Oven Pride and Sexism in Advertising

// 26 May 2009

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Is this advert sexist? This was the theme of a debate I took part in on the Richard Bacon programme last Thursday (scroll through to an hour and 43 minutes into the programme) with Stuart Stirling, the General Manager for Home Pride and Graham Hinton, the Chair of the History of Advertising Trust.

My overall argument was that yes it is but, while the advert superficially insults men by making them seem inept, it actually patronises women far more by upholding the stereotype that we are the ones doing all the cleaning and cajoling us into thinking there’s something big and clever about that (i.e “women are amazing because, unlike the silly men, they just get on with it!”). As andrewthomas1000 says in the comments for a Guardian article about the advert:

I have no problem at being labelled as lazy and stupid as long as it persuades women to keep doing my ironing and cleaning for me!

Men – not so stupid after all!

I’d say that commenter knows what the advert is really all about.

Actually, as an afterthought, I reckon some of the comments about this advert on both YouTube and The Guardian give a rather telling insight into where some of the offence at it might stem from. Here are a few prime examples:

I din’t find the ad itself offensive, it was puerile. What I do find offensive are double standards. The only people who can be openly mocked today are white, English, able-bodied, heterosexual males. As others have pointed out, this ad would be seen as grossly offensive if the white man were replaced by a woman or any ethnic minority.

I found this ad offensive and I’m a Top Gear watching, Red Dwarf watching, not-easily-genderly-offended sort of person! ;-)

I think the main problem is that it’s just not funny.

would any of us see this shit ad if it didn’t have this stupid opinion aired by the ASA? women are clever men are stupid….opps stupid me wrong way round….women are stupid men are clever……hope everyone is now equally offended

It does make you wonder what is going on in women’s heads when they see these sexist adverts. What is it about seeing men being portrayed as cretins that gives them the urge to go out and buy more oven cleaner? Obviously it works otherwise advertisers wouldn’t keep making them.

How bitter and hate-filled can they be…?

Right. Had enough.

Someone out there PLEASE DO THIS:

1) set up GRILLPRIDE company.

2) make verbatim ad with roles reversed, “So easy, even a woman can do it”

3) submit to Clearcast.

4) sit back.

PLEASE SOMEONE. I’M SERIOUS.

(To another commenter) I was actually pissing myself laughing when i read that haha nice one mate, Men – keeping women down for years

If an advert was made with a guy saying to a woman”School, it’s so easy even Women can go to it and actually become more intelligent!” and then have a guy throw some books at said women and then say while she is sitting at a desk, “open the book, stop bitching and sending texts, and learn”.

This advert is disgusting and I want my money back!

Also, if they can hit us why can’t we hit them back, if they are sexist to us then we can be sexist back!

Man

Nothing like bad behaviour in the oppressed to bring out the true bigotry, eh? It’s one thing to say the advert is sexist in the way it pokes fun at men but could it be that some people are actually deeply shocked by the idea of men being the underdogs rather than women? And don’t even dare to use humour either! It’s a tricky one to gauge but I reckon there’s often a very fine line between quite rightly saying that “two wrongs don’t make a right” and bitterly sniping “know your place, bitches” when a threat to the status quo is perceived.

It’s also pretty bemusing to see that frequently made point that adverts poking fun at women in a similar way would be banned or not made in the first place. Please. As other commenters pointed out in the threads above, what about the Nuts advert (“women! Don’t expect any help on a Thursday!”) and the Yorkie “Not for Girls” ones? And what about the vast array of lady-bashing adverts that were, somewhat oddly, used in Amanda Plattell’s article about how watchdogs today apparently “say it’s okay to sneer at men but not women?” (What was the point of those pictures by the way? Harking back to the good old days when mocking women was allowed?)

Level playing field? Equality? As Amanda Platell said (albeit with a somewhat different emphasis): You must be joking.

Sorry to be rather late on posting this but if you do want to check out the Richard Bacon discussion about this ad, it will only be available until late on Thursday night. (Ignore the blurb that states the duration as 30 minutes.)

