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105 Responses

  1. msgd
    msgd July 1, 2013 at 2:17 pm |

    As soon as advertisers are convinced that commercials showing men using cleaning products will sell more cleaning products than commercials showing women using them, those commercials will appear.

    1. EG
      EG July 1, 2013 at 2:26 pm |

      Bullshit. That is just an “it’s all about capitalism, not patriarchy” argument. Single men are an uncatered-to market for cleaning products.

      With respect to the original post, I saw one commercial this year featuring a father talking about doing the laundry as an everyday chore, no big deal, just wanting to do it well so his daughter could have her favorite dress back. It made me happy.

      1. Tim
        Tim July 1, 2013 at 2:48 pm |

        I think I’ve seen that one. It was kinda sweet — the Dad was just very normal about it, neither acting like it was some epic accomplishment nor like it was nothing. I am pretty sure I have seen ads with guys doing dishes where it is pretty naturalistic and no big deal (although I can’t remember offhand the product), but most of the other activities, no.

      2. tinfoil hattie
        tinfoil hattie July 1, 2013 at 5:51 pm |

        I saw that ad, too, EG, and was pretty satisfied. Especially because the daughter was currently standing there in grubby play-clothes, showing that girls play hard and also like dresses, too! Oh, for the day a boy has to wait for the laundry to get HIS dress back! It may take another 100 years.

      3. tinfoil hattie
        tinfoil hattie July 1, 2013 at 5:52 pm |

        BTW, the commercial was for Tide, and if we didn’t already used Tide, we’d have switched after that ad!

      4. TomSims
        TomSims July 2, 2013 at 4:15 am |

        “Single men are an uncatered-to market for cleaning products.”

        Spot on EG. You should be a marketing executive. Marriage jas been falling out of favor with heterosexual men and women for quite some time now.

      5. speedbudget
        speedbudget July 3, 2013 at 7:34 pm |

        “Single men are an uncatered-to market for cleaning products.”

        Great. Now they’ll start marketing to men with cleaning products in manly containers, just as they do with shampoos and soaps.

    2. Thomas MacAulay Millar
      Thomas MacAulay Millar July 1, 2013 at 3:16 pm |

      The people who need to be convinced don’t have some magical market-superpower, though. They have some research, and they have intuition, and they make decisions based on those. But the intuition is heavily freighted with their own cultural biases. They make the commercials that “feel” right to them, which is to say, the ones that match their worldview, and then they tell themselves they do it because the buying public demands it. But they are the interpreters of what the buying public demands.

      1. TomSims
        TomSims July 2, 2013 at 1:03 pm |

        I tend to make such decisions after reading Consumer Reports, not from any commercial I’ve seen.

  2. Dan_Brodribb
    Dan_Brodribb July 1, 2013 at 2:29 pm |

    “Men, I know you know how to vacuum! I have watched you! I have seen you sweep and mop! Perhaps not in that order, but your hearts were in the right place!”

    That made me laugh.

    In fairness, what happens is I sweep, then mop, then realize I didn’t do a good enough job sweeping, sweep residue through the still-wet floors, try to mop it up, then get frustrated and decided I’ll solve the problem by never having anybody over again.

    1. tinfoil hattie
      tinfoil hattie July 1, 2013 at 5:53 pm |

      Oh god, I am not alone after all.

    2. The Kittehs' Unpaid Help
      The Kittehs' Unpaid Help July 1, 2013 at 7:39 pm |

      I just vacuum the kitchen floor. Mopping is not a thing in my house. :D

      1. DouglasG
        DouglasG July 1, 2013 at 10:06 pm |

        I had a mop, but it ran away from home, or perhaps eloped. I get to scrub the kitchen floor on my hands and knees until I can ever remember or afford to buy a new one. Only I have so much waxy yellow build-up that Mary Hartman would despair.

        Too bad about the authorial snark.

        1. The Kittehs' Unpaid Help
          The Kittehs' Unpaid Help July 1, 2013 at 11:41 pm |

          I think we have a mop somewhere, but it’s hibernating, or maybe mummified. I’m scared to look; don’t want to disturb all the spiders who’ve probably got happy homes in it.

        2. miga
          miga July 2, 2013 at 1:00 pm |

          It ran away with a rake, like on those swiffer commercials :p

    3. Hugh
      Hugh July 1, 2013 at 9:51 pm |

      I find it quite telling that the author couldn’t resist a “LOL MEN ARE COMICALLY USELESS AT DOING HOUSEHOLD CHORES, AMIRITE FOLKS” joke in her post about how we need to normalise male chore-doing.

      One step forwards, two steps backwards.

      1. Fishing for Insults
        Fishing for Insults July 3, 2013 at 2:33 pm |

        You noticed that too, huh?

  3. Allee
    Allee July 1, 2013 at 2:32 pm |

    I saw a Tide commercial recently that featured a dad doing his daughter’s laundry: Naturally, he’s washing the princess dress that she insists on wearing every day… but nevertheless I appreciated it for blowing my damn mind. I run across these every once in a while and it’s a testament to how rare they are that I always get excited.

  4. Palaverer
    Palaverer July 1, 2013 at 2:54 pm |

    This seems like the perfect thread to complain that I have so far been to two stores, unable to find dish gloves in size extra-large to fit my boyfriend’s hands. Either men don’t do dishes, or they are expected to do them with bare hands.

    I recently saw a Mr. Clean commercial that (a) talked about the fictional icons passion for cleaning and (b) had him sharing his expertise with people, several of them men. But. But the men were at work; the woman was the only one in the home. And their slogan is “When it comes to clean, there’s only one Mr.”

