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The Tides are changing — aren’t they?

Date: September 23, 2011 | Posted By:

YouTube Preview ImageCleaning product ads have an infamous rep in the feminist world for adhering to age-old gender stereotypes. Commercials featuring men doing laundry, the dishes, or cleaning house are few and far between. Commonly aimed at a middle-aged audience, these ads are disturbing – but when their sexist stereotypes directly reference young girls, their disturbing factor skyrockets.

This month’s culprit? Tide.

In this terrifyingly traditional commercial, a dainty mother expresses distaste at her daughter’s interest in “hoodies,” “cargo shorts,” and “car garages.” The mother bemoans the fact that, although her daughter’s clothes were washed with crayons, the stains were gone thanks to Tide.

Oh, the agony! God forbid a young girl expresses even the slightest interest in defying gender stereotypes.

I’m sure many of you have recognized the media attention this ad has been gaining in the past weeks – so why bring it up now? The truth is, the most horrifying aspect is not the ad itself, but how people are reacting to it.

Sure, there were a few comments on the site that were music to my ears. “Get back to me when it’s the dad doing the laundry” was one of my personal favorites. But of the varied opinions expressed in the “Comments” Section, 13 of 20 are in support of / defense of the video. Some of their reactions?

“This commercial is too cute!”
“This is a non-issue… pollution, crime, racism are REAL issues.
“KUDOS to Tide’s advertising for their creativity!

Um… what? What is cute about a mother publicly disparaging her daughter’s affinity for “boy” clothes? Why is sexism a non-issue? Is Tide really so desperate for “creative advertising” that they must resort to gender stereotypes to get the point across?

A commenter named Brandee Benoy brings up an interesting point: “This commercial is a satire!”

We could spend paragraphs arguing about whether or not this commercial is a satire (and trust me, we’re not taking this lightly–tell us in the comments what you think!), but let me ask you this: would a five-year-old girl watching this commercial understand its “satirical” connotations?

Most five-year-olds have never even heard of the world “satire,” much less understand the concept. To an average five-year-old, this video expresses two very distinct messages: one, a “mother” wears pink, does laundry, and takes care of children, and two, girls who wear “hoodies,” and “cargo shorts” are disappointments to their mothers.

Whether or not these sentiments are expressed in a satirical way is not the issue; they are being consumed by children too young to fully grasp the irony therein.

When 13 out of 20 viewers see these commercials as positive forces, we know something’s out of balance. Even worse, many of the pro-commercial commenters were mothers and parents. If these are behaviors parents mimic in their own homes, more children will grow up within strict gendered boundaries – and that’s not okay.

–Hailey is a first-year undergrad at Brandeis University. She loves writing music, eating chocolate, and combatting gender inequity on a daily basis




What Do You Think?

8 Responses to The Tides are changing — aren’t they?

  1. Chani on 09-23-2011

    I think the commercial is supposed to be satirical, since the mom is portrayed as very dainty and her house has floral couches and pink curtains, and it has a tongue-in-cheek feel - like the audience is supposed to get that the mom is neurotic. That doesn't make it okay. I don't like that the mom is expressing disappointment in the daughter (and she looks and plays exactly like me when I was little - I had dinosaur toys too), but I also don't like that the mom is clearly a "stage mom" stereotype - neurotic, overly concerned with her daughter's appearance and appropriate-ness. The point of the commercial is to poke fun at this stereotype and sell the detergent, that if it's good enough for Crazy Mom, it's good enough for you.
    • Kristen on 10-14-2011

      Exactly. I got the tongue-in-cheek vibe too. On the one hand, the ad is saying, "Look at this ironic situation! The mother is traditional and the child is not! Wouldn't you expect them to be similar??" because irony is a great selling point. On the other, though, the ad is stoning the second bird by targeting women like that in the video, framing her as an ideal.
  2. Juliet on 09-23-2011

    I didn't get the satire. I felt that Tide stood behind it's socialization of girly girls. If it was satirical, it was in the sense of "just kidding... no, but really." This ad is so unacceptable.
  3. Ashley on 09-23-2011

    I didn't sense satire when I saw this. I sensed it was supposed to be cute and funny, but still it needs to get on board with today's world. A lot of women today are working 2 jobs and don't have time to do the damn laundry. The idea that wifey stays home while husband is out being the provider is becoming so over.
  4. Sara on 09-23-2011

    I agree that I don't find this particularly satirical in tone. However, it would bother me a lot more if it weren't for that one saving grace at the end: "Another car garage, honey? It's beautiful." This is a sign of a mother who disapproves of her daughters choices, but still supports them. Is it ideal? No. Does that make the gender message okay? No. But it does at least provide the added message of parental love and support despite any disagreements over how you dress or live your life. Over all, while it's not very helpful to the cause, it's also not the most harmful commercial I've seen.
  5. Jackie on 09-24-2011

    It's parents like this mom who deny their girls video games, one of my favorite hobbies. It's not an okay ad. The creators of the ad, must long for the 1950's when gender roles were strict. What if a girl who thought she might be lesbian saw this, and though it would be too difficult to ever come out because her mother would be disappointed like the one in this ad. Maybe we should be telling parents to respect their children, not see them as an extension of themselves. Not see them like one views a virtual pet, whom you can buy clothes for and dictate their personality.

    Children are younger people, it's time for adults to get with the times. That lording over your child, and molding them the way you want them to be isn't cool. I guess mommy is going to have to leave her pretty pink fantasy world, when her daughter has to go to therapy, from having issues due to her mom's disapproval. This ad, plays into the notion that for some reason it's okay for mothers to live off in a fantasy world where they're in control of everything and everyone.

    You know why they're considering banning children from restaurants now, because nobody wants to be responsible for the meltdown that occurs after breaking a mother from her firmly established fantasy world. So children can be diagnosed as having Autism and talked about living in their own world, but we have mothers who are responsible for another life, being accepted in departing from reality and lashing out at anyone who tries to bring them back into it? Now they're banning children from restaurants, because suggesting that a child should be quiet, results in an adult temper tantrum from their mom? Maybe this ad is a sign we stop treating mothers like they're fragile, easily upset, small children, and start expecting them to put on their big girl pants and recognizing just because they're a mother, doesn't mean the entire world should cater to them.

    Also, I'm sure that mothers who do not resort to such immature antics, would appreciate not being seen as having some sort of a post-partum neurosis as is displayed by this ad. There needs to be more recognition of the parents who respect their children and their interests. Less of this kind of mom almost having a nervous twitch, because her dollhouse dreams from childhood aren't coming true. Why should this "parent" be portrayed at all? This isn't a parent in the ad, it's a selfish little girl who should have grown up before having a child. I mean listen to her, "Wahh my daughter won't wear pink! Waaah! her tough girl clothes weren't ruined. Now I'm going to make a commercial, and talk about what a big bad poopy head they are!" I seriously believe that this is the level of maturity some mothers really think at.
  6. scrumby on 09-24-2011

    I took it as satire but that's a very personal viewpoint. I had a mom who despaired at my tomboy ways while simultaneously supporting my choices. So it's funny for me because that's totally my mom but how many other people at Tide and their ad company had that mom? Probably less than the number willing to trade on a cheep stereotype of a prissy female.
  7. Jonas Lunsford on 10-24-2011

    That commercial is not satire. Satire requires pointing out something negative about the situation.