How to offend your feminist mother

This post was written by Jacob on March 14, 2009
Posted Under: Capitalism,Feminism,Media
I don't think my mum would appreciate this

My mum wouldn't appreciate this

I don’t often feel disgusted by things I see on TV. In general I’m one of these people who thinks he’s seen it all, but today over lunch I was genuinely shocked. In the break from the trash TV I was watching was an advert put out by HMV advertising a set of CDs named “101 Housework Songs”. I can’t find the HMV version of the advert online, but is the same as the Sainsbury’s version shown here (Sorry, couldn’t find an embedded version but please do go and watch.)

Now, apart from this seeming to me like an utterly stupid concept (of course chores don’t suddenly become great fun when you stick some music on), what seemed most scary was that this final line of “A great gift for mum” was being treated as something reasonable to put out on TV. Where have the last 40 years of fighting for equality disappeared to? And how can massive corporations, whilst having equal ops policies for employment, be willing to put this kind of shite on TV?

I’m sure they’re keen to boost their sales in the run up to mothers’ day, but do we really still live in a society in which one can give this sort of thing as a gift to one’s mother in a non-spoofy way. I would hope not, but given that TV advertising is so expensive, I can only imagine that this is a relatively commercial product. Maybe things haven’t changed as much as we’d hoped. I, for one, will be sending complaints to HMV and Sainsbury’s.

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Reader Comments


Well that’s why mums go to Iceland! (which also makes me wince).

Written By Stefan on March 14th, 2009 @ 6:31 pm

As a purely analytical point, and not a normative one, surely *it is true* that many mothers indeed, whether by choice or otherwise, do more of the housework than they probably ought to? Seen that way, perhaps we need not take the ad to be making a normative point about what women do or should do. Instead, one could say, as with any commercial product, the marketing is just responding to a social fact. I don’t know if that’s the same as condoning, improving or worsening that fact.

Written By Rudolph on March 14th, 2009 @ 7:14 pm

Well of course I wouldn’t like to comment on the advert itself because I haven’t seen it yet, but this larger question on equality has been bothering me for a while so may as well bring it up here.

Why is that a woman choosing to do the housework is less equal to one which chooses a career? To me it seems any woman who chooses to stay at home is condemned by the equality brigade for having no ambition in life and conforming to stereotypes. As the poster above me points out, I think it is reflective of a social fact. Despite all the hoo-haa about equality, women *do* on the whole stay at home, and I don’t see why this is a problem as long as it is their choice to do so. If TV commercials respond to that, then so be it.

In fact, and I don’t mean this to anyone in particular, but as a general comment, if you are (rightly) concerned about women’s rights, you should be complaining your MP and the FCO about our unstinting support to some of the worst regimes in the world when it comes to women’s rights. I know I have, and will continue to do so – because that is where the battle is still on.

Written By Zafar on March 15th, 2009 @ 5:06 am

“Why is that a woman choosing to do the housework is less equal to one which chooses a career?” Are you having a laugh? OK, let’s start with the money. Then we could go on to the money. And conclude with the money. And that’s just assuming that the ‘career’ is just as boring, repetitive, demeaning, smelly, mindless, physically demanding and lacking in status as housework.
It would be a gift for mothers if their families cleared up after themselves every day of the year — not if they gave them a ’101 Housework Songs’ to supposedly sweeten the experience of washing their dirty pants.

Written By julia on March 15th, 2009 @ 12:52 pm

Very good, Jacob! My children have all been brought up NEVER to acknowledge mother’s day in any way whatsoever. The whole concept stinks. Obviously the other 364 days are whose?

Written By Sue on March 15th, 2009 @ 12:54 pm

Zaf – while your point is kinda valid, it ignores the fact that that ‘choice’ is generated by society as a whole and centuries of what I suppose the feminists would call the patriarchal society.

It’s a bit like saying that it’s the majority of women in Saudi Arabia’s choice to wear the veil and not drive, etc. It probably is, but that doesn’t make it a good thing.

Written By Alasdair on March 15th, 2009 @ 1:35 pm

Alasdair, but we can’t really call the choice a “wrong” choice if it’s willingly, or even desirously made. Telling people what they ought to do is one thing. The harder bit is saying they not only ought to do it, they ought to want to do it. It’s really at this point that I break with many of the traditional analyses of feminism.

Written By Rudolph on March 15th, 2009 @ 1:57 pm

Jacob, I feel you’ve just been told off. Don’t worry, I think all great revolutionary social theorists need their mothers to tell them to wash their dirty pants from time to time.

Stefan, I was just going to say the same thing. I thought the Iceland advert was bad enough.

Written By Salman Shaheen on March 15th, 2009 @ 2:27 pm

Al – I see your point, but I don’t buy that argument in its entirety (i.e. that people cannot make choices at all because of societal factors). I also see your argument about SA, and as I have pointed out in earlier post, we should be challenging those notions. However, at the risk of sounding like a moral relativist here, I think choice is important, especially if they are choices if we don’t particularly like, for anything less than that would not really be a true choice.

Julia – luckily, people do jobs because they desire what they do rather than because of the money (otherwise we’d have a pretty rubbish society, and where people do work for the money, you can tell by the quality of service). I think you missed the key point of my argument which is centred around choice. If you’re against choice, that’s fine, but be clear about it rather creating strawmen.

Rudolph – at least someone understands!

Written By Zafar on March 15th, 2009 @ 10:18 pm

I don’t get the outrage, I must say. Yes, we live in an age where women are (hopefully) no longer assumed to be the person tied to the house, who does all the chores. But still, it’s a reality that there are many mothers who still do this. My mum still does 90% of the housework at my parents, for example, and my limited knowledge from my friends would suggest similar things there. So the target market for this CD is clearly mothers.

Would you show outrage at marketing a videogame to children when it might be played by adults too? Or marketing a chocolate bar to women? Men eat chocolate too, and some women might not like chocolate, so why should they get away with saying chocolate is a good present for mothers day? Because it’s a core market. The same way, while many women don’t do housework and many men do, the target market for housework-related products is still women.

The fight for equality doesn’t mean that there aren’t still things mostly bought by or for women, or men, or children. As such, any decent marketing company will aim their marketing at the target market. Mothers, in doing the majority of housework in many homes, are the prime target for this product.

If you want to talk about bad advertising, how about a house-cleaning product with the slogan “so simple even a man could do it”. That has the same emphasis that women do most of the housework with the additional emphasis that men are stupid.

Written By Will on March 17th, 2009 @ 3:58 pm

In response to Zafar, only in la-la land do the majority of people do jobs they desire. The problem, touched on by Rudolph, is not the failed strategy of bullying women into cleaning but the seduction of making women think they want to do housework. Not just necessary housework but amounts to fill the playback time of a double CD! The desire that women are supposed to feel towards housework as sacred duty is the injustice that the world depends on unpaid labour. The new menace is the Nigella tendency to glamorize and make palatable housework that in reality is dull, tiring and, when it IS a career, poorly paid. Whether or not you have honed your sock-folding skills, however, something does eventually have to be done to hold back the rodents, even if you are a contented slattern like me. When I do get out the rubber gloves, I do it with Regina Spektor.

Written By Charlie on March 25th, 2009 @ 6:40 am

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