Do commercials promote gender stereotypes?

The Superbowl recently came to Indianapolis in 2012 and with it came lots of funny commercials. Most of the commercials were gender neutral, that is–they showed only the product, with no people, or the commercial was about a product and an animal. This year’s Superbowl contained many commercials with dogs (and no people), for example.

M & M came out with a commercial though that most people thought was one of the best commercials during the Superbowl.

This commercial displays women talking, while one man laughs at the brown lady M & M, allegedly thinking that she’s naked. The brown M & M silences the laughing man by saying that she is just brown, not naked. Then a red male M & M enters, sees the brown M & M and thinks it’s “that kind of party” and quickly loses his outer shell, much to the dismay of the brown M & M.

The subtle meaning behind this cute and quirky commercial–women are sophisticated, out for a nice time, with glamorous gowns and glasses on, while the men are bubbling idiots, who only think sexually.

The bigger question is then asked: are commercials sexist? And do they promote gender stereotypes?

In other words are commercials more like:

“With kids, teens, pets, and husbands, ever wonder how you can keep your house clean?”      -Stanley Steemer

Or are they more equal (or at least, those who make the mess, clean the mess), like in this commercial by Clorox:

Gentry and Harrison (2010) researched this topic, finding that although the woman’s role in commercials is changing, fathers (males) are still being gender stereotyped.

What this means–in commercials and on TV shows, women are seen as being competent in their careers, while managing a home and the children, while the men, who still work, come home and relax, often neglecting the housework and children. Or if they try to do chores or interact with their child, they mess up, much to the dismay of the mother/wife.

The question then becomes–Do commercials and TV influence real life? Many researchers think so—leading some to call for change: if you want equality, then maybe it wouldn’t be a bad idea to show parents working together for the greater good of their household.



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