Cleaning: a Woman’s Favorite Activity

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All women love cleaning! It is a proven fact, didn’t you know? Have you ever seen a cleaning ad with an unhappy woman? No, because they do not exist. All women love cleaning. That is exactly what this society has conveyed for decades. Gender roles and gender specific identities are extremely prevalent in a multitude of capacities. Gender inequalities cause people to be close minded; it is what causes men and women to believe they are only allowed or capable to do certain activities. It forces individuals to do everything a certain way for he or she to be considered masculine or feminine. Being born as a male or female automatically places most gender roles on a person; however, advertisements and commercials aid to this by magnifying the natural gender roles placed on men and women, as well as making the audience believe there are more gender specific roles and mannerisms placed upon them than already exist. This ad is selling the newest vacuum cleaner, the Electrolux. It is lightweight and heavy duty.

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The most efficient vacuum cleaner yet. The Electrolux is so lightweight, the woman who uses it will not have a problem picking up or carrying the vacuum. The ad states, “So powerful, it gets lint, thread, and deep down dirt with ease, yet you can lift it or “swivel” it with a finger. ” The Electrolux ad also pictures a smiling, obviously happy, woman who is holding this new vacuum with just one finger, implying that the vacuum cleaner is so light, even a woman can hold it. The creator of this cleaning ad amplifies the stereotype of girls being weak, as well as the gender specific role to women of being housewives. The role of being a housewife implies that the woman of the house cooks meals for her family everyday, happily. She cleans the house up everyday, happily. She does the laundry everyday, happily. She is expected to do all of these things, then entertain her family when they get home. Women are naturally expected to be a “housewife,” and if they work, they are expected to take the role of a housewife when they get home.

This ad is sexist and offensive to women. Not all women take on the role of cleaning, and among the women that do, they don’t all enjoy it. It is a stereotype placed upon women that has been an issue for years, and this cleaning ad is only aiding to the stereotype. However, the issue of promoting gender roles does not just come from this one ad made in 1965. There are commercials and ads all over the place that intensify the gender specific roles of women. Whether it is Bounty, Swiffer, or even Mr. Clean being advertised, a women is always cleaning the mess. In a particular Bounty paper towel commercial, a father and his son are playing in the nice, clean, spotless kitchen, sliding the bowl of salsa back and forth across the counter.

Of course, the bowl of salsa spills right at mom walks into the room, but have no fear. The mother gladly steps in, wiping up the mess with a smile on her face. The same gender role is still as predominantly present in today’s cleaning ads if not more than those created in the 1950s. Comparing the Bounty and Electrolux ads, the first aspect noticed by the audience in each of the advertisements is the smiling female always excited to clean. While there are male figures in the Bounty commercial, their role is to play, have fun, and actually provide the mess. Cleaning commercials often portray that a woman will always be right behind you to clean up after you. Mr. Clean commercials also play a big factor in expressing gender roles. Even with a very masculine male as the face of Mr. Clean products, just like in the Electrolux ad, a woman is always the individual putting the product to use.

The difference between the Electrolux ad and Mr. Clean commercials is that Mr. Clean promotions not only continue to express the female specific act of cleaning, but they also spotlight the stereotype that men are strong, and women are weak. The male figure who plays Mr. Clean is tall, obviously works out by the looks of his muscles, and contains masculine features implying that as a male, he is strong enough and tough enough to fight even the biggest messes. However, he is never the one cleaning. A small, frail lady is repeatedly the user of such a masculine product. In reality, men and women are very different as well as very much alike. In a research study conducted at Iowa State University, researchers find that gender identity is mostly defined by not physical differences but psychological differences. These differences are what cause gender stereotypes to be present in our lives. Zlatan Krizan, an associate professor of psychology at Iowa State University, states, “Gender stereotypes can influence beliefs and create the impression that the differences are large” (Iowa State University).

The stereotypes placed among men and women are what create such a gap between the two sexes. Gender roles and stereotypes are what make the differences between men and women seem so much more abound than they truly are. The research article from ISU discloses that, “Krizan and colleagues Ethan Zell, an assistant professor at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and Sabrina Teeter, a graduate student at Western Carolina University, conducted a meta-synthesis of more than 100 meta-analyses of gender differences. Combined, the studies they aggregated included more than 12 million people” (Iowa State University). The results of their study revealed, “almost 80 percent overlap for more than 75 percent of the psychological characteristics, such as risk taking, occupational stress and morality” (Iowa State University). This proves that the differences between men and women are not as profound as the media makes them out to be. “This is important because it suggests that when it comes to most psychological attributes, we are relatively similar to one another as men and women,” Krizan said. “This was true regardless of whether we looked at cognitive domains, such as intelligence; social personality domains, such as personality traits; or at well-being, such as satisfaction with life” (Iowa State University).

The whole research study done by Iowa State University just goes to prove that the differences we often place among men and women are all within our own imagination. The do not truly exist. A significant amount of stereotypes and gender specific identities are placed on a person the minute they come into the world as a little boy or little girl. The media only amplifies and promotes the stereotypes. Women are stereotyped as housewives who love to clean, which is why the electrolux ad from the 1950s as well as cleaning commercials today depict a woman as their main user of the products. These gender role enhanced advertisements are what cause the issue of close mindedness and allow men and women to believe there are certain jobs for each of them. As society constantly battles this issue, and argues that a woman can do everything a man can do and vice versa, the media only fuels the fire. The media is what truly allows society’s mind to place gender roles and stereotypes among men and women.

Works cited

  1. Goffman, E. (1979). Gender advertisements. Harper & Row.
  2. Kilbourne, J. (1999). Can't buy my love: How advertising changes the way we think and feel. Simon and Schuster.
  3. Courtney, A. E., & Whipple, T. W. (1983). Sex stereotypes in advertising. Journal of Marketing, 47(2), 75-81.
  4. Furnham, A., & Bitar, N. (1993). The stereotyped portrayal of men and women in British television advertisements. Sex Roles, 29(5-6), 297-310.
  5. Laczniak, G. R., & Yelsma, P. (1983). Gender stereotyping in advertising. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 11(1), 67-83.
  6. Reskin, B. F., & Roos, P. A. (1990). Job queues, gender queues: Explaining women's inroads into male occupations. Temple University Press.
  7. Smith, M. (2019). #LikeAGirl: A content analysis of the perpetuation of gender stereotypes through advertising. Journal of Advertising Research, 59(1), 30-43.
  8. Stacy, C. L., & Wyer Jr, R. S. (2003). The role of gender in stereotypes of social influence. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84(4), 707-721.
  9. Furnham, A., & Mak, T. (1999). Sex-role stereotyping in television advertisements: A review and comparison of fourteen studies done on five continents over 25 years. Sex Roles, 41(5-6), 413-437.
  10. Eagle, L. (2008). Advertising and gender: An agenda for theory and research. Feminism & Psychology, 18(3), 465-480.

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