Summary: This 30-second commercial is an excellent illustration of West and Zimmerman's (1987) "doing gender" and how media reproduces traditional gender roles in contemporary society. The advertisement features a montage of different women cleaning up various messes around the house, helping their children in the kitchen, and doing the grocery shopping. The very masculine man on the paper towel package sings "lean on me," showing that society ascribes these qualities to a man, while the woman is supposed to depend on men and “lean” on them for support (this also reflects a heteronormative relationship, in which a couple is depicted as a heterosexual male and female). The commercial concludes with the woman buying the paper towel with the “strong” man on the package. Viewers can reflect on how such commercials promote traditional gender socialization within pop culture, how it promotes gender inequality, and how this particular depiction of masculinity and femininity might reflect unequal power within a relationship. Using commercials in this manner offers several benefits, including a quick assessment of student understanding of key concepts (see here and here for other examples of gender in commercials).
Submitted By: Deborah Kim and Michon Tart