    1. Thomas MacAulay Millar
      Thomas MacAulay Millar July 1, 2013 at 3:22 pm |

      I thought the purpose of wearing gloves to wash dishes was to protect manicured nails. Not only do I wash pots and pans with bare hands, I scrub out my smoker. The brillo pad ends up so shredded and dark with carbon residue and caked on drippings that I throw it away, and then I give my hands a good scrub with a new sponge and they’re clean. If I kept my nails long, or polished them, I can see how gloves would really help. But with short, natural nails I don’t get why gloves are necessary to washing dishes.

      1. rhian
        rhian July 1, 2013 at 4:17 pm |

        Eczema, sensitive skin, not wanting your hands to smell like bacon grease all day… there are other reasons.

      2. Barnacle Strumpet
        Barnacle Strumpet July 1, 2013 at 5:25 pm |

        But with short, natural nails I don’t get why gloves are necessary to washing dishes.

        …Because bleach water dries out your skin? And, at least in my case, it makes the skin on my hands flake off for a day or two.

        I can’t say I’ve ever found gloves helpful though. They always wind up getting dish water inside them anyway.

        1. miga
          miga July 2, 2013 at 1:02 pm |

          Yeah, and that’s even grosser than not having gloves at all IMO. Not to mention if you forget to clean them they get all mildewey and gross inside. BLEH!

      3. Thomas MacAulay Millar
        Thomas MacAulay Millar July 1, 2013 at 6:13 pm |

        Bleach water? People wash dishes with chlorine bleach solution?! I was unaware of this. If I was supposed to be using anything other than dishsoap, I’ve been doing it wrong for thirty years. Anyway, my hands and my family’s seem to hold up pretty well to soapy water, but I shouldn’t generalize that to everyone.

        1. AMM
          AMM July 2, 2013 at 11:21 am |

          People wash dishes with chlorine bleach solution?!

          Doesn’t work very well.

          But I do use a bleach rinse to sterilize the dishes. I don’t have a dishwasher, so I first wash the dishes and put them in a dishpan. Then I fill the dishpan (with the dishes) with bleach solution and then take the dishes out and put them in the drainer.

          (I learned this at a homeless shelter I volunteered at.)

          Also, hot, hot water is in my experience the only way you can get grease off of dishes. No amount of dishwashing liquid gets it off if the water isn’t hot.

          For gloves, I buy heavy neoprene gloves at the hardware store. Provides a little bit more insulation.

      4. The Kittehs' Unpaid Help
        The Kittehs' Unpaid Help July 1, 2013 at 7:44 pm |

        Gloves protect my hands against hot water; I couldn’t have it very hot otherwise. I don’t want food grease or dishwashing liquid on my hands, either. They’re not good for the skin. Only drawback of the gloves is that they leave my hands smelling rubbery, but that’s better than the alternative.

        I haven’t had painted nails for decades (nail polish tended to last about an hour before it chipped on something) and I’ve never had long nails.

        1. Angie unduplicated
          Angie unduplicated July 1, 2013 at 9:28 pm |

          Rubber gloves aren’t just for washing dishes. They’re for scrubbing nicotine-soaked walls with bleach or for cleaning tile grout. Lately, the small sizes have become female-child-size; we now purchase large and the maintenance man steals them. The blue heavy rubber gloves carried by Ace Hardware run large: try them.

        2. Hugh
          Hugh July 1, 2013 at 9:52 pm |

          Yep. When my father was teaching me how to wash dishes, he always told me to make the water so hot it’s not comfortable to put your bare hands in it (and hence, gloves). I guess that’s just a my-family thing…?

        3. The Kittehs' Unpaid Help
          The Kittehs' Unpaid Help July 1, 2013 at 11:44 pm |

          Angie – I know, rubber gloves are for all sorts of things, and come in different weights. I don’t know Ace Hardware (I’m in Australia) and just get gloves from the supermarket.

          They’re also very useful for getting tight jar lids, pen ink reservoirs and other screw-in things loosened. :)

        4. Willard
          Willard July 2, 2013 at 1:05 am |

          I like using ammonia to clean, and I’m also in the hot=scalding wash water camp. Gloves are definitely a necessity.

          I have a separate pair for bike cleaning, since no matter what I do the grease and grime stay with me for days if I don’t.

        5. LemonDemon
          LemonDemon July 2, 2013 at 12:53 pm |


          For grease & grime removal re; automotive and bikes, get some sand soap. Works wonders.

        6. Willard
          Willard July 2, 2013 at 1:26 pm |


          Believe me, if it has grit in it, I’ve tried it. I’ve tried citrus enhanced grits, all I ended up with was slightly orangey smelling leopard spotted hands. Surprisingly the product that faded the stains the most before I started gloving up was a bead infused facial cleanser.

          **Hence “no matter what I do” :D

      5. gratuitous_violet
        gratuitous_violet July 1, 2013 at 8:44 pm |

        With all due respect, because I know you mean well, you may have just wanted to ask why other people think they’re necessary instead of this:

        I thought the purpose of wearing gloves to wash dishes was to protect manicured nails.

        because making that assumption in the first place and then proceeding to make the statement out loud seriously deserves a side-eye, with the implication being that only silly vain ladies worry about the effects of constant soaking/heat/chemicals on their hands, and even then only the decorative part.

        Also, on the flipside, who’s to say her boyfriend couldn’t want to protect his manicure?

        1. tinfoil hattie
          tinfoil hattie July 2, 2013 at 11:17 am |

          Years ago, there was an ad for Playtex “living” gloves (they also made the “living” bra and the “living” girdle) that emphasized using gloves to protect your manicure. And, the gloves were soft and pliable (“living”?) yet strong enough that your pointy long nails wouldn’t poke holes in the gloves.

          So, there may be some context to Thomas MAM’s outdated comment.

      6. Karak
        Karak July 2, 2013 at 2:30 am |

        I wash my dishes in scalding hot water, and I was the only person in a house of three plus infinite guests who did the dishes. I’d have ten loads of dishes, plus the kitchen to scrub, and it took a toll on my hands. And I hate the feeling of damp hands so I compulsively dry them, further irritating and damaging the skin.

