The Slow But (Hopefully) Steady Erosion of Gender Stereotypes

Stop the presses! A detergent commercial with just a normal dad doing laundry.

For our book club, we’re reading the 2003 novel “We Need to Talk About Kevin” by Lionel Shriver.* I, Lo, knowing nothing about the book or its author, began reading and was amazed that a male author could create a female narrator that sounded so authentic and convincing, especially regarding childbirth and motherhood. That is, until halfway through the book when I happened to catch a glimpse of the author photo on the inside back flap: turns out Lionel is a woman.

I must say, after my initial surprise, I really wasn’t surprised — after all, how could a man have captured the mental cog work of such a complicated female character? But then there was a part of me that was a little disappointed — both in the fact that Lionel wasn’t a man, and in the fact that I was so quick to dismiss a dude’s ability to get in touch with his feminine side. It would have been kind of cool to have my expectations challenged, especially as someone who’s always raging against gender stereotyping.

I didn’t have to wait long: flipping through last week’s Time I came across this article: “A Few Good Men: Work It is a drag, but TV does right by guys elsewhere” (you have to have a subscription to read the whole article). It comes straight out and calls the new men-in-drag show sexist: “The concept — men do man work, and ladies do lady work! — feels bogus at a time when some of TV’s best male characters are taking on different roles at home and work, without (literally) shedding their pants.” The review goes on to …

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Cannot wait for the movie starring Tilda Swinton!

One Comment

  1. I liked that commercial too. This doesn’t get much attention, but men are not usually favorably portrayed in the media either.

    From sitcoms to commercials, the man of the house is often portrayed as a big dopey dumb-dumb who screws everything up till smart, stern Momwife whips his ass in line. The whole family rolls their eyes at dumb, lame dad as he screws up again. Think “Everybody Loves Raymond.”

    Nice to see both the man and the task in this commercial treated with gender neutrality. Just a guy doing laundry and hanging with his daughter.

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