Frustration with the gender roles portrayed in ads for cleaning supplies is nothing new — with a few notable exceptions, women are cast as cardigan-wearing overlords of all things tidy, while men are depicted as bumbling oafs who can’t tell a vacuum from a garbage disposal.
While most of us roll our eyes at these outdated stereotypes, every once in a while an ad comes along that inspires more ire than eye-rolling. A recent campaign for Swiffer has done just that, leaving parent company Procter & Gamble scrambling to make amends.
The modern American woman wears many hats — including the one labeled “primary breadwinner” in 40% of US households — so it comes as no surprise to us that Swiffer’s domesticated reinvention of Rosie the Riveter, a character created to urge women to join the workforce during World War II, has caused something of an uproar.
While Rosie’s catch phrase “we can do it” originally referred to holding down a job in a man’s world while keeping up with family life and other responsibilities, Swiffer’s reinvention leaves us imagining that “it” now refers to mopping the floor to a sparkling clean — somehow, not quite as inspiring.
In response to blogosphere and social media backlash, Procter & Gamble is working to remove the image everywhere it’s being used.
Our core value is to make cleaning easier, no matter who’s behind the handle. We apologize and are working hard to remove the image.
— Swiffer (@Swiffer) June 4, 2013
While we do of course realize that many women are the ones mopping the kitchen floors (and that Rosie herself probably had to return home from a long day of riveting to fix dinner), turning an icon of the female workforce into a mop-wielding house frau was a concept bound to fall flat; P&G is likely doing the right thing by pulling the image, demonstrating its dedication to addressing customer concerns.