        I also bleach the counters. It was necessary.

      7. kg
        kg July 3, 2013 at 1:58 pm |

        Its kind of nice not to have to scrub all that crap off your hands after you’re done and instead just remove and pitch the filthy gloves. Thats why I wear them, especially when cleaning my grill, cast iron cookware or kitty litter box.

    2. gratuitous_violet
      gratuitous_violet July 1, 2013 at 8:03 pm |

      Ah, yes. My boyfriend frequently shakes his eczema-ridden hands at the XL size gloves at supermarkets.

      Pro tip: they have man-sized gloves at restaurant supply houses/smart and final. Because believe it or not, there is a magical land where men do dishes…when they’re getting paid for it. (But i also of course acknowledge that restaurant labor is a kyriarchy-fest, a tirade for another day)

    3. katrina
      katrina July 26, 2013 at 2:46 pm |

      They do make large rubber gloves they just don’t sell them with the regular cleaning supplies, you have to go to the hardware store for them.

  5. Brennan
    Brennan July 1, 2013 at 2:59 pm |

    The makers of wet-jets agree with you.

    I just found these commercials today. I’m still not quite sure how I feel about them. On the one hand, they seem to accept the premise that Men Don’t Clean. On the other hand, they do a nice job of lampshading the exact advertising trend you talked about. Also, they’re hilarious. “It’s a stinking partnership!!”

    1. Angie unduplicated
      Angie unduplicated July 1, 2013 at 9:36 pm |

      Swiffer. Women clean, men dance. Moronic ad copywriters spend their off hours watching military flicks and still believe that the armed forces, pre-feminism, ran without men ever wielding a cleaning tool. They’re costing their clients mucho sales, because the odds are good that house-husbands, in this recession, are fuming about being ignored by the kids and the advertisers.

    2. Karak
      Karak July 2, 2013 at 2:33 am |

      I laughed so hard. “You don’t know how to clean a floor?”

    3. Kasabian
      Kasabian July 2, 2013 at 12:47 pm |

      I saw it as rejecting the premise of “Men Don’t Clean” as unfair and stupid. I read it as “Cleaning isn’t that hard, ffs. Use the damn swiffer.”

      Acknowledging the trope of “Men Don’t Clean” isn’t the same as accepting it.

  6. ballgame
    ballgame July 1, 2013 at 3:01 pm |

    I largely agree with your post, Molly. Watching commercials treat housecleaning as an almost exclusively female preoccupation feels like watching a weird alternate universe, like those old movies where everyone is white.

    If I may make one change to your imaginary scenario: as the man dries the dishes, he looks lovingly through the kitchen window at his partner out in the back yard, where she is mowing the lawn. It’s certainly a common enough sight in real life.

  7. LotusBecca
    LotusBecca July 1, 2013 at 3:22 pm |

    Probably in the next couple decades we WILL see commercials that aim to sell cleaning products to men, because it is a huge untapped market. . .and yeah: capitalism. But I wouldn’t be surprised if these ads try to make cleaning seem “extreme,” in order to lure men into buying products with their masculinity still intact: “Do you hate dirt? Do you want to destroy grease? Don’t be a wuss, soldier; real men keep their stuff clean! So buy Bounty Guy paper towels, the only paper towel equipped with our trademark ultra-absorbent absorption technology.” Then maybe there will be a graphic of a paper towel sweeping in like an airplane to clean up spilled drink with a bunch of arrows pointing to different parts of the paper towel to highlight its various absorption advantages, and then, of course, after the guy cleans up the spill he will be greeted by his hot wife who will be wearing a bikini. Etc. Etc.

    1. EG
      EG July 1, 2013 at 3:35 pm |

      I have missed you, LotusBecca! “Super absorbent absorption technology” is awesome.

      1. LotusBecca
        LotusBecca July 1, 2013 at 3:42 pm |

        Haha thanks, EG! Yeah, I don’t check this blog much anymore because it’s not really where I’m at. . .but I still definitely have fond memories of my conversations with you and a lot of the other commenters here!

    2. macavitykitsune
      macavitykitsune July 1, 2013 at 3:48 pm |

      “Do you hate dirt? Do you want to destroy grease? Don’t be a wuss, soldier

      *helpless giggles*

      Also, this seems to be the right place to leave this link: Shower Products for Men

      1. thinksnake
        thinksnake July 1, 2013 at 6:47 pm |

        Oh my lord it has been too long since I watched that.

    3. tinfoil hattie
      tinfoil hattie July 1, 2013 at 5:55 pm |

      Yes! Much like those stupid ads for men’s skin products: “Protect your MAN-HIDE!”


    4. Alexandra
      Alexandra July 1, 2013 at 6:21 pm |


      1. Sharon M.
        Sharon M. July 1, 2013 at 11:40 pm |


        BHAHAAAAAAAA!!!! LMAO. This is an excellent post. Bounty towels has an obnoxious commercial: the husband slams down a plunger on the kitchen counter and proudly announces the toilet is fixed.
        And I agree with Hugh:

        I have seen you sweep and mop! Perhaps not in that order, but your hearts were in the right place!

        This feeds right into the trope that men are fumbling fools (see above comment) when it comes to housework/ womens work.

    5. Lars Fischer
      Lars Fischer July 2, 2013 at 9:33 am |

      Ha! The approach-it-like-a-soldier is certainly a current advertising meme.

      Gotta have some sympathy for the people doing this kind of marketing; it’s not easy to sell products that are no different in function or price from the competition. It’s all about branding and attaching yourself to cultural artifacts that you hope are good for your brand.

    6. Firemind
      Firemind July 3, 2013 at 8:05 pm |

      Or even a guy going high and low with a rag/duster and a can of furniture polish, trying to annihilate the dust bunnies to the “Mission Impossible” theme song …

  8. konkonsn
    konkonsn July 1, 2013 at 4:57 pm |

    I have seen a (I think it’s) Swiffer commercial…it was either a set of commercials that showed all the things they could get done with the extra time the product saved or where their broom was in love with them. But the one from that set that had a man showed him in a coach’s uniform, and he was giving a pep talk to his cleaning products. So…yeah.

