Gender stereotypes much?

An interesting advertisement in the September 2011 issue of Good Housekeeping caught my eye. While we’re on the topic, who signed me up to receive Good Housekeeping and The Good News? I’m not complaining – I enjoy reading about other world views and I use all the best images to make buttons, which keeps me off the streets and out of the pool halls. And those are far from the strangest things we’ve ever gotten in the mail. [More on this in a later post.] I’m just curious as to who is being so free and easy with dispensing our mailing address.

To the advertisement!

This two page JC Penney ad was quite near the front of the magazine.

When I told my partner to look at this and tell me what he saw, Jim Jim said something along the lines of “heteronormative gender stereotypes – active males, passive females – and fall fashion.” He knows me so well. While I do love me some fall fashion, what I enjoy even more is pointing out all of the ridiculous re-assertions of heteronormative gender stereotypes in The Media.

In this case, I would say that there is literally a division between the female models, posed on the left in ornamental skinny jeans, suede boots, and a ribbed blouse for the “daughter / sister” figure and jewelry (necklace, earrings), a ruffled blouse, a flowing sweater, leather boots, and a fancy belt for the “mother / wife” figure. These two are not dressed for yard work! They are dressed for standing around looking fancy. (But they do look FAN-cy.) They both have those useless leg pockets, too (the pockets that you put stuff in if you want to look like you have a tumor before you lose your cell phone by sitting down).

On the right, you have an active “father / husband” figure pushing a wheelbarrow, wearing three layers of buttoned shirts (functional and fashionable!). His ornamentation consists of a watch and glasses – both equally functional and fashionable (for telling time and seeing, respectively). The “son / brother” figure is in the wheelbarrow, being an adorable hindrance to yardwork, and his foot carries into the page on the left (indicating, perhaps, his continued reliance on the attention of the feminized figures at his young age?). Both male models sport yardwork appropriate footwear.

While I am a big fan of books, lawn chairs, American flags, pretty houses, and jumping in leaves, I have to say that this ad left me with a lot of fist-shaking, fall fashion ideas, and the need to Tell Somebody.

Really, it reminded me of the Free to be a Family record that my sisters and I used to listen to (and sing along with) all the time. Specifically, I thought of the charming story “The Day Dad Made Toast” by Sarah Durkee, which was related (in one take!) by the talented Robin Williams, who did all the voices and sound effects. It goes like this:

I’ll never forget the day Dad made toast. It was a sunny Saturday morning in late October near Halloween. I remember it was Halloween because Mom was outside putting up a scarecrow with a pumpkin head up on the roof. Dad was in bed.
“Hey kids…” Dad yelled, “Come here!”
My older sister Lucy, my little brother Danny and I were busy watching cartoons, but we ran up stairs during a commercial.
Dad broke the big news, “I’m gonna make toast.”
“Wow!” we cried.
“And we’re not your ordinary hohum toast, believe you me… we’re talking Dad’s Special Cinnamon Toast. And I don’t want your Mom to lift a finger. I’m handling the whole thing.” He jabbed his first in the air like a football coach and said, “Let’s hit that kitchen team.”
We raced him down stairs. “Now let’s see, plates…”
Mom knocked on the door with her elbow, she was lugging two pots of geraniums. Dad flung open the door, and gave her a kiss. “Breakfast is coming right up angel face, I’m making my special cinnamon toast. Just leave everything to me, you’re gonna love it.”
Mom’s voice drifted back from the family room, “Terrific, hon!”
“Uh, Linda?” he called. “Where are the big blue plates?”
“In the dishwasher.”
Danny and I got the dishes and the juice glasses from the dishwasher and started to put them on the table.
“No, no kids, the plates have to be preheated, that’s what they do in fancy restaurants.” He grabbed the plates, put them in the oven, and turned away.
“Oh,” we said. We turned the oven on. Dad’s very absent-minded.
Mom came back in dragging the vacuum cleaner behind her. She picked up the phone and called her office. “Hi, it’s me. I spoke to the Blums and they’re willing to go to seventy-three five. They’d like to pass papers on Thursday.” Mom’s a real estate agent. They all talk like that.
“OK, let’s get this show on the road, Johnny!” That’s me.
“We need about a dozen slices of bread. White bread, not the healthy kind, the healthy bread doesn’t work. Now where’s that toaster?”
“Here Dad.” Danny giggled. It had a quilted toaster cover over it.
“Why would any body want to cover up a toaster?”
Lucy and I tried not to laugh, but Danny was too young to know any better.
Dad got out the toaster as Mom came through on her way down to the laundry room with two armloads of dirty clothes. “Sugar?”
“Yes, cupcake?”
“No, honey, I mean where’s the sugar?”
“On the bottom shelf,” she called over her shoulder.
“Right! Okay, kids, let’s start toasting that bread.”
Mom stated a buzz saw in the basement. She’s been building new shelves for the family room. Also a new sun deck. Also an addition to the garage. Mom came up from the basement lugging a bag of cement mix.
“How’s that first batch of toast coming you guys,” Dad said to Danny and me.
“Okay,” I said. “What shall we do with it when it’s done?”
“Butter it and bring it over to me and Lucy fast.”
Mom muscled the cement mix out the kitchen door. “There’s orange juice in the fridge,” she called over her shoulder.
“Don’t you budge, sweetie!” Dad called after her. “I’ll take care of everything.”
Danny poured the juice and put the napkins on the table. I kept buttering the toast when it popped up, and immediately brought it to Dad who immediately sprinkled it with the cinnamon mixture then immediately gave it to Lucy who immediately put it in the oven with the preheated plates.
Once we got out system down pat, Dad relaxed a little.
“You know kids, times have really changed. I mean my father wouldn’t be caught dead doing any housework. But we’re modern families now. You have a manly guy like me pitching in like this after a hard week’s work making breakfast so his wife can take little break. It’s beautiful isn’t it?”
“It’s beautiful, Dad.”
Mom knocked on the door with her elbow again. Dad rushed over to let her in. “Ready for the most delicious toast you’ve ever had in you life?”
“I’ll need to wash my hands first.” Mom washed her hands in the sink, and Lucy, Danny, and I sat down at the table.
“And now… for the piece de resistance! Dad’s Special Toast!”
“Yaaaay!!!” we all cheered. “Hooray for Dad.” We applauded.
Dad took a bow and sat down to eat. We all munched in silence for a minute.
Then Danny spoke up. “What’s the big deal? All he did was make toast.”
“Danny,” Lucy scolded, “that’s not very nice. Dad, it’s really great toast.”
We all went back to munching.
“But Mom does a million times more house work every day and we hardly ever thank her at all. We never yell, Yaaay.”
Everyone was quiet.
Then Dad took a deep breath. He started yelling, “YAY!” And so did Danny and Lucy and I. And we all made Mom get up and take a bow.
She blew a kiss like a movie star and raised her glass of orange juice. “A toast,” she declared.
“A toast,” said Lucy
A toast,” said Dad holding up a piece of toast.
“To my loving husband.”
“Hear, hear.”
“To my perfect, helpful children.”
“To the yard!”
“To the yard, let’s say we work off some of this hearty breakfast.”
She headed for the door then turned and winked. “Oh, by the way, what are you guys making for lunch?”
P.S. We went out for pizza.

Coupled with a stern admonition to be critical about what you see in JC Penney (and other) advertisements, I’d like to leave you with a reminder to thank a lady in your life for all that she does. You can thank a dude, too, especially if he makes you some really good toast.

This entry was posted in Category Awesome. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Gender stereotypes much?

  1. Pingback: Tools of the trade, a la Katie Beaton | This dissertation is going to be fun, like dessert

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s