Men in laundry commercials a positive step forward for equality


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Isabel Phillips

When I think of feminism, laundry commercials don’t usually come to mind. However, laundry commercials have an interesting history that has followed the trend of the feminist movement.

In the 1950’s, when women were still seen as simply ladies of the house, laundry commercials appealed to the idea of maintaining a perfect home by showing women with perfect hair, makeup and outfits doing the laundry. Their goal was to convince women in America that they needed to be like these women in the commercials: flawless.

As the 1970’s came around, the tone shifted a bit, but the sexist backdrop of these commercials remained. It became more acceptable for women to have jobs, and the laundry detergent industry used this to their advantage. The new narrative marketed laundry as being easy and fast to use for working, busy women.

Although laundry commercials embraced the idea of women with jobs, they still implied that it was also the job of women to do laundry for her family. As time went on, the narrative did not change much. Women were shown teaching their daughters how to do laundry, essentially passing down the tradition to the future female generation; the idea that a man could do laundry was still unfathomable.

Laundry detergent brands seem to have finally realized that this is a gender-neutral activity. Although laundry commercials may seem insignificant in terms of feminism, they actually reflect a bigger problem within our society.

Commercials have historically reflected what society deems as acceptable. Commercials are not known for pushing boundaries or societal norms (with a few exceptions). They tend to play it safe and show what is expected and typical for middle class America. It is for this reason that recent commercials showing men doing laundry is a positive sign for our society.

With the issue of toxic masculinity being so prevalent today, it is just as important now as it was in the ’50’s for men to be shown doing jobs that have traditionally been used to silence women.

As long as laundry commercials continue to only show women, society will continue to believe that a woman’s place is in the house. Breaking down gender roles is crucial for moving forward as a society and portraying this idea of gender equality in commercials is one of the easiest ways of reaching the general public. Placing men in laundry commercials is one of the best ways to use media to break down the stigma of gender differences within our society.