    Also, this classic from the 80’s that I used to show my students when we talked about audience relation in persuasive arguments:

    1. konkonsn
      konkonsn July 1, 2013 at 4:57 pm |

      Erm, this was meant in reply to LotusBecca’s comment.

  9. a lawyer
    a lawyer July 1, 2013 at 5:08 pm |

    It’s a good time for commercials to lurch into modern times and reflect these current situations. A little boy may as well learn from television that it is within the realm of possibility for him to know how to clean his own bathroom someday.

    Right there is the problem. A commercial is not designed to teach anyone about social equity. It’s designed to sell more cans of scrubbing bubbles. And that means that the ads are really the result of the sexism in society (which is, of course, really sexist) than of the corporations (which just want to sell the product.)

    Imagine that I have just hired you as a commercial editor. Your salary pays for your rent, food, childcare, etc. Your continued employment depends on the success of your ad campaigns. I ask you to do an ad for a toilet cleaner.

    Now what?

    Would you focus on selling toilet cleaner, or would you focus on social change? If the “men scrubbing toilets” ad didn’t play as well in the focus group, would you insist on airing it anyway and take the risk of being fired? I wouldn’t. I don’t know many people who would.

    If you suggest “hey, maybe commercials aimed at men cleaning toilets are a win, let’s run some quick focus groups” I think that makes great sense (that said, I suspect that someone already did. Hard to imagine that not a single ad company has thought of this on their own.) But if you think that my hypothetical ad exec should film “men scrubbing toilets” and get fired, I don’t think that’s reasonable.

    1. EG
      EG July 1, 2013 at 5:14 pm |

      Gee, you don’t say.

      What’s with the condescending explanation of how advertising works? I don’t think anybody here is unaware of the situation.

    2. Alara Rogers
      Alara Rogers July 1, 2013 at 5:52 pm |

      But seriously, I know how this works from comic books.

      “Girls don’t like comics.” Because comics are all superhero books and the superheros in question are almost all male; female superheroes are usually “the female version” of male superheroes. Also women stand in more ridiculous poses and show more skin. “We’ll market comics directly to girls to capture that market!” We’ll make them pink and all about the superheroes’ girlfriends. This is unbelievably irritating to the existing female comics fans, however small a number they may be, because they wanted female superheroes that aren’t treated demeaningly, not girlfriends of superheroes; also, while women are totally open to the possibility of soap-opera-style romantic hijinks in their comics, they still want, you know, action, adventure, and bad guys getting defeated. You know, the point to superhero comics. “Girls aren’t reading our comics!” Because you made a line of romance comics about the girlfriend of a guy dressed like a spider, what did you think would happen? “Obviously girls just don’t like comics!” Sigh.

      Or: “But girls do like manga!” Because, sexist though the Japanese may be, they are sexist in *different ways*; women invented the Japanese novel, the Japanese have not forgotten that women like good stories. “So we’ll release our comics in manga-style artwork! That will attract girls!” …OK… the manga style artwork does appeal… “And our plots will center around romance!” OK, OK, back up, are you actually including superhero fight scenes in this? Because if you are not you’re alienating the existing female audience, who are necessary to get the non-comics-reading women to even bother to *look* at comics, since you have convinced them that superhero comics demean women. You need women comics fans to find your work appealing if you want to attract *more* women comics fans. “Huh. Seems that girls don’t like manga-style superheroes!” Maybe girls just don’t like it when you transparently pander to the Pink Principle that the only thing girls are interested in is romance. “Obviously, American girls just don’t like comics.” Le sigh. Again.

      So no, they did not have men mopping floors and scrubbing toilets in focus grouped commercials which got vetoed on the grounds that they didn’t move product. Because, yes, actually, no one ever thought of it. The advertising industry, like the comics industry, the movie industry, and the TV industry, tends to be very hidebound, very influenced by their own cultural mores and beliefs, and they go with their gut. And you cannot get good data on “do commercials about men cooking dinner move food products” when you didn’t make any commercials about men cooking dinner. So commercials about women cooking dinner are what move food product, therefore let’s not show men cooking dinner… even though the reason commercials about women cooking dinner are what move the product is that *that is all there is.*

      The old “that’s what the market wants” syllogism regarding why there are almost no Pixar cartoons with female main characters, why action movies don’t usually star women, why there’s only been like one female starship captain ever, and why commercials are as sexist as they are, is actually thought of by people who give waaaay too much credit to the analytical abilities of the people who make this stuff. Routinely, things are made the way they’ve always been because that’s the way they’ve always been done and the data shows that that’s what works so therefore nothing different will work because we have no data to show that it works because we never tried it. People credit the bean counters behind the media with magical powers of perception to be able to tell that a thing that was never released to the market won’t sell; they assume that stuff was thoroughly tested, but the truth is, things that are genuinely unusual are genuinely unusual, and therefore almost never tried in order to be tested.

      So no, it is almost certainly not the case that these commercials with male heroes washing the dishes were tried and rejected by focus groups. It is likely that they were never tried in the first place, because women always wash the dishes so why would you change a formula that works?

      1. Thomas MacAulay Millar
        Thomas MacAulay Millar July 1, 2013 at 6:17 pm |

        Thank you. I get so tired of the assumption that people who make editorial and advertising decisions are very smart and sophisticated and have all kinds of data, and that therefore their bullshit excuse that the audience demands regressive images must actually be accurate, instead of simply a reflection of their untested and biased preconceptions.

      2. macavitykitsune
        macavitykitsune July 1, 2013 at 7:16 pm |

        Or: “But girls do like manga!” Because, sexist though the Japanese may be, they are sexist in *different ways*; women invented the Japanese novel, the Japanese have not forgotten that women like good stories.

