Last night, while watching football and then the Golden Globes (hooray for the awesome Amy Poehler and Tina Fey!), I encountered several Target “Everyday Collection” commercials. Perhaps the one that I remember most (maybe because I tweeted about it), was the diaper rodeo:
After seeing this commercial, and the lightbulb, oatmeal and cake mix commercials, I became troubled and bothered and a little speechless.
WTF? That Target wipes commercial was…I have no words. #GoldenGlobes
— Sara Puotinen (@undisciplined) January 14, 2013
There are many different things about this campaign that bother me, but I thought I’d focus on how these commercials reinforce household chores as women’s responsibility (so far, I haven’t seen any men making oatmeal or doing laundry) and then, by turning these everyday practices into excessively glamorous events, ignore, devalue or erase the fact that they are difficult and often unpleasant labor.
I suppose you could argue that the ridiculously stylized depiction of domestic work is intended as a parody of representations of women doing household work (or of this work as fun and glamorous…and adventurous?). I’m not feeling that.
I want to put this commercial and my thoughts about how domestic labor is ignored, devalued and erased beside Carol Channing’s song, Housework, for Free to be…You and Me. Here are the lyrics:
You know, there are times when we happen to be
Just sitting there, quietly watching TV,
When the program we’re watching will stop for a while
And suddenly someone appears with a smile,
And starts to show us how terribly urgent
It is to buy some brand of detergent,
Or soap or cleanser or cleaner or powder or paste or wax or bleach,
To help with the housework.
Now, most of the time it’s a lady we see,
Who’s doing the housework on TV.
She’s cheerfully scouring a skillet or two,
Or she’s polishing pots till they gleam like new,
Or she’s scrubbing the tub or she’s mopping the floors,
Or she’s wiping the stains from the walls and the doors,
Or she’s washing the windows, the dishes, the clothes,
Or waxing the furniture till it just glows,
Or cleaning the fridge or the stove or the sink,
With a light-hearted smile, and a friendly wink,
And she’s doing her best to make us think
The her soap, or detergent or cleanser or cleaner or powder or paste or wax or bleach,
Is the best kind of soap, or detergent or cleanser or cleaner or powder or paste or wax or bleach,
That there is in the whole wide world.
And, maybe it is, and maybe it isn’t,
And maybe it does what they say it will do,
But I’ll tell you one thing I know is true.
The lady we see when we’re watching TV,
The lady who smiles as she scours or scrubs or rubs or washes or wipes or mops or dusts or cleans,
Or whatever she does on our TV screens,
That lady is smiling because she’s an actress,
And she’s earning money for learning those speeches
That mention those wonderful soaps and detergents and cleansers and cleaners and powders and pastes and waxes and bleaches.
So, the very next time you happen to be
Just sitting there quietly watching TV,
And you see some nice lady who smiles
As she scours or scrubs or rubs or washes or wipes or mops or dusts or cleans,
Remember, nobody smiles doing housework but those ladies you see on TV.
Your mommy hates housework,
Your daddy hates housework,
I hate housework too.
And when you grow up, so will you.
Because even if the soap or cleanser or cleaner or powder or paste or wax or bleach
That you use is the very best one,
Housework is just no fun.
Children, when you have a house of your own,
Make sure, when there’s house work to do,
That you don’t have to do it alone.
Little boys, little girls, when you’re big husbands and wives,
If you want all the days of your lives
To seem sunny as summer weather,
Make sure, when there’s housework to do,
That you do it together!