Comments From You

polly styrene // Posted 27 May 2009 at 7:56 am

So I suppose all these dudes complain about pot noodle ads as well do they? And Yorkie ads, and…..

No wait, they’re IRONIC!

MRA’s – no sense of humour.

Cassandra // Posted 27 May 2009 at 7:59 am

I hate to quote Jean Kilbourne, but this isn’t the type of equality that we want!! Although the pink gloves did amuse me, but all that did was dig the hole deeper. I don’t really know what to say beyond that

McPhail // Posted 27 May 2009 at 8:40 am

I’m more offended at how badly made the advert is. Obviously cheap production values, bad actors and the cheesy ‘ping’ special effects. Urgh.

Belittling any gender or ethnic group in the name of corporate promotion is both narrow minded and short sited in terms of meeting the needs of the product’s creators. I wouldn’t be happy portraying a product in a way that is likely to unsettle or potentially alienate the end user of the product. Looking at the comments here, this ad appears to offend men and women alike.

Whoever wrote the script for this needs to look for alternative employment.

nick // Posted 27 May 2009 at 9:14 am

Interesting there were only comments from men and not women in your article, but thats not what got my boxers in a twist with this advert.

The line ‘ so easy a man could do it ‘.

That really got to me. Why say that ?

Why not just show the man cleaning the oven ? Men do clean ….I do …

I cook as well ! Amazing !

Imaging if a lawn mower company done an advert ….and at the end it says ‘ so easy a woman could do it ‘ .

Would there be protests and complaints from Women’s groups ? Yes I think so.

I cant think of any lady bashing adverts on tv at the moment ……unless perfume, hair and makeup adverts count towards that. I dont know …I dont use them …….

One small point …slightly different ..

I have contacted Boots asking if they

are doing adverts for Fathers Day …

similar to the never ending ‘Here Comes the Girls’ theme at the moment.

Possibly was the answer

JenniferRuth // Posted 27 May 2009 at 10:17 am

It has been ages since I saw this ad on the tv – honestly, I don’t know what they were thinking. It’s just terrible.

I can imagine the pitch:

“We’ve got the perfect way to sell your product to customers – insult them ALL! They won’t know what to think and will buy Oven Pride out of sheer confusion.”

I think Holly has it spot on – the whole thing is mired in sexist stereotypes that reflect badly on men and women. The whole basis is that women should clean up after men because they are too stupid to do it for themselves. They aren’t aiming this product at men – they are aiming it at women.

Don’t you just feel really sorry for the actors?

Personally, I think it is sexist enough for ASA to have a say in taking it off our screens.

@Nick

I think there already are women protesting about this advert…say, isn’t this article here on The F Word doing just that?

Jennifer Drew // Posted 27 May 2009 at 10:21 am

Advertisements which make men look foolish or ignorant concerning domestic work do not radically alter the fact our society is still a male-dominated one with the male perception assumed to be the only right point of view. One only has to open a newspaper, watch a television programme, listen to the radio to see, hear how men’s lives are central with women’s lives represented in relation to men – not separate. So, everywhere men see representations of themselves as individual human beings.

So, claiming these advertisements are ‘sexist’ is not true because it is not women who are portraying these men as ‘ineffectual’ but men and their stance is from the patriarchal male gaze not from a woman’s perspective.

The vast majority of advertisements continue to portray women as mindless sexualised objects so on the rare occasions an advertisement portrays a man as ineffectual it is not challenging dominant ideas. Instead the focus is on an individual man.

If we routinely had advertisements featuring men as dehumanised sexualised commodities then yes, it would challenge the readers’ perceptions but we do not.

Given the women-hating world we are living in, advertisements such as these featuring individual men as incompetent when it concerns ‘domestic arrangements’ only serves to reinforce dominant notions that ‘domestic work’ is a woman’s sphere not men’s. It certainly does not challenge men’s power as a group which is the real issue.

