The print advertisement for Procter & Gamble’s all purpose cleaning agent Mr.Clean is problematic in a number of ways. By marketing their cleaning products to women via an image of a mother and daughter cleaning a window, the advertisement reinforces the notion that domestic jobs such as cleaning the house are a woman’s responsibility. As such, they perpetuate normative gender roles that dictate what jobs are appropriate based on gender. While Procter & Gamble try to stress the value of domestic work, jobs that are considered feminine tend to nevertheless be undervalued and in some contexts, considered demeaning in society. Their motivation for claiming that domestic work “really matters”, may not be to increase the value of feminized work, but rather to increase their market share and boost their bottom line. The slogan also insinuates that women should “get back” to domestic labour rather than pursuing careers in waged work. Mr. Clean’s portrayal as supervising the mother and her daughter as they clean the window, is an authoritative image and one that suggests male dominance and/or control over women. The inclusion of the young girl (daughter) in the image and the subsequent notion that she is being taught how to clean, further emphasises that mother’s should pass down the domestic responsibilities to their daughters. In this way gender norms are perpetuated not just laterally but generationally as well.
Due to our levels of consumption and constant exposure to corporate images and advertising, our behaviour and internalized values tend be heavily influenced by those dictated to us in advertisements. Media platforms have in the past dictated and continue to set the societal norms especially with respect to gender roles. This is a problem in that it furthers the domination of hyperfemininity and toxic masculinity as cultural gender ideals. Just one of the expectations of women according to this paradigm is that they engage in feminized labour despite there being no monetary compensation for this category of work. As such it is imperative that we as consumers engage in critical consumption as well as pressure corporations to subvert negative gender stereotyping. This is what my culture jam will seek to address by expressing the fact that jobs are not inherently gendered.
Culture jamming presents itself as an answer to the question: “how to box with shadows?” (Mark Dery) In other words, how can critical scholars, satirists and consumers engage with an information economy that uses media as ammunition in the perpetual drive to further capital and consumer compliance. Through the subversion of subtle messaging in all avenues of news, entertainment and advertising, the goal of culture jammers is to joyfully dismantle oppressive ideologies, including those that prop up binary notions of gender and societal roles. As such, the jamming philosophy invoked in my alteration of a Mr. Clean print ad is that of gender equality and opposition to the idea that women belong in the home, doing domestic jobs. Thus, this approach is one example of the sub-genre of culture jamming known as “subvertising” (Mark Dery).
Mr. Clean’s print advertisement perpetuates normative societal gender roles and attempts to dictate what constitutes important work for women. Therefore, the first major alteration made to the original advertisement was replacing the mother and daughter with a father and son. The gender-swap was intended to reverse the suggestion that women should solely be responsible for cleaning duties in the home. The representation of a father teaching his son how to clean the window is intended to promote the fact that men and women are equal in their abilities and that men should share in domestic work. It is by more men taking part in their share of labour in the home, that stereotypes around feminine work may be broken.
The second edit in my culture jam was to change the existing slogan, which seemed to instruct and command the woman to engage in what the company deemed suitable work for women. Instead, the new slogan reads, “Every Job is a Job that Matters”. The ideology is thus that every job has value, regardless of who does it. Furthermore, the slogan strives to demonstrate that men and women are capable of doing the same job, without shame or alienation.
The underlying connotation of this message is that, were men willing and enabled by society to take on an equal share of domestic work, women would be free to explore work outside the home as they are likewise equally capable. This process is indicative of both how powerful media is in setting societal norms, as well as how culture jamming presents a means of furthering progressive ideas in a consumerist culture.
Dery, Mark. “Culture Jamming: Hacking, Slashing, and Sniping in the Empire of Signs.” CRITIC. ESSAYIST. BOOK AUTHOR. LECTURER. , markdery.com/?page_id=154. Accessed Feb. 2017.
“Mr Clean®.” Cleaning Products & Solutions, Procter & Gamble , www.mrclean.com/. Accessed Feb. 2017.
“What Is There? Side View of Happy Father and Son Looking Away..” 123RF Stock Photos, www.123rf.com/photo_29193765_what-is-there-side-view-of-happy-father-and-son-looking-away-while-child-pointing-away-and-both-stan.html. Accessed Feb. 2017.