Saturday, August 13, 2011

Tide and 'tomboys' - How do you read it?

Okay. So Tide has a new commercial (actually, this is one of several new ads about 'individualizing' your laundry needs with several different Tide products. I find it bizarre that people are committed enough to the project of clothes laundering to have 'laundry needs' besides put-in-soap-and-turn-machine-on. Anyhoo.) This ad is causing a fair bit of buzz due to its treatment of gender norms.

I think the ad can be read in two basic and opposing ways. #1. The literal read. This is an eye-roll at deviations from strict parameters of femininity and the child's gender presentation is being put-down. #2. The tongue-in-cheek read. This woman is supposed to be presented as over-the-top, rigid and repressed in her hyper-femininity (demonstrated by body language, manner of dress - though I maintain that I would rock that outfit ;) - and surroundings, which include flower window dressings, and a whole lotta pink. It is her gender rigidity that is being critiqued, rather than the child's gender fluidity.

Now, I suspect that Tide is actually attempting to do the latter. Albeit very badly. And if you stop to read the comments underneath the youtube post, you'll see what I mean by badly. The comments are equal parts people angry because they read the message as literal, shaming the child's gender presentation. And equal parts people who have also read the ad as literal, and think the ad is just 'so cute' and don't see a problem with policing children's gender presentation. In this way, it seems that no matter how Tide intended the ad to be read, they get a fail.

Moreover, if Tide did intend the latter, tongue-in-cheek, 'tomboys are ok' reading, because they were trying to be all transgressive, I think they chose the obviously safe route. For young kids, girls displaying stereotypically 'boy' interests and gender presentation is much more accepted than the reverse for boy children. Imagine if they replaced that 'tomboy' child with a boy in a dress, playing with dolls? Would never happen.

Anyhow. That's my take on Tide. How do you read it?

1 comment:

  1. And I thought the commercial was clever. But is it weird to WISH they'd do one with boys wearing tutus for example? Not that *I* know any little boys who did that... :-D