A commercial about a woman who wishes her daughter would dress more feminine has been charged with enforcing female and male stereotypes. Some have even gone on to question whether children should be able to choose their own gender, and whether Christians force stereotypical roles?
The Tide detergent commercial depicts a woman sitting on a flowery couch wearing a pink sweater and long skirt. Her daughter is dressed in an oversized camouflage sweater and green shorts. In the commercial she says, “Well we tried the whole pink thing, nope. All she wants to wear is hoodies. Hoodies and cargo shorts. Getting Dirty.”
The mother goes on to explain, “Then she left some crayons in her pocket and they went through the wash. I thought all of her clothes were ruined.”
After applying the advertised product, however, the stains were removed and the mother was disappointed. “It’s kinda too bad,” she said.
Sex, Ect., a sex education magazine, has called the commercial unfair and has disagreed with the mother’s disappointment. “The daughter’s dress and behavior don’t fit or conform to our culture’s stereotypes of who a girl should be,” Taylor McCabe wrote on the organization’s blog. “While the mother isn’t forcing her daughter to conform to traditionally feminine ideals, she is clearly annoyed, as if her daughter’s choice of clothing is a cross to bear.”
McCabe continued, “As harmless as the commercial may seem, it presents the problem of continuing prejudice against those who don’t follow traditional gender roles.”
The organization conforms to the idea that “gender identity” is different from the biological gender of a person. The definition of gender used by the organization states: “A person’s gender identity may or may not be related to their biological sex. This term is often used interchangeably with sex. However, sex is biological and refers to being female or male.”
According to Peter Sprigg, Senior Fellow for Policy Studies at the Family Research Council, some conservatives would prefer not to use the term gender at all because it implies a sort of social aspect. He argued, “A person cannot choose whether they are male or female, that is something that is intrinsic in their body at birth.”
Director of One Million Moms, Monica Cole doesn’t believe that the girl in the commercial is trying to identify herself a boy. “Young children do things without realizing,” she said and suggested that categorizing a young girl’s decision to be a tomboy as a gender decision creates a confusing environment for the child.
“They’re just playing and they don’t know what they’re thinking,” Cole said. By trying to put their behavior in some sort of context, “parents will make them think they are a different person inside.”
She also wondered how harmful the commercial really was. “The commercial could raise a few questions in today’s culture,” she said. “But it’s not evident what Tide’s intentions were with the commercial, if there were any.”
There is more harm in the suggesting that children should be able to choose their own gender. “Suggesting that a child should choose their own gender is very harmful to their childhood and it develops a very harmful lifestyle,” Cole said.
Sprigg also doesn’t believe that children can choose their gender: “I certainly don’t think that children can pick their own gender,” he said. “But that doesn’t mean that a girl can’t like sports and a boy can’t embrace the arts.”
He added: “Gender should not narrow people’s opportunities, you can still be athletic and accept that you are girl.”
Sprigg also rebukes the idea that the Christian community still upholds strict gender roles. “There is a stereotype of conservatives, especially Christian conservatives, that we want to hold to 100 year old strict gender roles, but that is simply false,” he said. “Part of the proof of that is the presence of very strong leadership positions within our (Christian) movement and within our society.”