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Madison Avenue catching up to changing gender roles

Over the last few weeks, there’s been a spate of ads aimed at reframing the way we think about gender. The above ad, made for Dove and viewed by over 11 million people on Youtube, offers a singular focus on dads connecting with their kids.

And then there is the Verizon ad, “Inspire Her Mind,” that shows all the ways our stereotypical ideas about what being a girl means ends up holding girls back, steering them away from “yucky boy stuff,” like science:

And now there is this ad by Always, called “#LikeAGirl” that examines how the phrase “like a girl,” is often seen as an insult.

First lets offer a pat on the back to these ad makers for offering a fresh look at dads and girls, and gender roles more broadly.

It is true that the overwhelming images we see of dads portray them as somehow befuddled by parenting and women as the super-moms and housework whizzes.  And girls are more likely to be seen playing with dolls and concerned with shopping than fixing a computer. And just who is it that serves up these stereotypical images you might ask?

Ad companies.

In trying to counter those more common images with these current ads, the companies are acknowledging their tremendous power in creating and underscoring stereotypical ideas about gender.  They have offered up the dish-washing mom who discovers just the right product for the best looking dishes. These current ads reflect a shifting landscape and companies that sell products to women and girls are acknowledging this moment. Women are often sole breadwinners in their homes, dads do housework, and girls grow up to be basketball players and doctors.  It is good business for companies to recognize and reflect consumer’s changing lives.

But the mere fact that these more realistic and in some cases inspiring ads draw so much attention and praise proves how rare they still are. It’s a good start, but so far, a tiny drop in the dishwater.

Nia-Malika Henderson is a political reporter for The Fix.



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Nia-Malika Henderson · June 26, 2014

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