Laurel Dearing // Posted 27 May 2009 at 10:50 am

i suppose the line is probably trying to spoof the “so easy even a woman could do it” tent advert from like the 50s-60s. badly

Qubit // Posted 27 May 2009 at 11:05 am

I think the advert is incredibly sexist and I am very surprised the ASA didn’t react. Nick I agree women’s groups would have complained about a similar add against women but I think the ASA ruling would be the same. In fact I’d be less offended by an advert that portrayed women as being unable to do something despite being a woman.

It is worth noting though how often intelligent men pretend they can’t do some simple task so that eventually their partner gives up and does it for them. I have seen this among male friends and am yet to believe they genuinely can’t figure out how to work their own washing machine. Maybe the advert just took this behaviour too seriously and started to believe guys when they said they couldn’t do something. I guess if you keep using stupid excuses eventually someone is going to take you seriously. That doesn’t however excuse the treatment of men in it because despite excuses women know men can clean they just don’t want to.

I think adds that feature sexism or the sexualisation of men are a far worse marketing strategy as men tend to rebel against it more. It seems men are more fragile about how they see themselves than women and need to be protected more. I hope the ASA backtrack on their ruling and acknowledge men feel society is bias against them so need protecting. Adverts like this make men feel women rule the world then they turn against treating women equally. The truth is I find the argument that women rule the world so persistent I find it hard to dismiss despite the small number of women in positions of power.

Kate // Posted 27 May 2009 at 11:18 am

It’s embarassing and I’d prefer a world where no ad company had the lack of shame or imagination to pitch this idea, but I can’t work up any real anger about it. It’s a small ad in an otherwise patriarchal world and I tend to think items like this are akin to the way Officers used to dress up as waitors to serve squaddies in the army for one whole day a year.

George // Posted 27 May 2009 at 1:10 pm

Nick – did you actually read the article, or did you just want to get your two cents in?! For example, you state that you cannot think of any “lady bashing” adverts on TV, but Holly provided two examples – Nuts and Yorkie. Moreover, I think Holly already addressed your ‘shock’ at the tagline.

Rosie // Posted 27 May 2009 at 1:21 pm

What the people who say that an advert would never be made with the slogan ‘so easy a woman could do it’ are missing is that such adverts HAVE been made, as shown by Amanda Plattell’s article. This isn’t an unprovoked attack on men, it’s meant to be some sort of empowering spoof on the misogynist adverts of yore. Of course, it ISN’T empowering, as it just upholds patriarchal standards (‘yes, we may be shit at driving, but we can sure show them a thing or two about cleaning, eh girls!’), and it is very sexist towards men. Two wrongs don’t make a right – this sort of psuedo-feminist shit insults everybody. Most frustratingly, it causes people to wrongly believe we are living in some sort of new matriarchy, where men are oppressed and need to fight back (cue scary music in my head…) There are few things that frustrate me more than the same old patriarchal standards being framed in a ‘girl power’ sort of way, so that everybody blames it on feminism!!

Sarah // Posted 27 May 2009 at 2:53 pm

I agree with Ruth, the only reason these adverts are supposedly funny is that they reference the ‘inferior women’ trope that’s ingrained in our history and culture. It’s ‘funny’ to show clever women and incompetent men, in the same sense it would be funny to show the family dog being smarter than any of the humans. That’s not exactly flattering to women.

I agree this kind of thing is stupid and insulting to everyone, but it wouldn’t exist outside the context of misogyny.

Jessica B // Posted 27 May 2009 at 8:18 pm

On top of the other comments on this thread, it strikes me that this advert is deeply sexist towards women in almost the exact same way as every other ad, because it is quite clear that it is the woman who will be buying the product, the woman who will be using it, and the woman whose time will be freed up by its fact of being so easy to use, probably to do even more chores!

Jonathan // Posted 27 May 2009 at 11:06 pm

Having read the article, watched the ad and read the comments (in that order) there seems to be a consensus around the belief that no group of people should be stereotyped as inferior.

The ad is insulting as it

a) is aimed at women, stereotyping subordinate* domestic work as womens work

b) portrays men as intellectually inferior and/or lazy

The ad is thus equally insulting to men and women and so to bicker over who is more insulted is pointless as it fails to address the fact that it is just plain insulting. Bickering also paralyses both men and women from tackling such stereotyped portrayals and thus give everyone a chance to escape the cycle of stereotype. It should go without saying that there are both men and women that do not fulfil the stereotype and it goes without saying that both men and women should strive to breach stereotyped confines.

