Academic journal article Journal of Advertising Education

Housework and Housewives in American Advertising

Academic journal article Journal of Advertising Education

Housework and Housewives in American Advertising

Article excerpt

Housework and Housewives in American Advertising By Jessamyn Neuhaus (New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011; 273 pages; paper; ISBN: 978-0-230-11489-0)

Jessamyn Neuhaus provides a fascinating overview of the history of housework and how it has been targeted, defined and transformed by advertising. The author analyzed advertisements from the late 1 800s to today as well as advertising agency documentation to get insight into the strategies behind the advertising. She notes that "the images and rhetoric in advertising play a disproportionately significant role in the maintenance of domestic gender norms... [because] advertising is our only truly widespreadthat is, regularly viewed by men, women, and children of all races and classes - popular cultural expression about housework" (pp. 8-9). That premise alone provides tremendous insight into this realm - we rarely witness cleaning habits outside of our own home, so our most salient examples of housework are from what we see through the perspective of advertising. This book is more than just a look at portrayals of housework in advertising; it is a book that examines gender roles, changing definitions of cleanliness, division of labor and the value of women in society as seen through the lens of advertising of household products.

The book is divided into four chapters: The Laundry Room, The Bathroom, The Kitchen and The Living Room, each providing a historical context of various household tasks. Neuhaus points out that, historically, "housework" became synonymous with "housewives" and the resulting stereotype endured until the late 1900s.

Such imagery endured, quite simply, because it was successful in the marketplace. It is remarkable that such depictions have been relatively consistent and unchanging in the hundred years of advertising that Neuhaus analyzed. …

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