Have you seen this Tide commercial?
As you watch it, write down the first five words that come to mind or your initial reactions.
This is my response to it: There are quite a few things going on here that are disturbing in terms of the dynamics in family structure and the sexualization of young girls.
The Father: He is a typical American male — a worker, a father, a producer. After working on the fence, he chooses his daughter’s white mini skirt to wipe the grime and oil off his hands and then tosses it in the hamper. He chooses the skirt out of all the other items hanging on the clothesline (who uses clotheslines nowadays?), to show his repulsion towards the overt sexualization of his daughter via her fashion. No man wants his daughter to walk around in short skirts and be ogled by young men with raging hormones. But why not toss it in the garbage? Why the hamper? This shows his powerlessness. He can ruin the skirt, temporarily, but he has no voice in the family. The girl removes it from the hamper, the mom saves the day by using Tide to clean it, and the dad is pet on the head as if he is a naughty puppy. He has no power. He attempts to rid his daughter’s life of something that will transform his little girl into a woman, but in the end, he is overcome by the women in his life.
The Daughter: The daughter has learned that “Dad is trying to ruin (her) style,” not that he is trying to protect her from boys and men that like to look at young girls in short skirts and try to make them “mine” as the rap song in the background recounts. A stereotyped teen, fashion is everything and wearing mini skirts is fashionable. She has to be pretty and thin and in fashion to be popular and to be liked. And it’s great that boys can look at her and want to claim her as theirs. That is her role. This is what she learns about her identity, and this is the lesson taught to the young girls that watch this advertisement. Sexual identity IS their identity. She also learns that her mother will support her sexy identity; after all, she is a woman and she understands the pressures that come with looking pretty and sexy. Unlike daddy, that crazy guy sitting on the couch and reading his paper. Aw, he’s so cute trying to ruin her style — trying to protect her from exploitation and her identity as a sex kitten.
The Mother: The mother here is the ring leader. She is the culprit, the one person who should NOT be buying, let alone cleaning a short skirt for her daughter to wear out. The fact that the song in the background is telling us why the girl is wearing the short skirt and how she will be received once she’s out of her house only makes her a more ridiculous mother because she is OK with it. I know this is just a commercial, but there are subversive messages that are being sent to our kids, and when we chuckle at ads like this, we undermine the serious nature of how we send our girls out in the world. And more importantly, how we don’t prepare them for real life problems that arise because of their heightened sexual identity. When I see tweens in short spandex shorts and bikinis walking around the neighborhood or riding their bikes, I wonder how their parents were able to purchase these items for them. We teach our girls in owning their sexuality, but we don’t teach them about owning their bodies and their intelligence. We don’t teach them how to protect themselves against vile men and sadists and rapists.
And so when this mother smiles as her daughter twirls in a mini skirt, rubs her father’s head, and walks out the door with the lyrics of Studio B’s “I See Girls” on the soundtrack, there is an emphasis on the fact that it is OK for men to watch and objectify girls; with moms who allow their girls to objectify themselves; with dads who don’t try hard enough, or who are silent in the obvious objectification of their daughters and other girls; with advertising that thinks it’s OK to use overt female sexuality to sell products as innocuous and domestic as laundry detergent; and with music videos that have no problems reducing women to tits and ass — to sexual vixens whose power stems only from their attractiveness to the male gaze and appetite. What is really mind-boggling is the fact that this commercial, while objectifying young girls, is aimed at women consumers. And we don’t revolt. There is no outcry. We are made to feel powerful, with a louder voice in the home; we wear the pants, the commercial tell us. But with all this power over our husbands, we are smiling as we send our daughters out into the world as eye candy. We are getting a pat on the back for helping them exploit our girls. Nice job, Moms! Better luck next time, dads! Next time, throw the skirt in the trash.
Here’s the Studio B music video to the song used on this commercial, which is sickening from a woman and a mother’s perspective. That the two — a sexist song with video to match and a Tide commercial — are used to highlight the domestic duties of women (laundry, motherhood, marriage, the home, and raising sexy daughters) — is quite offensive and repugnant.