Tide on Gender
January 10, 2012
There’s an ad for Tide Booster detergent that portrays a prim-and-preppy mother, dressed all in pink, sitting in a frilly and ultra-feminine living room, while her daughter, dressed in camo and cargo shorts, plays with trucks at her feet. The mother says that they “tried the ‘pink thing’,” but that her daughter insisted on more traditionally masculine clothes. When the daughter’s clothes are saved from crayon stains by Tide Booster, the mother’s reaction is “…it’s kinda too bad.” And when she asks her daughter, “playing another parking garage, honey?” her praise (“It’s beautiful”) is so halfhearted that it’s almost tragic.
The daughter’s dress and behavior don’t fit or conform to our culture’s stereotypes of who a girl should be. While the mother isn’t forcing her daughter to conform to traditionally feminine ideals (which the mother illustrates to an almost humorous degree, with her preppy pink cardigan and oh-so-delicate pose), but she is clearly annoyed, as if her daughter’s choice of clothing is a cross to bear.
And sure, this is just a commercial, but it’s painful to think that this ad campaign was chosen because they felt consumers could relate to it. So, rather than sending a positive message about letting your child be whomever he or she wants to be, the commercial is letting parents across the country roll their eyes and nod in harrowed agreement, as they look at their son playing with his dolls or their daughter rolling her trucks across the floor, desperately wanting them to fit in.
As harmless as the commercial may seem, it presents the problem of continuing prejudice against those who don’t follow traditional gender roles. It would be much better to set the example of a parent who fully embraces and accepts his or her child’s gender non-conformity.