I’m currently taking some really amazing classes, including Gender and Pop Culture. It has been eye-opening in the sense that- while I know media and pop culture play into how we see each other in society- I realized how truly deep ideology runs, and how the people who create ideology for the masses keep benefitting from it.

Recently, we were given an assignment- write a letter discussing the ways masculinity and feminity are portrayed in this tide commercial. Please watch the commercial, and read my response under the cut.

Dear friend,

Recently I watched the “Dad Mom” Tide commercial. The commercial seemed like it was attempting to break down some of the barriers between men and what is considered feminine or motherly house work, but what it actually did was reinforce a lot of stereotypes about men and women and how they should behave, especially in their family roles.

The commercial opens on a man sitting on the couch, folding his young child’s laundry. Men generally aren’t shown doing work around the house, especially when it comes to their children. In media, we generally see men as the workers who come home late to a meal that was already prepared by his wife. He is the “breadwinner” and doesn’t take on roles within the home, whereas the wife stays home all day to cook, clean, and care for the children. Thus, in society, we have come to attach the words “mom” and “dad” to specific actions.

The man in the video says he is a “dad mom,” which stuck out to me because although his actions show him doing something that is ultimately not really seen in hegemonic forms of media, his words reinforce the idea that a “regular” dad doesn’t do these things, and therefore the word “mom” needed to be added to his title. He then talks briefly about how some moms find his ability to be both masculine and nurturing “alluring” which, when broken down, shows us that media wants society to not expect these things from “regular” men, so when a man has nurturing qualities, it should be seen as something attractive rather than expected. This shows that while it is generally a requirement in society and in media for a woman to be both nurturing (motherly) and also at the very same time be alluring or attractive, men do not have this same requirement.

By the end of the commercial, the “dad mom” talks about the “brute strength of dad” and how he is going to go do some “pull-ups and crunches.” From this, we are supposed to see that men should retain their masculinity at all time, and part of that masculinity is in physical strength. This essentially gives the message that a man who does housework but doesn’t put in any extra effort to maintain physical strength shouldn’t be seen as a “real” man. Generally, in society, these men are told that they are whipped, tied down, or even “gay.” Unsurprisingly, this still stems from the fact that housework is seen as the woman’s job, or at the very least, a feminine job.

The commercial itself contained mostly inferential gender inequality. We have made it the norm to view women as the ones who stay home to deal with child rearing and cleaning and cooking, while men are the ones who make the money while maintaining their strength and dominance. Media leads us to believe these things should be viewed simply as unquestionable facts, and when things aren’t this way, it is “abnormal” or “rare” so as to make sure we don’t question the standards set out for us in society that tend to be determined by the gender we are designated at birth.

Being someone who identifies as genderqueer, seeing all of these things in a commercial is a bit disheartening, although it comes as no real surprise to me. Media tends to lead society to keep believing that there are only two genders and those two genders need to act in very specific ways. The fact that we still see gender as this binary that dictates how and when we should cry, what careers we should pursue and how we should advance in those careers, what we should wear, and much more is a concept that media should focus on fixing, not perpetuating. Although there are some shows and movies now portraying LGBTQ* characters living outside the norms set for their gender/biological sex, we still don’t see many cisgender and heterosexual people portrayed as being outside of the “ideal type.” Because this is so, it’s hard for men and women to break free of the expectations placed upon them if they want to be treated normally in society. Furthermore, this makes it even harder for transgender/non-binary identified individuals because we are expected to “choose a side” and play the part, and if we decide that we don’t want to be identified as man nor woman, we still have to deal with being assigned a gender by other people simply because of physical appearance and mannerisms. This commercial was just another link in the chains that bound not only men and women, but our conceptualizations of them as taught to us by media and the people around us.

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