Thursday, July 19, 2012

Back to the 1950s with Fairy liquid's sexist advert

I know I shouldn't give Proctor and Gamble the publicity, but I do feel that it's also important to dissect adverts which display blatant sexism or other outdated social mores. This is their latest effort, for the Olympics.

"It takes a lot of dishes and a lot of washing up, for Mum to build an athlete" reinforces the idea that women do the domestic chores in service to the males of the house. It's just wrong on so many levels. Maybe Proctor and Gamble aren't aware, but women are actually taking part in the Olympics now, you know.

I have to give a big hat tip to former LYS President Sophie Bridger who originally spotted this. She actually wrote to Proctor and Gamble to protest about it, telling them:

The implication being that washing up is purely women’s work is incredibly sexist. The unequal distribution of domestic responsibilities has held women back for generations, and continues to hinder women’s progression in the workplace. And yet you appear to think that this is perfectly acceptable – mum will cook and wash up the dishes, and her little boy will grow up to a big strong athlete. Not her daughter of course, who is now far too busy washing up her own children’s dishes. 
The company sent back to her a generic response which showcased the writer's ability to copy and paste rather than reply to specific points:

We live in a multi-cultural society and, as such, we know that consumers from all ethnic backgrounds use our products, both for themselves and for their families. Indeed, as a Global company, practicing equal opportunities, our own employees reflect the diversity within the local populations. Obviously, it is not our intention to exclude any individual from our advertising, whether this be on the basis of ethnic background, disability, sex, height, hair colour, regional accent, etc. I am truly sorry that you feel we have in any way been deliberately exclusionary.
On the other hand, it would be unrealistic to expect that all sections of our community can be represented at all times. When people are chosen to appear in our advertising campaigns (TV, posters, direct mailing materials etc) we choose those who we think represent the majority of our target market for that particular campaign. Many factors have to be considered in the selection process. Ethnic background is something we are aware of, but it is not the main reason for choosing (or not choosing) a particular person to represent us.
Sophie wrote to them again asking for an analysis on the proportion of men and women shown washing up in their ads. I vaguely remember a bloke doing some washing up once - but that was with a Power Spray for proper dirt that, presumably, weak women couldn't possibly get off themselves. I had a look around on the internet for it, but could only find one video that must have been a spoof because it's so terrible.

I know what brand of washing up liquid I'll be avoiding from now on. If you agree, why not write to Proctor and Gamble to register your displeasure with this advert? You can contact them at


Ruaraidh said...

I've written to them - will update when/if I receive a reply.

getho said...

the advertisers are missing a trick here. research has shown that men who do more domestic chores have a more sexually active partnership. Its an obvious tack to take, it would please their partners more than this misogynistic broken record, and it would at least show men in a domestic role. (Which I would say is more important in the long run than the flipside of producing the expectation of sex just for doing the dishes). So heres another tack:


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