How the Roles of Women and Men in the Home are Portrayed in Media
By Mitchell Pokrywa
The Roles of women and men in the home have been portrayed differently over time, but a lot of things remain the same today. When you see ads for cleaning products or ads for tools, what do you almost always typically see? You see a happy woman using the cleaning products and you see a strong man using the tools. The point is that these products are trying to target those specific audiences because, for a long time, these types of products have been associated for use by only one gender in the home.
For the most part, the role of a woman in the home was to be a housewife – to cook and to clean and take care of the children. Richard Nixon stated, when describing homes in Moscow, that they were equipped with modern appliances to make the life of a housewife easier. When he stated this, he was saying that there are appliances that are only operated by housewives and that the types of responsibilities associated with those appliances are to be done by a woman and not a man (May, 155).
A man’s role in the family is to provide – to go out and work and make the money for the family. The man is never portrayed as a homemaker because those jobs are not a man’s responsibility. The jobs around the home that are a man’s responsibility are the jobs that require tools and fixing things, or jobs like cutting the lawn. Have you ever seen the commercials for John Deere or for lawn products? They almost always portray a man; showing how proud he is of his lawn. These are the types of activities that are targeted as a man’s job. Reed Funk stated that he only had a slightly above average lawn because he did not want to mow his own lawn after working with grass all day (Steinberg, 65). This showed me that the lawn is considered a man’s area because while he was away at work his wife was not cutting the lawn. Therefore, it is considered the responsibility of the man.
The ads I have below show how the media portrays who is responsible for what in the home, and show how people accept these advertisements as the correct concept of home since they still remain similar today.
“Lady Berkleigh Pajamas,” April 1950. Courtesy of http://www.adflip.com/.
The ad above struck me as interesting in its portrayal of the woman in the home. It is an ad for women’s pajamas from the 1950s, but what is most interesting is the phrase on the left which states “tailored to a man’s taste.” This shows that the main reason for a woman to buy these pajamas is due to the fact that these pajamas would please her husband regardless if they were pleased with the pajamas themselves. The fact that that is the main focus of the ad points to the idea that the woman is considered to be her husband’s property and that her responsibilities in life are to do what she can to please her husband. By buying these pajamas she can do that, because they are tailored to his tastes and not hers.
“Cut Rite Wax Paper,” March 1948. Courtesy of http://www.adflip.com/.
The ad above is another interesting ad that portrays how the media defines what they believe is the woman’s role in the home. This is an ad for wax paper and it shows a woman storing food in the wax paper. It also specifically says that more women use this brand more than any other. This is significant because it is only addressing women in the advertisement, giving the idea that the people who use this product are only women because the jobs done with this product are only jobs that are done in the home by women. A man wouldn’t need to be addressed in the advertisement because he would not use a product like this in the home; it is portraying that only women have use for a product like this.
“La-Z-Boy Recliners,” November 1967. Courtesy of http://www.adflip.com/.
This ad was not exactly as straightforward as the first two, but the image struck me as interesting. This is an ad for La-Z-Boy recliners and in the image there is a man and woman, presumably husband and wife, and the man is sitting in the recliner while the woman is sitting on the floor. This ad seems to be targeting men with imagery showing that this product is geared more towards the working man who deserves a big comfortable chair to sit in after a long day of work, and by showing how this is a man’s chair and not a woman’s chair.
This post was completed as part of assignment on how the idea of home and the concept of domesticity has been used in marketing during different historical moments and in the present. For additional information on the assignment, please visit: https://americanstudiesmediacultureprogram.wordpress.com/the-concept-of-home-spring-2014-selling-home/.