Summary: Unlike other advertisements for cleaning and household products that might at least attempt to covertly embed sexist messages about women and domesticity (here and here), this advertisement for Quilted Northern toilet paper makes no qualms about explicitly linking women to the domestic sphere. One of the primary ads for Quilted Northern's new Soft & Strong brand toilet paper originally opened with a male voiceover explaining that, “We went around the country asking women to speak frankly about something no one wants to talk about.” The unspoken phenomenon mentioned in the ad referred to that taboo topic of toilet paper. While the male voiceover implicated himself in the story as part of the “research team” that interviews women across the country, women in the ad are positioned as experts of the domestic domain, able to speak knowledgeably and credibly about toilet paper. This ad appears to have been removed from YouTube and in its place are two shorter clips, and much like the original, each features a woman describing what she needs from toilet paper. The new advertisements, like the original, deploy the persuasive technique of ethos, or an appeal to credibility or character. Instructors can point out that what’s significant here (and in thousands of other commercials for household products) is that, unlike appeals to ethos that involve, for example, Michael Jordan endorsing Nike or “9 out of 10 dentists” endorsing toothpaste, the credibility of the Quilted Northern experts lies solely in the fact that they are women. They are not avid toilet paper enthusiasts or physicists that can speak to the durability of the toilet tissue fibers. The message is that being a woman, and specifically a woman with a family, enables one to speak credibly about matters involving the domestic sphere. As consumers, we are told to trust and purchase this household product because an “extremely reliable source”—i.e., women—told us to.
Submitted By: Valerie Chepp