        Yep. I can think of at least ten extremely successful (read: internationally famous, made the mangaka rich, received an anime adaptation, licensed in at least four languages) manga series (long-running) that are reliably non-misogynistic, consistently pass the Bechdel Test, and contain a plethora of well-fleshed out female characters who are not relegated to love interests. I can do this off the top of my head. Anyone here want to attempt to draw up an equivalent list of comics? I’ll even make it easy and say that the protagonist doesn’t have to be female.

        1. Canisse
          Canisse July 1, 2013 at 8:34 pm |

          Well, yes, but I can think of twice that number of wildly successful mangas that are misogynistic. Manga is better than comics for sexism. But, let’s not kid ourselves, it’s not even halfway there.

          I should add that I do like mangas. Usually, it’s just in spite of their sexism, not because of their lack of it.

        2. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune July 1, 2013 at 9:18 pm |

          Manga is better than comics for sexism. But, let’s not kid ourselves, it’s not even halfway there.

          Oh, I’m not arguing that manga is not sexist as a medium. I’m just pointing out that in terms of having best-selling, widely known non-sexist material, it’s way better than literally any other media I can think of, mayyyyyyybe barring the fantasy novel.

        3. Nanani
          Nanani July 2, 2013 at 1:34 am |

          On top of that, a lot (A LOT) of mangaka are actually women, which undoubtedly helps.

          The *marketing* of manga within Japan is sexist as fuck though – you get sections of “girl manga” = romance, “boy manga” = action adventure, “adult men’s manga” = het porn, “adult women’s manga” = gay male porn, etc. Very little acknowledgement of the idea that someone could be interested in a genre that isn’t already attached to their gender.

          All that to say I agree with the earlier statement that it is still sexist, just sexist in a different way.

        4. Alara Rogers
          Alara Rogers July 3, 2013 at 12:45 pm |

          Chris Claremont’s run on the X-Men (and even that had the disturbing habit of putting female villains and possessed heroes in skimpy dominatrix gear… but Mystique and Dark Phoenix both wore normal superhero/supervillain clothes.)

          Beyond that, I got nothin’.

      3. TomSims
        TomSims July 3, 2013 at 11:11 am |

        @Alara Rogers;

        What matters is the bottom line. If household products are selling at levels that make their shareholders happy, there is not need to change it. Like the old saying “if it ain’t broke , don’t fix it” On the other hand if your products aren’t selling ,then it’s time for a new direction.

        The main reason people come back and buy again, is because the product works. If people don’t like your product, the best commercials in the world will not help.

        1. Alara Rogers
          Alara Rogers July 3, 2013 at 1:03 pm |

          No, actually capitalism requires constant growth. Selling at the same rate you did last year is *losing*. You have to *increase* market share to make the shareholders happy.

          So if your commercials are successfully moving *more* product than they did last year, ok, no need to change it. But the likelihood that they are doing so when you keep sending the same tired message in the same tired way and you’re sending it to people *my* age, who grew up in the era of “Free to Be You And Me” and “girls can do anything boys can”… boomers may be more socially conservative about gender roles than X’ers, but X’ers are *less* conservative about gender roles than millennials, because millennials grew up post-backlash. (Statistically. I’m sure you can all point to feminist boomers and millennials and uber-sexist X’ers, but we’re talking about broad demographic averages.)

          Millennials don’t watch TV. They’re all watching Netflix and Hulu and Youtube. People my age still watch TV and we’re not on fixed incomes and we’re not totally set in our ways and unwilling to change brands (this is a problem with marketing to the elderly; they hate change, statistically speaking), so we ought to be a more attractive demographic for selling dishwashing liquid to than anyone else. And yet, while in so many other sectors of the market being edgy and different is considered to be *the* thing that makes your commercial stand out and move product, beauty products and household products are still sold with much the same shticks as they were in the 1980’s.

          Funnily enough, men’s beauty products *are* willing to be edgy, weird, different, even totally assy. The Old Spice Guy is downright hilarious and he’s basically parodying the whole concept of selling beauty products by sexiness, while at the same time actually kinda being sexy. The first Axe commercial was funny and shocking (the one with the young blonde woman washing someone in a bathtub, talking like she’s a babysitter, saying he’s a dirty little boy and how old is he in babytalk, and then a man’s voice answers “22”)… the rest have just been sexist and stupid, but they’re sexist and stupid in a modern stand-up comedian way, not like the 1980’s called and it wants its specific brand of sexism back.

          I have a suspicion that misogyny affects the advertising industry, and in fact all the industries, deeply enough that working on ads for “women’s products” is seen as demeaning scutwork, so the really creative folks don’t want to do it, and the people who do do it are phoning it in. And the bean counters aren’t complaining because their spreadsheets show that the sector holding steady with little growth is women’s products and everyone knows women are boring.

          Hell, I’d give a lot at this point to see a different *kind* of sexism. Maybe a Hero of the Beach parody in which the undergirl beats the Popular Uberbitch at getting guys’ attention because of the shampoo she used, where it starts where the Uberbitch disses her and takes her boyfriend and they do this whole Charles Atlas parody about the shampoo. Maybe a beauty product where men faint on the street from how gorgeous you are and the voiceover is all like “Take care not to use too much” or something. Something different, something funny or dynamic like men’s product commercials get to be. I’ve given up on hoping for genuinely non-sexist commercials.

    3. macavitykitsune
      macavitykitsune July 1, 2013 at 7:12 pm |

      Blah blah blah, let’s never change anything because work is haaaaard, don’t you know that everyone’s bigoted except the poor beleaguered media execs who just haaaave to be bigoted because otherwise you can’t get any money in the world.

