall. I don’t know if you noticed it, but it was a Big Deal. 25 cm fell, buses were cancelled, and children shrieked in glee because they didn’t have to go to school. I personally tramped to work in less than suitable footwear, and can tell you first hand that there was a lot of snow, because my feet got really wet. Since then, the temperature has stayed constantly below zero. It’s been bearable, but it hasn’t been pleasant. This is a typical Canadian winter.

So where’s the winter gear, ladies?! So many of you are tramping around in the snow without hats on, or with unmitted hands stuffed into pockets , or with an exposed neck! Then there are the girls who wear Ugg style boots (I own this type of boot, and can vouch that they are NOT waterproof) or the most crazy among you forgo boots altogether and wear SNEAKERS! In the snow! What is up with that!? Do you have a grudge against your toes or something? I mean, when I realized that my current winter footwear was less than adequate for current weather conditions, I rushed out to buy the biggest, warmest pair of boots I could find. Immediately. If your feet are cold, the rest of you is cold! If your feet are wet, you risk getting sick, your feet smell, and it’s just unpleasant! How could you put yourself through that? What is driving you to chill yourself like an alcoholic beverage? Is it because of BOYS?

Listen, here are the facts. Canadian women are beautiful. There is no doubt about that. You are all beautiful, trust me. And boys know that! They know that even if you’re wearing a LOT of clothing! Today, I watched two men openly check out a girl wearing a puffy Canada Goose Parka and gigantic Sorel boots. I was thinking, man, those boots look huge, and the guys were thinking wow! That girl is hot! Because wearing a lot of clothing can’t diminish your beauty. If anything, you look better. You look sane. You look like the kind of girl who won’t be walking around in summertime without ears because she lost them to frostbite.

I know your pain. I know that a hat can destroy the hair you spent twenty minutes ironing flat; that mittens make it impossible to text; and that your feet look larger in your boots. But I don’t think that these are sufficient reasons to freeze. And looking good for men (and other women) also isn’t a good enough reason to freeze. You deserve to be warm and comfortable, just as much as a man in hulking boots and a toque and a scarf and giant man gloves. I mean, they’re not forgoing any of these things for you (actually, guys are pretty bad about winter gear too. But I think it’s for a different reason. I’m not a man, but I’m pretty sure they’re trying to maintain some image of manliness that involves never getting cold and being immune to the elements. Maybe I’ll write a blog post on it: Dear guy, put your hat on, you’re still a man!).

One final note: I know, “but everyone else is doing it!” This is simultaneously the worst and most powerful reason. If the girl next to you isn’t wearing clunky boots, then a) she looks better than you (supposedly) and b) wearing boots is uncool! No one wears them, so why would you? This is a social mentality that derives from our incessant need to blend in and adhere to social norms. But these social norms could easily be reversed if everyone wore clunky boots. Then everyone looks “stupid” and wearing hats or mitts or ugly boots is cool and socially acceptable! Heck, if it really caught on, even hat hair could be cool (ok, that might be stretching it).

There. That’s all I have to say on the subject. Please please please, for the sake of your noses and toes and fingers, put on some winter gear! I know you feel bulky, but you’ll also feel warm, and that’s what matters. Winter can be really fun, but it’s not when your feet are frozen and your hands can’t move and your ears are about to fall off. So put some clothes on: the inner mother in me is begging you!

Sincerely,

A girl who personally loves wearing a hat