Feminism | Posted by Reba R on 09/6/2010

Swiffer Brings “Sexist” a Whole New Meaning

oh the precious relationship between woman and cleaning product!

oh the precious relationship between woman and cleaning product!

I love television. I willingly gave 6 years of my life to Lost, watch the Daily Show for ALL of my news, and I can’t even do my homework on my laptop without first checking Hulu for updates on shows I’ve missed. But nothing compares to my love for commercials. As a journalism student, I find myself analyzing every advertisement for subliminal messages using lighting, colors, word choice, and imagery to figure out what message they are trying to get across. But a set of commercials that really grind my gears with their obvious sexism comes from that space-age mop known as Swiffer.

Yeah guys, I’m a little late on this one. And it’s been so long since I’ve written something for thefbomb. I have been wanting to write this article for a long time, and just as I start to find time to do it, I notice that Swiffer has really started to change these commercials as not to offend the many feminists out there (but that doesn’t mean they aren’t offensive.)

If you’ve been living under a rock for the last few months (understandable, in this economy), or you just haven’t seen these commercials, it starts off with a woman cleaning her floor with a Swiffer. Immediately sexist, having a woman cleaning, but not surprising. Then voice of your best friend informs you that, “You’ll love Swiffer so much, you’ll forget about your old [mop, broom, duster]. But don’t worry, he’ll find someone else.” Following this is a rendition of “Love Stinks” or “Baby Come Back” where the neglected cleaning utensil finds another inanimate object to love.

Really, Swiffer? When was the last time I had a romantic relationship with my broom? Was the person (obviously a guy) at the meeting intending to make women out to be in love with their cleaning supplies, or was he really just an idiot? Clearly I was mistaken in going to college to meet guys, when in reality the love of my life is cleaning floors or dusting book shelves (with, I might add, an obscene amount of dust on them). And I had told myself all these years that I was going to marry a lawyer. Oh, the farce!

The last month has shown either a step away from sexism or a cruel twist on sexism in commercials, showing the cleaning instrument as wanting something extra, such as a static cling balloon. Could this be a sting on guys, who may be insecure about buying forms of male enhancement? If I were a guy, I would probably find this commercial a bit offensive as well. Dear Men: You are only good as a tool to use, unless something bigger and better comes along, and then you need enhancement for us to love you. Love, Ladies.

Swiffer seems to be having a problem with their advertising department. As I go to my Mass Communication classes and the people around me say they are going into advertising, I can only hope that the future of commercials is improved with my generation as I start my first year of college.

P.S. Steve, if you are reading this, I didn’t mean it. You will always be the only mop for me. And you’re perfect just the way you are. Love, Reba.

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  • Katherine C. @ at 3:03 pm, September 6th, 2010

    Yeah… I actually find pretty much all cleaning-product commercials unbearably offensive, but Swiffer definitely takes the cake. Thanks for putting it all to words. :)

  • blakerivers @ at 3:44 pm, September 6th, 2010

    Advertising companies may be intentionally or unintentionally sexist, but they are not stupid. They know what their consumer demographic is and they market to it. And they are willing to piss a minority of people off as long as the majority are still hooked in.

    Of course, your “(obviously a guy)” assumption is ungrounded. There are quite a few females in advertising, especially in advertising products that the company feels are more often purchased by women. What one woman finds cute or funny, another woman may find offensive–unless you disagree…

  • blakerivers @ at 3:53 pm, September 6th, 2010

    So as not to give the wrong impression:

    I too find commercials like this (which is practically most of them) offensive and aggravating, but I’m just saying that not all women will share that impression.

    Good article. And it’s nice that you took both genders into consideration, even though the feminist issues are much more outstanding.

  • rebareis @ at 9:37 pm, September 6th, 2010

    @blakerivers You’re correct on my guy assumption. It wasn’t supposed to come out as an assumption, but as a joke, and a low one. I was angry when I wrote this and I should have proofread it when I had cooled down and my attempt at humor was a bit below the belt (pun completely intended.) Thanks for pointing this out, because it did weigh on my conscience after I submitted it.