      There was a time when showing a gay male couple in an ad would have been an “unrealistic depiction” that could have gotten you fired. There was a time when showing a woman at work in a secondary-sector job would have been an “unrealistic depiction” that could have gotten you fired. There was a time when showing interracial couples would have been an “unrealistic depiction” that could have gotten you fired. This doesn’t mean gay male couples, or women in industries, or interracial couples didn’t exist; it just meant that it was socially acceptable bigotry. And when did that change? When people started showing gay male couples in ads, and women at work, and interracial couples. (And sure, there’s shitshows about those ads, but when was the last time anyone got fired for making one?)

      You need to work for change. Change only happens when, you know, people make change happen. Progress doesn’t drop down like manna from heaven. “You have leveled up! Congratulations on unlocking the Slightly Less Sexism Mode!” isn’t actually a thing.

      (I tried to be as condescending as you were. Did it work?)

    4. Clytemnestra's Sister
      Clytemnestra's Sister July 2, 2013 at 1:18 am |

      It’s EASY PEASY to make a commercial that gets attention and doesn’t fall into the, oh, let the women clean trap.

      Look! I’ll do it right here.

      Cast: Cool Bro Dude, Stank Nasty Dishes
      Scene: pile of dirty dishes in the sink. Looks like lasagna. Some crusty bits. Start playing Eye of the Tiger. Flash a shot of Cool Bro Dude’s eyes. Flash to dishes. Flash back to Cool Bro Dude, have him smile. Next scene is CBD scrubbing dishes. Next scene is CBD serving dinner to his parents on those same dishes. Finally, show the bottle of Dawn.

      “Dawn. Clean your dirties.”

      Manly? Check! It’s got Eye of the Tiger. That makes anything manly.
      Funny? Check! It’s got Eye of the Tiger. Manly and campy, what a combo.
      Cute? Check! He cooked dinner for his mom. Awwww!
      And! And and and! There is no sex, there is a reference to a boxing movie but no overt war references, no bumbling guy, no waiting for his mom to do it, and the dishes just get clean!

      1. The Kittehs' Unpaid Help
        The Kittehs' Unpaid Help July 2, 2013 at 4:03 am |

        I totally want to see this! :)

  10. tinfoil hattie
    tinfoil hattie July 1, 2013 at 5:59 pm |

    Sarah Haskins did awesome take-downs of ads for cleaning products – in fact, she did great take-downs of any ad targeted toward women – yogurt, cleaning products, etc. Google “Sarah Haskins Target Women” if you missed some of them. They were very cathartic!

    1. Outrage and Sprinkles
      Outrage and Sprinkles July 2, 2013 at 10:08 am |

      Those videos were THE BEST, I miss them so much!

  11. SamLL
    SamLL July 1, 2013 at 7:27 pm |

    I speculate that part of the problem is that younger people are markedly less likely to be watching network TV commercials, so advertisers are targeting an older and thus more socially conservative demographic.

  12. A Woman’s Right to Chores | I Heard Tell

    […] I’ve got a guest post up over at Feministe today! […]

  13. Dibbit
    Dibbit July 1, 2013 at 8:08 pm |

    It’s kinda strange how you chastise commercials for using the old “men are bumbling idiots and don’t understand what a broom is” while at the same time using those same tired clichés to spice up your writing.

    Saying things like “I know some men know how to sweep and mob, not in that order, but their hearts are in the right place!” and all the qualifiers about how men keep things “reasonably” clean and can do “a certain amount of housework” are of course, light-hearted fun.
    But they are spun from the same cloth as the commercials.

    In the end, I’m just left with the impression that you want commercials were men do the housework, but not quite as well as a women would do it, because… well… they’re men, and you know how they are.

    1. Hugh
      Hugh July 1, 2013 at 9:57 pm |

      Dangit, I should have scrolled down before I commented.

      Yep, +1 to all this.

  14. gratuitous_violet
    gratuitous_violet July 1, 2013 at 8:15 pm |

    It’s always a good time for That Mitchell and Webb Look:

    TV Ads

    My favorite (awful) TV ads were those Pledge ads with the authoritative male voice-over that locked women in clear glass boxes to do housework. For science!

    I’d also like to note at this point the flipside of the problem. For example, Apple taking YEARS to have an iPhone commercial depicting a woman using it to organize her OWN life, not her child’s.

    Certain things are for women-identified persons. Not fun stuff though, ‘cos everyone knows we get all our recreation through mopping and all our orgasms via Dove chocolate, amirite ladies?

    1. EG
      EG July 1, 2013 at 9:49 pm |

      Don’t be absurd. We get our orgasms through fat-free yogurt.

      1. gratuitous_violet
        gratuitous_violet July 2, 2013 at 2:02 am |

        Have I had this all wrong? I thought it was chocolate for sex and yogurt for friendship! You’ve thrown my whole world upside-down, EG.


        1. The Kittehs' Unpaid Help
          The Kittehs' Unpaid Help July 2, 2013 at 4:01 am |

          If it’s chocolate frozen yogurt, you can have friendly orgasms!

      2. iiii
        iiii July 2, 2013 at 2:42 pm |

        And our laughter from lettuce.

  15. Sally
    Sally July 1, 2013 at 9:56 pm |

    True fact: I once bought a cleaning product based on advertising that featured a teenage boy using it to clean the bathroom quickly. If teenage boys can make bathrooms clean in between tv commercials, then so can I!

  16. Tyris
    Tyris July 2, 2013 at 2:40 am |

    And then there’s Flash, adverts for which feature a man cleaning… after a woman has given up trying at a stubborn patch with “lesser” cleaners he breaks out his secret stash of Flash.

    Where to start?

