“THE PLACE OF A WOMAN IS IN THE KITCHEN” – PART I
Women and their stereotypes. In the 21st century societies, this is probably the most dangerous connection you can do. Nowadays, the world is facing women – legitimate – anger about the labels and ideas that during centuries of civilizations helped to create. Seen as the weaker element, bad drivers or perfect housekeepers, these over-generalized beliefs change from country to country and can be spread in different ways, affecting the perception about women around the globe.
Let us now focus our attention on the most famous (and maybe common) stereotypes: the women’s natural skills to be housekeepers and their “duty” in society. It is hard to understand where this idea came from, but the results of the existence of the “theory”, even today, are in front of our eyes. Also, it is not that hard to find ways that, some years ago, helped to spread and confirm the idea that the place of the woman was “behind the oven”. Publicity was one the ways.
WOMAN: ADVERTISER’S MUSE OR STEREOTYPE EFFECT?
Personality, I really want to believe that none of the options is correct. Actually, I want to believe that the creators behind the 50’s and 60’s popular commercials, unconsciously, were caught in the stereotypes’ wave of that era when they came up with some campaigns. It is impossible to accept it nowadays, but let us try to understand the social context of the past and take this as an example.
Back in the glamorous decades of 1950, publicity in western countries was on fire while minds were getting more and more conservative. The efforts for gender equality and progression made at the beginning of the century were fading into new rigid mindsets were the role of the women as a housekeeper was very well accepted. The following images are a clear example of it.
Attention: the next images can present disrespectful and abusive content. I really hope the images shock you… if not, rethinking some of your mind concepts.
- Housekeeping tasks: women’s paradise?
Three commercials, 3 “lucky” women! The first commercial suggests a great product that releases women from washing dishes sooner; in the second one, we can see an alternative to the “poor” men that can not count on a lady cooking for him when he arrives home – “luckily” the woman in the image has a man to cook for…; to finish, the “luckiest” of them all… can you imagine how better the Christmas can be for a woman when she receives a brand new vacuum cleaner?!
Sorry, I can’t.
For sure, there are a lot of women – and men – that really enjoy to spend hours cooking or even cleaning. What, in my opinion, it is pretty wrong about these images, is the easy objectification of women as a housekeeper tool and the submission to men that these commercials deliberately present. Take a moment and notice that attending to this narrative, there is 0% option for finding a man doing these kinds of tasks and, in other perspectives, women’s job is resumed to this… house care.
Are you shocked? Let us talk a bit about more submission…
- Your wife is broken? Buy a brand new one!
It is a man’s world… at least that is what the first commercial suggests, so everything can happen! Let us pay attention to four more examples and find four more “lucky” and submissive women. Why? They all have a man to please… let us see the first one: what a woman wants more than a male chauvinist at home? Nothing! So, if you have a good example in your house, please do not let him leave… Moving to the second example, I can not say more than “no comments”. The third one can start a very long conversation, so let us make it simple and hope that the creator of this very commercial is ashamed to come up with this portrait of violence and submission as a funny business. Oh, it is in the last example where we can find the “luckiest” of the “lucky” girls: she has the most understanding husband of all… such a positive point of view: she burnt the dinner, but at least they have the beer! How nice is he to forgive such a big mistake?
This group of commercials, in my opinion, transcended the previous one. The labeling of a woman as auto-submissive to man is worrisome and, attending to some images, it can suggest this natural women’s mood can guide them to accept punishments from men. It is even simple – at least to my eyes – that some adds where made to sell specific products but also the women as a man property. Some interpretations of this content appoint to a woman as a weak and without critical mind member in the family.
Talking about weakness…
- Seriously, what can a woman do without a man?
Thanks to the company that ordered this commercial… at least, any woman can open this bottle now! Fantastic, we all know that all women are physically weak… In terms of image, the association of a woman figure to a culinary product can be a starting point to discuss stereotype but I think it is going too far, so I will only talk about the “killing” sentence. A simple bunch of words can be the way to help minds creating general ideas and, to be associated with commercial purposes, it becomes more serious. In this commercial, the women’s weakness and men’s superiority is shared without reason presenting one of the worst and illogical examples of chauvinism.
As I said before, I am trying to understand some advertisements attending to the social context of that era but after analyzing clearly all these commercials, I really get my mind blocked. I must admit that my ironic tone is becoming more and more caustic, but it results of my perplexity about how can such ideas be considered acceptable in a past with just some decades of distance and the no sense of social responsibility/ethics that some advertisers and companies showed.
Assuming these general concepts as indisputable truths, I am pretty sure that publicity and media – associated with their natural ability to manipulate human minds – had an important role spreading such ideas in society and in shaping such beliefs as part of the culture. Nowadays, this problem is still happening and we should act in order to avoid the unconscious acceptance of this poorly substantiated messages that, in an ending line, can lead us to racism, violence… I think we all know where generalizations can take us…
By Ricardo Leitão