by Preet Mondair
This advertisement for the Rose Petal Cottage lures in the child with the catchy music, bright colours, and by portraying a happy young girl; just like the audience this ad is directed towards.
But wait, there’s another one, directed to another audience, the mothers!
If you haven’t already, take a look at the videos above and pay close attention to the lyrics.
These commercials do nothing except degrade women and encourage young girls to become domesticated housewives all their lives. These commercials teach young girls that doing laundry and baking muffins are the means to happiness, that taking care of your home is a dream come true. They teach girls that a home is where she can put her real skills to use as she decorates, bakes, and cleans. It teaches a girl that her home is where she belongs and where she should remain. This commercial is latently telling girls that dreams begin and grow in the home. Through the lyrics, young girls receive the message that there is no need to step outside the home to fulfill their imagination.
In society, women are most popularly stereotyped to be householders and stay at home mothers or wives that enjoy taking care of their homes and families (like portrayed in the commercial for the Rose Petal Cottage). Notice that we don’t see a brother or a father in this commercial. We don’t see any males because the makers of these commercials are most likely conforming with the norm of patriarchy in society.
The father is most likely to be at work, while the son is outside playing on the street with other boys from the neighbourhood. Society has created over simplified concepts about men and women which leave us expecting certain attitudes and behaviors from each gender. What is gender anyway? Human biology distinguishes us from male and female, but gender is merely socially constructed ideologies put into place over time.
These subtle forms of sexism are often disregarded or unidentifiable to the general public, but by mixing music and catchy lyrics, corporations like Hasbro and Playskool are indirectly programming young girls to become housewives and reminding them of their roles as women and what their place is in the household.
Not only do such advertisements affect young girls, but they affect young boys, too. During a commercial break on TV, a young boy is exposed to many advertisements. I’m sure there are countless examples of sexism, but let’s just stick with the Rose Petal Cottage for now. When seeing this commercial, the young boy establishes in his head that women and girls are supposed to be caretakers of the home. Being constantly exposed to these subtle forms of sexism can create major issues for children growing up. For example, a girl that enjoys playing sports and dressing more loosely is called a tomboy. Also there is a distinguishing of toys made for girls and toys made for boys. A boy playing with a Barbie is made fun of and assumed to be gay while a girl playing with a toy gun is said to be butch. Such advertisements for toys create differences between girls and boys and establish gender inequalities and sexist attitudes from a young age. They are socialized through the media to believe that males and females have specific roles to live up to and most children grow up conforming to such standards set by society.
Please see an important blog post How Toy Ad Vocabulary Reinforces Gender Stereotypes for additional analysis.
Preet Mondair is participating in Violence, Media Representations and Families a media literacy program joint initiative between Kwantlen Polytechnic University Sociology Department, First Voices and Battered Women’s Support Services