Ladies: If your husband is reluctant to fold the laundry or wash the dishes, hide the television remote.
It seems that men are quite influenced by television commercials, most of which portray them in a career environment rather than doing domestic duties. When the commercial for toilet bowl cleaner shows a woman doing that dirty chore, men internalize the message: It's a woman's job.
The majority of commercials featuring women focus on selling home products, such as food, cleaners, personal care items and furniture, while commercials featuring men are more likely to show them engaged in work activities, according to a study led by Valerie Hooper from the University of New Hampshire. Only a scant 2 percent of commercials featuring men showed them performing domestic tasks, such as cooking, cleaning or caring for children.
While men are portrayed as the main character of commercials more than women, they are typically shown doing work tasks, while women are only occasionally shown working outside the home.
Men are paying attention. Men who viewed commercials with a male main character in a traditional, stereotypical male role were more likely to favor life goals related to a career. There is hope! The opposite also held true. Men who viewed commercials with a male main character in a nontraditional, non-stereotypical male role were more likely to favor life goals related to the domestic sphere.
"Gender is one of the most studied social concepts as it is the main standard that people use in determining how to act and interact with others. Because television advertisements transmit cultural ideas about gender, they help to socially construct gender," Hooper explained. "Commercials may affect the way that people think about their own gender and contribute to the ongoing social stratification of genders in our society."
To reach her conclusions, Hooper analyzed the content of all the commercials broadcast on four channels during one week of primetime viewing (8 to 10 p.m.). Those 1,538 commercials were then assessed based on the characters portrayed in them with special attention paid to gender, behavior of the main characters, profession, setting and the type of product being promoted. This content analysis showed that while men and women usually are equally cast in the commercials, men are more likely to represent non-domestic products, to be depicted working and to be in a work or other non-home setting. Women are more likely to represent domestic products such as cleaners and foods, to be performing domestic tasks and to be in a home setting.
How does gender as portrayed in television commercials affect the actions and ambitions of men and women? In the second phase of the study, Hooper showed commercials with traditional and nontraditional gender stereotypes to groups of University of New Hampshire students. After viewing the commercials, the students were asked to discuss their life goals for the next five to 10 years. The men who watched commercials portraying men in traditional roles (outside of the home in a career environment) were more likely to emphasize occupational goals over domestic goals. Those who viewed commercials with men in nontraditional male roles were more likely to emphasize domestic goals.
Women were not as influenced by the commercials when it came to their life goals.
"Television commercials still greatly mimic the common stereotypes in our society regarding life choices," Hooper explained. "These stereotypes are considered outdated by many members of American society, yet still continue to pervade the media. These depictions not only defy the idea that diversity is becoming more accepted in society, but also completely ignore the fact that it is now a material need for both men and women to work and perform domestic duties as most American families cannot survive on one income alone."
--From the Editors at Netscape