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Influence of Advertisements on Gender Roles

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Influence of Advertisements on Gender Roles

Nicole Pisano                                                                        July 21, 2014

The Influence of Advertisements on Gender Roles

Advertisements, editorials, magazines, newspapers and other forms of media in the 1950s highlighted the stereotype of the woman being the bread-maker and the man being the bread-winner. Through the years, the gender roles of men and women have changed. Now, we see men doing laundry, cooking, and cleaning. Some men stay at home while their wives go to work and make the money that supports the family. Unlike the 1950s, in the aspect of home life the husband and wife are considered to be equals. Men are not stripped of their masculinity just because they do what is considered to be women’s work. Today women are encouraged to rely on themselves and not look for a man to support them. Advertisements that were published during the 1950s show how the influence of consumerism impacted the “American Dream” as technological advancements made in household appliances made many daily chores easier to complete.

  The positions of the individuals of the advertisements, their characteristics of, the types of products being advertised, and the messages, both clear and hidden, all promote the “American Dream.” This consumer movement instilled the idea to many people that women ‘belonged in the kitchen’. Today, the roles have changed. Yes women are still seen cooking, cleaning, and taking care of the family, but she is also holding down a full time job. This shows women as being strong and independent and holding a lot of power. In most households, men are still considered to be the bread winner, but today men are also seen doing the cleaning and cooking, while still considered being  rugged and manly. This shows us how the gender roles of men and women are stereotyped, and how through the years they have changed. Just because men are seen doing house work does not consider them to be less of a man.; it shows the equality between a husband and wife and how they both contribute the same effort to keeping their household up and running. This is seen more in the younger generations.  

Take my grandparent’s generation for example, for them, the gender roles remains the same for them as it did back then. The women would do the cooking and the cleaning and wait on the man hand and foot, and the man would take care and maintain of the outside part of the home; mowing the lawn, washing the car, taking out the trash, and fixing anything that was broken. They lived like that for fifty years with no problems. Nowadays as each decade passed, women have been feeling more and more empowered wanting to support and take care of themselves. Women were tired of being told what to do and when to do it by their husbands. This is when the roles of men and women have begun to change.

In the 1950s, women were stereotyped as unemployed, low income earners, non working women in decorative roles and idle situations, and having limited buying power. Most women who were shown in non-working roles, took place in the home. They were seen cooking and cleaning and using new electrical appliances such as a vacuum cleaner or a washing machine. Women, who did hold jobs, were shown in secretarial, clerical, or blue collar positions. Women holding these positions were portrayed as subservient to their male co workers. Working women were almost always shown isolated, working by themselves. They were always separated from others either by desks, walls, or machines. Non working women were shown as decorative elements in advertisements. They would be shown reclining on the beach, seated in a formal living room, or modeling clothes or jewelry.  It was customary to find a woman decoratively portrayed than performing housewifely duties which would serve to advertise the products involved. Products such as linens, health care products, and small kitchen items, vital purchasing decisions were made solely by the man. Items such as cars, stocks and bonds, and big machinery were left entirely up to the men. (Belkaoui,169).

In today’s society, advertisements being shown in regards to products intended to take on the house roles, such as washing dishes, clothes and floors, are still aimed toward women. It is rare that men are used to demonstrate cleaning products, unless it is showing their masculinity. An example of this is cleaning icon, ‘Mr. Clean.’ Mr. Clean has muscles, and is big and strong; he is very military- like. Today it is acceptable to have men be the spokes persons for products that would normally be represented by women. By using men’s tough and strong exterior, it makes cleaning products sellable. Another perfect example of this is the ‘Dad Mom’ Tide commercial. Tide Laundry Detergent is using its newest commercials to reach an expanding demographic of men who do laundry. This is a welcome change, as men are equally capable of doing laundry as women are. This commercial introduces the newest blend of homemaker, the “dad-mom.” In this commercial, we see a stay at home dad who is not ashamed to stay home and do the laundry while his wife goes to work. He has no qualms with these assigned roles. To validate the “dad-mom’s” masculinity the commercial ends with him leaving the room to go do crunches and pull ups so that the “brute strength of dad” is not diminished by his ability to fold his daughter’s “frilliest girl dress” (Tide commercial).

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