Selling sexism: Swiffer sweeps away decades of progress

The Southerner

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The housewife is synonymous with the American 1950s. An image of a young, thin, fresh-faced woman with a vacuum in one hand and her baby boy in the other comes to mind. She has cleaned the whole house and prepared dinner for when her husband comes home from work. It is only 4 p.m.

Society today, supposedly, has abandoned that image. The modern woman is a powerful and prominent member of society. So, why is it that many commercial industries run advertisements that seem to be trapped more than 60 years in the past?

Currently, Swiffer Household Cleaning Products, owned by Procter&Gamble, is airing a string of commercials which seem to be paying homage to the aforementioned housewife. The advertisements depict middle-aged women using Swiffer products to do their household chores. If we just stop there the ad poses an interesting question. Why are only women cleaning?

That alone would be enough of a problem. This major company is supporting a stereotype completely irrelevant to today’s society.

But, oh no, it does not end there. 

 Swiffer promises a “Great Clean in Less Time,” The commercials show the women in shock and awe that she is finished with her daily dose of menial labor so quickly.

“I’m done!” she rejoices rapturously. 

 The ads then show the incredible opportunities a woman has after finishing her household chores. Now, she will finally have time to read that mystery novel. Or sit on her rocking chair drinking ice tea. Or even take a relaxing bubble bath. 

 It seems that Swiffer is insinuating that a woman has nothing better to do with her time than slave away cleaning the house with a nifty new Swiffer WetJet. So, when she unexpectedly finishes her duty before she have to go pick up her kids from school, she get a chance to live her wildest dreams.

Hold on. Why are none of these women at work? Sure, the housewife is a common stereotype, but the modern woman completely negates this stereotype.

The U.S Department of Labor stated that in 2010, of the 123 million women over the age of 16, 17 million or 58.6 percent were working or looking for work. Women comprised a total of 47 percent of the workforce. Today’s women hold 51.5 percent of high paying management positions. That leaves little time for dusting the television screen, even with “electro-static dry cloths,” whatever those are.

Did Swiffer just not account for these women? Are these ads targeting the 41.4 percent of women who have time to run around the house cleaning all day? Or is it far worse: Does this company even realize what it is doing?

Swiffer appears almost naïve in its ads. Perhaps the company feels like its commercials are empowering women, exposing the consumer to the effort women put into making their houses look their best. In fact, in the commercials, the men are often portrayed as bumbling idiots.

I commend Swiffer on their efforts, but the company seems to think women enjoy cleaning. If Swiffer actually wanted to make a statement then why would it fill the roles of the house cleaner with exclusively women?

 Swiffer’s ads, however, must be reeling some people in. In 2011, UXE White Pages reported that Swiffer brings P&G $500 million annually. Furthermore, P&G annual reports claims that Swiffer is the number one cleaning system brand in the world with sales doubling in the past five years.

It must be because women feel comforted by the Swiffer Wet Jet pads which are designed to combine the absorbent core of our favorite feminine hygiene products with the flexible surface levels of baby care products with which we are so familiar.

It has been obvious since the beginning of commercial advertisement that sex sells, and now, apparently, so does sexism.


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