  17. The Round-Up: July 2, 2013 | Gender Focus – A Canadian Feminist Blog

    […] Humourist Molly Schumann asks why the heck it’s still always women doing the house cleaning in commercials? […]

  18. Lars Fischer
    Lars Fischer July 2, 2013 at 9:17 am |

    I hope I live to see the following commercial: A man stands at the kitchen sink and cuts through greasy buildup on a pile of pots and pans with only one squirt of dishwasher liquid. He does not act as though doing the dishes is a confusing and foreign experience for him, one which he is sure to incompetently screw up, with hilarious results. He does not appear to feel demeaned by the task, nor is it implied that he is doing it grudgingly, in exchange for a reward of sexual favors. Rather, he gets an enormous satisfaction out of the dish-washing experience itself, as most women in commercials do. As he hangs up the dish towel, he smiles like he’s just been awarded the key to the city, and maybe even fist-bumps a floating apparition of Mr. Clean

    I’m with you there, but for realism, could we add in doing the parallel job of making a sandwich for a 5 year old who wants to sit on the kitchen counter while eating, and helping an 11 year old with math homework. And all of it in a kitchen that looks like it’s actually being used by living people, with a bit of dirt and the odd newspapers, toys and whatnot lying about. At least that would take it closer to my everyday reality.

  19. Katy Bacon
    Katy Bacon July 2, 2013 at 12:16 pm |

    I don’t know how it is in other countries, but in the UK there’s also the problem that everyone in a cleaning products commercial is always white. I occasionally see a person of colour in adverts for food or razorblades but when the rubber gloves go on, it’s a white lady every time.

  20. birdie
    birdie July 2, 2013 at 6:34 pm |

    The interesting thing is that tradesmen, who are mostly men, have to learn how to clean up, professionally. Why do we never see them in such commercials? Where I come from, tradesmen are highly respected, and would be a great choice for cleaning commercials.

  21. PushAndShove
    PushAndShove July 3, 2013 at 8:00 pm |

    This commercial on German TV kinda blew my mind.

    1. Lars Fischer
      Lars Fischer July 4, 2013 at 6:32 am |

      So, my instinctive reaction to this was an urge to call out “nooo, not the clothes” when she got near her mother. Fresh, warm chocolate on hard surfaces, not a problem. On light-coloured clothes? Ugh.

  22. Kerplunk
    Kerplunk July 4, 2013 at 9:11 am |

    My boyfriend does most of the cleaning in our house. Not that the house is particularly clean. It’s quite not-clean actually.

    But I think that the reason why cleaning products are advertised to women is that men don’t care what kind of cleaning products they use or buy. My boyfriend will just grab whatever, often a product that is not even intended for the cleaning job at hand.

    Women are taught to take pride in doing a good job of cleaning, so they are expected by advertisers to care enough about the differences between cleaning products to be persuaded to choose one over another.

    1. EG
      EG July 4, 2013 at 9:59 am |

      But I think that the reason why cleaning products are advertised to women is that men don’t care what kind of cleaning products they use or buy.

      That is precisely the kind of thing advertising is meant to address. Otherwise, who could possibly give a shit which brand of toothpaste they buy?

    2. rain
      rain July 4, 2013 at 1:22 pm |

      Women are taught to take pride in doing a good job of cleaning, so they are expected by advertisers to care enough about the differences between cleaning products to be persuaded to choose one over another.

      I think the days of only girls being taught housework were over quite some time ago (i), yet the expectation that women know how to clean and men don’t is still there (ii). And it persists even though a, say, 30 year old man has had enough adult years to learn how to clean that, even if he wasn’t taught anything as a kid, he should be up to speed. Seriously, how long does it take to learn basic housekeeping skills? IOW, it’s not about being taught, it’s about being expected to know how. And what better way to show men that we expect them to know how to clean too than by advertising cleaning products to them?

      i) OK, not in some conservative communities, but most of the people I know won’t openly teach only their daughters how to do dishes or clean their rooms.
      ii) except when it comes to hiring for janitorial positions.

      Besides, it’s easier to convince someone that knows squat about cleaning that there’s a difference between cleaning products. I’ve done a lot of cleaning in my life, and I couldn’t tell you if there’s a difference between Vim, Fantastik, or Mr. Clean (had to look up the brands even). I imagine the difference between cleaning products is similar to the taste difference between beer brands, which is a difference created by marketing, and that the more you know about cleaning or beer, the less receptive you are to the pitch.

      1. Lolagirl
        Lolagirl July 4, 2013 at 2:11 pm |

        I definitely agree that the days of boys/men not being raised with the expectation that they will have to clean up after themselves is over. And it think the whole guys don’t care if stuff is clean or not is gender essentialist nonsense, I think it’s more often than not people in general don’t care, regardless of sex or gender.

        Although I do disagree that there is zero difference between similar products and that it’s all about marketing what we buy, be it toothpaste, or soda, or bathroom cleaner. I have figured out from trial and error which brands work better than others with less effort on my part (basically anything Clorox with lots of polluting bleach in it) and that Pepsi does taste better than Coke. And I didn’t need to have my lady brain washed to figure it out either.

        *Mr. Clean blows because it leaves a film if not rinsed copiously. I have no time for that. And yes, I have perhaps put too much thought into it, whatever it takes to only require the shower getting cleaned every fortnight instead of a couple of times a week.

        1. EG
          EG July 4, 2013 at 4:51 pm |

          Ha! See, I didn’t use soda because Coke is clearly superior to Pepsi in and of itself. I was looking for a product that I couldn’t see any difference at all in. Toothpaste fit the bill for me, but substitute whatever works for you.

        2. Donna L
          Donna L July 4, 2013 at 5:22 pm |

          Pepsi does taste better than Coke.

          You’re not serious, are you?

        3. Lolagirl
          Lolagirl July 4, 2013 at 7:14 pm |

          HDU perpetuate such blasphemy! Coke better than Pepsi? Foe! I feel so betrayed, so misunderstood, how, why?!?!

          LOL, maybe this is an East Coast v Midwest thing?

          *i base my presumptions on the Diet iterations of these sodas, whereby Diet Coke tastes like Pine Sol. Poor cleaning capacity plus stinkiness, minus tastes like crap, equals losing proposition in my book.

