Growing up as a young woman in Vancouver, my parents always emphasized the vast spread of opportunities available to me. I was given both building blocks and Barbies to play with as a little girl and was always encouraged to get muddy at recess. As I grew older, this evolved into both playing field hockey and dancing through high school, while competing in regional science fairs. Now as a university student, this encouragement has led me to explore paths that are often dominated by male influence, without second guessing my choices. Surrounded by women in my life who are strong and motivated leaders both in their professional careers and family lives, I have never questioned or even thought to rank the value of each of a woman’s many roles in society; That is until I came across this advertisement by Mr. Clean—
The text on the advertisement to promote a Mr. Clean cleaning sponge reads “This Mother’s Day, Get Back To The Job That Really Matters.” Featuring a young Caucasian woman cleaning with her daughter, one can infer that the advertisement suggests the idea that cleaning or spending time with one’s children is the most meaningful job a woman has. The message portrayed by the advertisement reinforces the gender stereotype of women primarily as homemakers, assuming that any role they undertake outside of the home holds less importance. Whether a woman chooses not to have children, places emphasis on her professional career, or does choose to assume the role as primary caretaker, no cleaning advertisement should dictate the value of one over the other.
In my jammed version of the ad, I attempted to highlight the vast spread of respected and valued roles women may choose to pursue in society, and affirm that any of them can and should be considered the job that really matters. By adding the text “Whatever That May Be,” I attempted to shift the focus from the role as a caretaker being of greatest value in a woman’s life, to whichever role a woman may choose it to be. Be it representing the United Nations as an international peacekeeper, saving lives as a surgeon, or protecting individuals as a judge, women should be praised for finding value and importance in whichever role they choose to pursue. Further, society should emphasize the worth that each of these roles have an influence on the strong and cohesive functioning of society. As an opportunity to reach a large audience and influence the thoughts of viewers, advertising media should be encouraging young girls to pursue multiple roles in society, and not limiting them to the position of the caretaker alone.
I was also inspired to find photos of women from a variety of ethnic backgrounds in an attempt to contrast the standard Caucasian profile often used in North American advertising. In order for the jammed advertisement to resonate with a large audience, I selected photos of women from many ethnic backgrounds representing positions of leadership. While the primary goal of my jammed advertisement was to highlight the value and importance of any role a woman chooses to pursue, an equally as important secondary goal emerged, which is to emphasize the availability of such opportunities to women of all backgrounds and histories.
As I share my jammed advertisement with the class, I hope my classmates resonate with the messages I portray, no matter the gender or race they identify with. I hope my classmates also appreciate the value in highlighting the inequalities and gender stereotypes that are too-often represented in advertising campaigns. And finally, I hope my classmates can move forward from this assignment with an attentive eye to call-out advertisements that follow in similar pursuits.