What Does Tide Have Against Tomboys?

P&G detergent ad slammed over gender issue

Tide's "Hoodies & Cargo Shorts" commercial is drawing fire around the Web. Some see it as a conformist piece of intolerance backing traditional gender norms for kids; some even call it homophobic. Others claim that those taking offense are just looking for stuff to be bothered about. I think Jezebel gets it right, noting that the spot "presents a troubling cocktail of gender stereotypes, and it's a bit hard to decipher." Indeed, Tide fails by making the humor too thin to allow the satire (if that's what was intended) to shine through. The brand wants it both ways—edgy and safe—and ends up with content that's awkward and confusing. Sweater-swathed Mom does seem Stepford-Wife-ish in her over-art-directed house, and she's big-time into girls-should-wear-pink gender norms. Still, there's wiggle room, and it's unclear (on first viewing, at least) if she is indeed meant to be the butt of the joke. Just as troubling, maybe more so, is another recent Tide spot showing a middle-aged dad snatching his teenage daughter's short skirt from a clothesline and "soiling" it. There's even a phallic oil can. (Paging Dr. Freud!) While it's true that Tide hasn't abstained from freaky material in the past, even that talking smudge managed to keep its act clean.

@DaveGian davegia@hotmail.com David Gianatasio is a longtime contributor to Adweek, where he has been a writer and editor for two decades. Previously serving as Adweek's New England bureau chief and web editor, he remains based in Boston.