        4. rain
          rain July 5, 2013 at 12:16 pm |

          I definitely agree that the days of boys/men not being raised with the expectation that they will have to clean up after themselves is over.

          If that is in response to my comment, that is not what I was saying:

          yet the expectation that women know how to clean and men don’t is still there

          I was saying that boys/men *are* still being raised to expect that women will clean up after them. It’s why “men don’t see dirt” is still a popular notion, as well as “women have higher standards” or “men don’t care”, and why, even though people will claim to believe that housework isn’t just women’s work, women still do a disproportionate amount of housework, as well as most of the managing of tasks (ie. having responsibility for the work, spending mental energy thinking about what needs to be done, delegating), even when we look at a younger, generally more progressive, demographic.

          So my comment was actually talking more about how girls are not taught housekeeping skills like back in the day. There’s still a common perception, something I see trotted out whenever there’s a gender and housework discussion, that girls are trained to do housework and boys aren’t, and that’s why women can see dirt and are better at cleaning. But I don’t think that’s true. I don’t think I’m unusual in not being taught how to cook by my mother (the credit for that goes to the restaurant kitchen I worked in my last year of high school). I didn’t ask how to use a washer/dryer until the week before I moved out (I know, shame on me). And I just had to straighten out the clutter in my room; Mommy did the vacuuming and dusting. Yet, there’s always been the expectation that I know how to do these things, even thought I was not, as Kerplunk said, “taught to take pride in doing a good job of cleaning”.

          tl;dr Getting people to assume responsibility for cleaning requires no training; merely having the expectation is sufficient. So advertising cleaning products to men is a good tool for cultivating this expectation.

          But you’re 100% correct that Pepsi tastes better than Coke.

        5. Lolagirl
          Lolagirl July 5, 2013 at 2:49 pm |

          Sorry for misreading you, Rain.

          I’m not so sure on the not needing to teach cleaning skills for people to be able to get it. My kids didn’t get how to clean the baseboards or the toilet or whatever until we showed them specifically how to do it. Especially the detailed stuff, ie get into the cracks and crevices, that does not seem to be an innate human trait for most folks, ime.

          I agree that advertising cleaning products to men is a net positive. I recently saw an ad for baby wipes that portrayed a group of playgroup dads feeding their kids a meal and then cleaning up the babes afterwards. All without a shred of irony or dad deserves a cookie for babysitting, feeding, and cleaning up after kiddo crap. I nearly wept with this is how it ought-a be…

    3. Lars Fischer
      Lars Fischer July 4, 2013 at 7:27 pm |

      But I think that the reason why cleaning products are advertised to women is that men don’t care what kind of cleaning products they use or buy. My boyfriend will just grab whatever, often a product that is not even intended for the cleaning job at hand.

      Speaking as a dude, I do care – at least I care enough to use the right tools for the job. And if possible that I use something that is not doing too much environmental damage or is otherwise a health risk.

      But I’m definitely part of the if-it-ain’t-broke-don’t-fix-it crowd – dunno if that’s a guy thing. Once I’ve picked a cleaning product, a brand of soap, a shampoo, whatever, I will stick with it for ages unless something is badly wrong. And since I do 98% of the grocery shopping ’round here, there’s about zero chance that advertising will change what we use.

  23. Amelia the Lurker
    Amelia the Lurker July 6, 2013 at 12:58 am |

    Slightly off topic, but this reminds me of an ad I saw on Facebook a few years back. It was a cartoony image of a woman with 60s-style hair and clothing, accompanied by the text, “Is your mom a Tide mom?”

  24. link farm #2: the tennis edition |

    […] A Woman’s Right To Chores – Over on Feministe, Molly Schoemann writes a light-hearted screed on strangely old-fashioned advertising for cleaning products. Come for the lols, stay for the comments full of “BUT THAT’S NOT SEXISM IT’S MARKETING IT’S NOT SEXIST IF IT SELLS.” […]

  25. On Housework | Lynley Stace
    On Housework | Lynley Stace July 10, 2013 at 2:47 am |

    […] Molly Schoemann asks: “Why is it that in television commercials for cleaning products, women are still doing all the work? We’re still the only ones trailing our fingers ruefully over dusty tabletops, fretting over grass stains on soccer uniforms, and grimacing through smudged windows.” at Feministe. […]

  26. firelizard19
    firelizard19 July 11, 2013 at 12:16 am |

    I know I’m coming a little late to this thread, but this has bothered me *forever*! Why can’t Dad have the Magic of Clorox? Why are husbands lumped in with kids in all these ads- that’s offensive to men and women alike, what’s with that?

    Also, I was the only woman in a house full of men in my last roommate situation, and every time someone heard me mention this, they’d ask if they were all slobs… honestly, I was the messiest one in the whole place! My room was awful! And they didn’t whine about hand-washing dishes, while I used to put it off, stacking and stacking dishes until I had to just do it already.

  27. born in east LA
    born in east LA July 11, 2013 at 1:09 pm |

    this may be a little off topic, but has anybody noticed in commercials about food, the wifey-mommy never puts a single bite into her own mouth, and seldom sits down at the table with hubby and the kids? sorry if this has already been addressed—i will admit i didnt slog thru every last comment

  28. 7 things @ 11 o’clock (8.2)
    7 things @ 11 o’clock (8.2) August 2, 2013 at 11:10 am |

    […] 5. Ads we’d like to see, from Molly Schoemann: […]

  29. The Commercials I’d Like To See — The Good Men Project

    […] Molly Schoemann is absolutely right about the bizarrely retrograde gender attitudes in commercials for cleaning products. It’s always women doing the cleaning, and when men appear, they’re presented as hopelessly incompetent, the simplest cleaning tasks utterly beyond them. Let’s face it, that’s insulting up one side and down the other. (Though to be fair, commenters pointed out one recent Tide ad that fights this stereotype.) […]

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