This ad is insulting rather than ‘sexist’ as ‘sexist’ is a narrow insult based upon gender. The ad would be equally insulting if it portrayed different ethnic groups, nationalities, age groups, disabilities etc. Stereotyping of this kind is just plain insulting. A hierarchy of insult (eg sexism is worse than racism or visa versa etc) is both unhelpful, futile and pointless.

Insulting ads that rely on insulting stereotypes should be wholesale resisted.

*domestic work is only subordinate when it is not shared equally AND when it is not valued. As I live on my own I am not subordinated by doing housework as opressor/ opressed can only occur relative to other people. Where two or more share tasks it is only ‘subordinate’ when not equally shared AND when considered of inferior value in relation to other tasks (eg wage work). Both conditions are necessary for ‘subordination’.

Nick // Posted 28 May 2009 at 8:51 am

George

are the Nuts or Yorkie adverts on TV at the moment ? No …read my comments…I said ‘at the moment’ …not in the recent past …..

Thats what I meant ………..

just another thought ………

these gardening adverts with men spraying fences or mowing the lawn ….

is that wrong as well ? Does it assume that only men do that kind of work at home ?

JenniferRuth // Posted 28 May 2009 at 1:29 pm

@ Nick

To be fair on gardening / DIY adverts, they are usually quite good with gender diversity.

The Ronseal adverts (Does what it says on the tin!) have had women and there is an advert on at the moment (I can’t remember what product it is, some kind of wood preservation stuff) that has men and women, both young and old and of different ethnicity’s.

As for adverts that are on at the moment, I admit that I can hardly recall most of them. Nothing that is blatantly sexist springs to mind (apart from this Oven Pride advert – I can’t believe that ASA ruled it isn’t sexist!) – just the normal gender fog of traditional male/female roles and the ones letting us all know that we will never be thin enough.

Qubit // Posted 28 May 2009 at 1:57 pm

Nick, what conclusion do you want from this discussion? We are not the ASA and we can’t overturn the ruling. Most people here disagree with it but somehow even then you seem annoyed.

I disagree with the comments that it is mocking traditional advertising. It might be mocking all the intelligent men out there who “claim” they can’t use a dishwasher etc but that wasn’t made clear.

A similarly sexist advert against a woman would probably be allowed by the ASA because if you look at past posts the ASA has made it clear sexism is considered humorous not offensive. Recent examples where the Rustlers’ advert (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/7373667.stm) which was running last year and the pot noodle advert (/blog/2008/04/i_wish_women_we).

George // Posted 28 May 2009 at 2:56 pm

Nick –

How about the recent Persil advert, which shows “perfect” mothers slaving after their boy children, with the slogan “A mother is…” (or whatever it is).

Moreover, the Yorkie bar still has the slogan “Not for Girls” on it, so I would say that marketing campaign is entirely current.

Secondly, if all lawnmover or paint adverts only contained men – yes, that would be a problem. It obviously would reinforce the idea that men mow the lawn on a Sunday afternoon, whilst women … do everything else.

nick // Posted 28 May 2009 at 4:28 pm

George

we could go on forever about this …

I’m not going to…

finally …..how many women complained about the Diet Coke adverts ???? remember them ??????

How many men complained as well….

Qubit // Posted 28 May 2009 at 6:08 pm

Nick, did you complain? I feel quite strongly that people have a right to complain about what they find offensive however they have no duty to complain about things if they don’t want to. The ASA has tended to be fairly even on what they uphold complaints about and what individuals choose to complain about is there own choice.

I feel hard to accept you are victimised here. Most people here found the advert offensive, some probably complained, some didn’t. Similarly some have complained before about other adverts, some haven’t. You seem to imply every woman has a duty to complain about anything that might upset men. I don’t think anybody here would inflict the same duty on men nor do I think it is fair.

