Oh Bother?! Gender Performance in Detergent Commercials

For a while now, I’ve been thinking about how gender is performed/regulated in the recent “My Tide” campaign. But, I was never inspired to create an “Oh bother?!” about them until this morning, when I saw this commercial:

This commercial doesn’t make me angry, as in “Oh Bother!,” but it makes me curious, as in “Oh Bother?” How does masculinity shapes the language that the Dad uses to describe the mundane care-giving activities that he is required to do as a self-proclaimed “stay-at-home Dad”. Doing laundry isn’t a household chore, but “classic problem-solving” and fixing his daughter’s hair isn’t simply described as french-braiding, but in terms of “herringbone or fish-tail.” I wonder, does this re-framing of care-giving as work only apply to men/stay-at-home dads, or will also transform how we understand what stay-at-home moms do?

And, here’s another one that makes me curious:

What do we make of the girl’s interest in hoodies instead of pink, frilly dresses? Is this suggesting that norms for girls have changed? How does this change get undercut by the Mom’s desire for her daughter to continue wearing dresses?

Whose Curiosity? A very uncurious manifesto for curiosity

In my last post I mentioned that I have been following Brain Pickings a lot lately. I’m especially drawn to all the great visuals in her posts. I also like her focus on curation and her book lists.  In that same post, I also mentioned that while I enjoy reading and engaging with the site, something is just a little off about it. I’ve been thinking about it more, and I’ve realized one reason why: She really really likes TED. I don’t. Thinking about how much I don’t like TED gave me an inspiration for a new social/online media project (details TBA). Her love of TED, with its business self-helpy tone and its pedagogical model that idolizes Experts-who-enlighten, influences the overall tone of the blog. For a number of reasons, which I’ll leave for another post or a series of posts, I don’t like business self-helpy shtuff and my vision of pedagogy comes into conflict with the Expert-as-awesome model.

Recognizing what is off about this site doesn’t make me want to stop reading it or to reject it altogether; I still find lots of value in her curation and am very impressed with what she has developed and maintains (and without ads! that’s pretty sweet!). Instead, it simply helps me to understand my own troubling sense of unease when I read certain posts and learn about others’ projects via her site–like the one I want to write about today: Skillshare and their video, The Future Belongs to the Curious: A Manifesto for Curiosity.

The Future Belongs to the Curious from Skillshare on Vimeo.

Taken at face value, this video manifesto seems awesome. Valuing curiosity as the future. Encouraging the asking of lots of questions. Promoting life long learning. Yes! However, the video bothers me…and the more I watch and thinking critically about it, the more bothered I get. From the hyper-masculine voiceover to the heteronormative male POV throughout the video (we literally view the film through the eyes of a growing boy), I don’t see any space for my own vision of feminist curiosity–or even my own practicing of curiosity as a girl/woman. I also don’t any space for a whole lot of folks, that is, anyone not fitting the mythical norm of white, male, middle-class, etc!

The representation of women and the imagining of them in the past/present/future of who “we” are (of course the “we” = the universal white Male subject) as curious beings is as follows:

1. loving/caring Mom (twice: when boy is born and when boy breaks his leg) who doesn’t ask questions, just encourages others

2. teenage girl sitting in corner, passively listening to music while “we” play/experiment with guitar in a band

3. teenage girl in closet, looking shy/coy and puckering up as “we” move in to kiss her (hello male gaze!). I should mention that it was this image that first made me stop, question and rethink this whole manifesto. I find this to be a really problematic image–is it possible to read a counter-narrative into it? While it seems to imply that she is being kissed by a boy, could we imagine it otherwise?

4. the back of a girl’s head in Driver’s Ed as “we” playfully throw a paper airplane at her

5. smiling woman who seems to be dancing (but not questioning or being curious herself) just for us and for our camera

6. pregnant woman who is fixing up the nursery, presumably for our child

Maybe I missed it, but I didn’t see any girls/women asking questions and being curious. I didn’t see any girls/women having any agency in this heteronormative narrative at all. The only purpose that any of these women seem to serve is to further the narrative of the male thinking, acting, playing, kissing, filming, experimenting, networking, questioning, working self. Speaking of heteronormativity, the vision of the curious future is not that innovative, interesting or curious. Instead, it’s the standard normative model of future = grow up + marry + have kids. For some (myself included) that’s a nice future/present, but it’s not the only one that we should imagine and represent. If we’re truly being curious, why not be imaginative about how we represent the future. Why not include a wider range of folks in our visions of what it could be?

