Oh Bother! Target’s Everyday Collections Ad Campaign

In my last Oh bother, posted just minutes ago, I briefly discussed how I was bothered by the new Target Everyday Collections ad campaign. Here’s another reason why I’m bothered by it: it hyper-sexualizes and hyper-masculinizes African American women.

One of their ads, titled “under pressure,” features an African American woman brandishing and “firing” a water hose at a package of oatmeal. The actor is hyper-sexualized (with how she looks and the accompanying Wolfmother music) and hyper-masculinized (she’s holding a phallus and releasing its fluid). It’s significant that she’s African American; tons of theorists, like bell hooks and Patricia Hill Collins, have detailed the history of how Black women are depicted as overly sexualized. They are also depicted as not being feminine enough—too strong, active and powerful; more masculine. Oh bother!

This depiction of the African-American woman as hyper-sexualized and hyper-masculinized is even more disturbing when we place the oatmeal commercial beside another Target Everyday Collection commercial for laundry. In this ad, a very white woman (dressed in white) gracefully and serenely moves through a set of white, flowing sheets. She’s represented as pure, desirable and desiring (but, not desiring of sex; she just wants to find the other missing sock). Wow, it’s like right out the Cult of True Womanhood!

I want to put these commercials beside another ad that I encountered while watching football yesterday for iPhones, featuring Venus and Serena Williams. In this commercial, they play an intense game of ping-pong with the ads’ narrator, presumably a white male.

I’m not sure what to make of this. I’d love to read what other people think about the representations of the Williams’ sisters here.

For more reading: I talked about the Williams’ sisters in my Politics of Sex class two years ago.

Oh bother! Target and the devaluing of domestic labor

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.

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 MeHere 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!

oh bother: shop like a man

While watching the NFC divisional playoff game today, I saw the following commercial for Mills Fleet Farm:

After doing a quick look on YouTube, I found the commercial from last year too:


  • What does it mean to “shop like a man”?
  • What version of masculinity is being promoted here? What other forms of masculinity are being discouraged/ignored?
  • What differences/similarities do you see between the 2012 and 2013 commercials?