Weekend Blog: Commercials and Stereotypes

A radio ad – think it was for McDonald’s – got me thinking, not for the first time, about cultural assumptions.

Okay, so there’s a long-running set of assumptions about Husbands in American culture. This particular one was “men don’t like to clean out the garage.”

This… is not true of the men I know, but hey, let’s keep going.

This goes along with the “men don’t like to do chores” tropes – the “Honey-Do” list, the chore jar, etc. The ignored tasks that pile up and up until Marge has to learn carpentry to fix them herself. (I watch a lot of Simpsons, okay? 😉 There seems to be a stack of assumptions that permeate American culture – especially comedy, which, Simpsons aside, I try not to watch too much of.

So, “who perpetuates these myths” is obvious: comedies, commercials, media. I think it probably goes along with the idea that men can’t parent, can’t do housework, are pretty much helpless children when it comes to the realm of the home.

Now, I know the separate spheres idea goes back at least to the late 1800’s, and I know my father, for instance, liked to pretend a helplessness with things like laundry and cooking that belied the years he’d spent living on his own. (Seriously, I was horrified as a teenager to have to show my dad how to use the washer). But my post-childhood experience with men has not been that they are helpless, useless, or lazy.

(There’s a certain amount of self-selection there, of course; I knew incompetent men, lazy men, useless men. I grew up with competent helpful skilled men — my grandfather is a farmer; my other grandfather used to build houses — and chose to marry the same.)

Why do you think this stereotype proliferates?

When you are writing, are there stereotypes you work into your writing? What sorts, and why?

What do you run into in media that just seems jarring vs. the way your life actually goes?

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