I don’t think anyone can deny the increasing sexualisation of men on TV is a bad thing however it doesn’t mean I have the energy to complain.

Holly Combe // Posted 28 May 2009 at 6:41 pm

I personally found it quite galling that all the women in that diet coke advert looked like models anyway so it’s not even as if a stereotypical old-school scenario (eg: successful businessmen who may or may not be good-looking ogling a conventionally beautiful woman) was really being subverted.

By the way, Nick, I’m not sure I’d agree that all the comments I included are necessarily from guys. Certainly, some of them are clearly flagged up by the commenters as such but not all of them are and I think there are plenty of women around who are quite happy to diss women as a whole. You only need to read some of the articles in the Daily Mail to see that.

Re: the “Here Come the Girls” Boots ad. I wouldn’t feel too envious about that one if I were you. Nothing empowering there! The message seems to be “aren’t women fabulous for spending more money on beauty products than the drab men?” Okay, so I use some of those products and I roughly assume the kind of Femininity they are celebrating so over-zealously but that doesn’t mean the advert fills me with womanly pride. It doesn’t. It’s patronising and insults my intelligence. Are you seriously saying you want to be that aggressively targeted? Then again, I’d be lying if I said I don’t think there’s a certain amount of pleasure to be had in tarting up from time to time so why shouldn’t men get to enjoy being celebrated as fabulous too? Oh, I don’t know… In principle, that’s all well and good but when we’re talking about marketing, something about it just stinks doesn’t it?

Holly Combe // Posted 28 May 2009 at 9:54 pm

“…Adverts like this make men feel women rule the world then they turn against treating women equally….” (Qubit)

“…Most frustratingly, it causes people to wrongly believe we are living in some sort of new matriarchy, where men are oppressed and need to fight back (cue scary music in my head…) There are few things that frustrate me more than the same old patriarchal standards being framed in a ‘girl power’ sort of way, so that everybody blames it on feminism!!” (Rosie)

Absolutely. I totally agree…. Which, of course, highlights the degrading and painful truth of the matter: that, yet again, women end up needing to behave better than men in order to avoid being punished by an affronted patriarchal society for stepping out of line.

“It’s embarrassing… It’s a small ad in an otherwise patriarchal world and I tend to think items like this are akin to the way Officers used to dress up as waitors to serve squaddies in the army for one whole day a year”. (Kate)

“…They reference the ‘inferior women’ trope that’s ingrained in our history and culture. It’s ‘funny’ to show clever women and incompetent men…” (Sarah)

Sadly, I reckon these assessments are spot-on. I wish it wasn’t like that but, as Laurel and Rosie suggested, it’s obviously meant to be an “empowering” spoof of those old-school misogynist adverts from times that have thankfully gone by but are recent enough to still be ingrained in our culture. Meanwhile, I get the sense that men -if they know what’s good for them- are expected to take this sort of thing on the chin out of some sense of chivalry.

Feminist Avatar // Posted 28 May 2009 at 11:19 pm

I find the fact the woman stands there growling as her husband cleans galling. Why is she not letting him get on with it and working/ watching tv/ writing her novel/ or whatever women actually like to do? It’s easy enough for men to use, but not without supervision?

Just Curious // Posted 29 May 2009 at 12:56 am

Why can’t we enjoy the ad because it demeans men by depicting them as inferior and flatters the women who will be buying the products while also enjoying that many who are offended by the ad are offended by the notion of women having power over men?

Qubit // Posted 29 May 2009 at 1:19 pm

Just Curious, because I don’t want to be superior to men. I date men, am friends with men and work with men. I don’t want to be looking down on them partly because that isn’t right and partly because that is a lonely place to be. In general I like men and I want to interact with them on a level playing field. I don’t feel empowered by seeing an advert like this, I feel empowered by knowing the fact I am female won’t disadvantage me in either jobs or relationships. I don’t like seeing such big power differentials even if I am not the victim. How do you feel about the advert?

Just Curious // Posted 30 May 2009 at 1:58 pm

I am a woman and I enjoyed it. I don’t see the big deal.

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