Breaking the Barriers of Gender Roles
Breaking gender role barriers is an important part of brands in taking action against the stereotypes that have been perpetuated within our own society. These three campaigns each stand out for both positive reinforcement, as well as public stances that backtrack on the progress our society has made.
Mr. Clean “Cleaner Of Your Dreams”, 2017.
This advertisement from 2017 was attempted to appeal to both men and women. The ad shows a women being disappointed by the stains on her stove, when Mr. Clean appears and essentially sweeps her off her feet and then begins cleaning. The woman is mesmerized, dancing, and eventually you hear a man call out her name a few times until she snaps back into reality. “You cleaning?”, he asks. She runs over to grab him and begins kissing him, and they both fall over onto the couch. “You gotta love a man who cleans” appears on the screen. The issue with this advertisement is that while it appeals to sex, it also suggests that men are typically not expected to clean, and that when doing so they should be rewarded, in this case by sex. This is problematic because it fulfills the notion that men don’t clean, and only women do. These gender roles are harmful to play on in advertisements because it is sending a message that these notions are standard. Gender roles are not defined, as most things, like cleaning, are not gender specific. By enforcing this gender role as well as trying to create a sex appeal, seems like a failed attempt at what was actually meant to not settle into gender roles, but gender roles cannot be assigned. Additionally, it seemed as though the advertisement was trying to fight against the sentiment of the male gaze. The male gaze is the act of male(s) depicting female(s) explicitly in a heterosexual nature, presenting women as sexual objects or simply existing for the pleasure of a man’s viewing. It seems as though the Mr. Clean advertisement was trying to make fun of this concept, and create a differing viewpoint. It still does not work though, as enforcing stereotypical gender roles creates a sexist brand image, even if that’s what they were trying to avoid.
MA Vote No On 3, 2018.
This advertisement from 2018 was a political campaign video in Massachusetts regarding the bathroom bill that allowed transgender people to use the restroom coinciding with the gender they identified with, if it was not the one assigned at birth. The advertisement is anti-trans, and could be seen as propaganda in the attempt to appeal the bill. The video is narrated by a woman, arguing that any man who claims to bea woman, can enter any women’s bathroom, locker room, or dressing room. She stresses that even sex offenders are allowed to do so, and that if you are the one to report it, you could be arrested and fined up to $50,000. As the woman is narrating, the video shows a man wearing a hoodie with his face covered entering a women’s bathroom and locker room, and entering a stall. A few moments later, a young girl follows in after and as she begins to undress, the man opens the stall door. The video pans in on the girl, who looks horrified and begins to breathe intensely, suggesting she is scared or about to get attacked. This advertisement is extremely troubling, for many reasons. First, the narration. The entire narration is explicitly about men praying on women, suggesting that by allowing a trans-woman to use a women’s bathroom stall, locker room, or dressing room, they are doing so with the intention of assaulting or harassing cisgender women. It also disregards trans-people as a whole, because the “risk” of a sex offender entering a women’s bathroom is too high to allow a trans-person to use the bathroom of the gender in which they identify with. This again enforces the concept of the male gaze, by suggesting that a trans-person is acting based on sexual intent, rather than just choosing to be themselves and go where they identify and feel comfortable with. Additionally, the advertisement resorts to fear mongering over sexual predators in order to make their case. This is problematic in that it is suggesting that transgender people are something to be scared of. While it is possible that there is a transgender sex offender, that is the exception and not the rule. Denying basic rights to a human due to fear factor only settles deeper into gender roles and discrimination. The reactions to the advertisement were negative and stopped being played to the public. Additionally, after being aired for the first time it was discovered that the video was filmed inside of a Wegmans, without permission, which also caused the advertisement to be pulled.
Gillette “The Best Men Can Be”, 2019.
This recent advertisement launched by Gillette, typically best known for being a men’s shaving and hygiene brand, ignited a major debate. The advertisement pans over boys and men, of all ages, races, and ethnicities, accompanied by a narration; “Bullying, the Me Too movement”, are among some of the news titles heard read off. It’s then followed with “Is this the best men can be?”, and continues to show a variety of boys and men partaking in actions ranging from sexual harassment, sexual assault, fighting, being bullied, mansplaining, and more. Eventually, the tone of the dialogue changes, as Gillette introduces their stance on the topic- that they believe the best in men. An array of different news broadcasts are played, mostly of men addressing their need to take accountability and hold other men responsible. It follows with other clips of men correcting other mens actions, like verbal sexual harassment, physical fighting, or catcalling. It finishes by saying “The boys of today, will be the men of tomorrow”. In all, this advertisement was a brave and necessary stand and succeeded in portraying an important message that not just men, but everyone needs to hear. It broke down masculinity and showcased men taking a stand, even while some stood in the background watching. This was highly successful for Gillette, as their targeted audience is teenage boys and older.
While some of these advertisements majorly missed the mark, it is important to also recognize the ones that took a stand to fight gender biases. As our society grows as a whole, it is crucial for companies and organizations to take a stance to fight against gender roles and fight for equality. It is equally important to discuss and make awareness of the ones that didn’t completely get it- but the effort of trying to reconcile and fix past marketing mistakes is always better than doing nothing at all.