For Cynthia Enloe, in The Curious Feminist, curiosity is about taking the lives of women (I want to expand it to state: not just women, but a wider range of folks) seriously: being open to other stories, listening deeply to the experiences of those beyond ourselves, using our imagination to create spaces where they are agents who have curiosity and can imagine their own better futures.

Wow, this video really got me going. One final bothering thought: In light of all of the attention being given recently to the lack of girls/women in science and math (where successful, “productive” curiosity usually happens) and the need to value and encourage girls in these fields, why would Skillshare develop a manifesto that reinforces the idea that only boys/men are curious and that girls/women are only object and props to men’s practices of curiosity?

OH BOTHER! I might just need to create my own manifesto for feminist curiosity!

Oh bother: Just accept it

I saw this commercial earlier today and felt compelled to post it here.

I am bothered by how masculinity functions in this clip (just accept it = wimp = emasculation) and how that emasculation is explicitly tied to/caused by the annoying girlfriend. After watching the clip, I typed in “Ally bank just accept it” and found the following comment at the top of the 4th link on the list (on the message board for forumscommercialsihate.com:

Just saw this new ad, surprised I found the vid. So starts out fine, blah blah blah… cut to 0:47 sec… and another bitch wife/girlfriend getting ready to chastise another nut-less man for not accepting the $3.00 fee. Bitch, I wouldn’t accept either and I’d make you pay for the tickets. Also, most to all theaters take card, why the F* are you getting out cash; it better be for hit you take out on this twat! Grrrr!!

Really? Having spent some time this semester in my feminist debates class discussing rape culture/violence against women I’m extremely bothered by this comment (to say the least) and this commercial. Sure this commercial isn’t explicitly encouraging men to do violence to women, but it is tapping into a deeper belief that woman emasculate men and deserve to be punished (violently) for it. Oh bother! (and don’t even get me started on the implications of this policing of masculinity for those who identify as male…)

Oh bother! What is a girl?

Check out this sign that STA pointed out at an antique store in Duluth today.

In case you can’t read the text, here it is (found here):

Little girls are the nicest things that can happen to people. They are born with a bit of angel-shine about them, and though it wears thin sometimes, there is always enough left to lasso your heart—even when they are sitting in the mud, or crying temperamental tears, or parading up the street in Mother’s best clothes.

A little girl can be sweeter (and badder) oftener than anyone else in the world. She can jitter around, and stomp, and make funny noises that frazzle your nerves, yet just when you open your mouth, she stands there demure with that special look in her eyes. A girl is Innocence playing in the mud, Beauty standing on its head, and Motherhood dragging a doll by the foot.

God borrows from many creatures to make a little girl. He uses the song of a bird, the squeal of a pig, the stubbornness of a mule, the antics of a monkey, the spryness of a grasshopper, the curiosity of a cat, the speed of a gazelle, the slyness of a fox, the softness of a kitten, and to top it all off He adds the mysterious mind of a woman.

A little girl likes new shoes, party dresses, small animals, first grade, noisemakers, the girl next door, dolls, make-believe, dancing lessons, ice cream, kitchens, coloring books, make-up, cans of water, going visiting, tea parties, and one boy. She doesn’t care so much for visitors, boys in general, large dogs, hand-me-downs, straight chairs, vegetables, snowsuits, or staying in the front yard.

She is loudest when you are thinking, the prettiest when she has provoked you, the busiest at bedtime, the quietest when you want to show her off, and the most flirtatious when she absolutely must not get the best of you again. Who else can cause you more grief, joy, irritation, satisfaction, embarrassment, and genuine delight than this combination of Eve, Salome, and Florence Nightingale.

She can muss up your home, your hair, and your dignity—spend your money, your time, and your patience—and just when your temper is ready to crack, her sunshine peeks through and you’ve lost again. Yes, she is a nerve-wracking nuisance, just a noisy bundle of mischief. But when your dreams tumble down and the world is a mess—when it seems you are pretty much of a fool after all—she can make you a king when she climbs on your knee and whispers, “I love you best of all!”

Ugh, oh bother!

note: Right after posting this oh bother I noticed that the text transcript that I found left out a paragraph of the original sign:

Girls are available in five colors–black, white, red, yellow or brown, yet Mother Nature always manages to select your favorite color when you place your order. They disprove the law of supply and demand–there are millions of little girls, but each is as precious as rubies.