  • Tessa @ at 11:41 pm, September 6th, 2010

    I don’t think that whenever a woman is in a cleaning commercial it’s “immediately sexist”. There was this awesome commercial I saw on t.v the other day for a cleaning product(don’t remember the brand), and the woman and man were cleaning together! They were both mopping and sweeping, and I thought that was so different from other cleaning commercials. Overall, though, I completely agree with you that these Swiffer ads are sexist and ridiculous@

    @blakerivers: “And it’s nice that you took both genders into consideration, even though the feminist issues are much more outstanding”

    Well, isn’t feminism about both genders? I had to comment on this comment (haha) because my pet peeve is when people think of feminism as only women’s issues. If we’re going to limit our definition of feminism to only women’s issues, than we don’t get to fully address men’s as well. You’re alienating all the male feminists who want their issues addressed as well.

  • blakerivers @ at 1:51 am, September 7th, 2010

    @Tessa: I don’t want to bite your head off or anything like that, and I appreciate your concern…I’m impressed, actually…but I have to disagree.

    Feminism is not about both genders, not in my understanding at least. Feminism concerns female issues pretty exclusively. However, for obvious reasons, feminism has an impact on both genders, AND both genders should be involved in feminism. There is a quote that goes something like: “If we’re not pulling together, we’re pulling apart.” I may have altered it some (I heard it long ago) but this captures why it is important for people to work together. This is why I try to represent both genders in my own writings and comments and try not to be partial to women only.

    I actually just recently wrote a post about this on my blog, so read that if you’re interested.

    @Rebareis: I don’t think you said anything offensive, and I laughed myself, but I just had to play devil’s advocate for a second. Thanks!

  • Samuel W. @ at 11:56 am, September 7th, 2010

    Oh everything’s offensive in ads, they don’t care. There’s going to be something offensive in an ad, let’s just be honest. Hell, what I find offensive is how they try to do lame, LAME comedy, reinforce old stereotypes because they are unable to think creatively, and are rotated round the clock. The ads are louder than the shows on FOX for example.

  • Robert @ at 9:45 pm, September 7th, 2010

    I’m a guy and am obsessed with the quality of my vacuum. Good quality anything makes me happy… Whether it be cleaning products, a mattress, or some of my hardware tools.

  • The Raisin Girl @ at 11:52 pm, September 7th, 2010

    Okay, I’ll bite. The ads are offensive and sexist. But, um, showing a woman cleaning, in and of itself, is not sexist at all. Because women–even really successful, career-driven women–do usually have to do some cleaning at some point in their lives. That’s not sexism, it’s reality. What IS sexist is the stereotype of the career woman who is an idiot when it comes to domestic affairs. It’s a stereotype just like any other, and damaging. I mean, really, how independent can you BE if you can’t keep your living space clean and feed yourself?

    That aside, what I hope you were TRYING to say is that the prevalence of women depicted as homemakers in commercials relative to men depicted the same way is sexist, because women are more often depicted in this way in accordance with old-fashioned social norms that limited women’s roles. Because that makes sense.

    Maybe I’m nitpicky. I just like clarity, I can’t help it.

  • samuelle @ at 10:51 pm, September 9th, 2010

    These do annoy me a bit- but, for some reason, the commercial that annoys me MORE is this sandwich bread commercial where the kid is walking through the house that’s 1960’s styled, and the scenery and funriture and the way the child is dressed change to suit the decades going by in a few split seconds- and- guess what? the woman is STILL in the kitchen in this ‘innovative’ advertisement. I would have been a LITTLE bit more understand if they were sending out a message of ‘classic, traditional, etc.’ with her in the kitchen, but the fact that throguh the message that they were changing and keeping up with the times- woman was still in the kitchen making a sandwich while her kid ran to school so she could spend the day alone with sexy mr. Swiffer

  • Nick @ at 3:09 pm, September 10th, 2010

    You check them for subliminal messages…why?

    There’s no scientific proof whatsoever that subliminal messages, purposeful or not, are effective in any manner.

    How could something affect you subconscious if it isn’t first processed consciously?

  • Tessa @ at 6:11 pm, September 10th, 2010




    Read before you begin arguing something that’s not true

  • Ruth Tobler @ at 6:36 pm, September 10th, 2010

    I have no problem with seeing women cleaning.What I find offensive is the commercial themselves. They are just plain stupid. Does advertising executives really sit around and think up this ridiculous stuff and actually get paid for it? Even if the product is the best thing since sliced bread, I would not buy it because the ads are sooooo bad.

  • Ryan Peterson @ at 9:50 pm, September 10th, 2010

    “Was the person (obviously a guy)” Talk about sexism. Do you honestly believe that all people who make sexist commercials are men?

  • Ryan Peterson @ at 9:57 pm, September 10th, 2010

    Did a little more research. Turns out the company that made the commercials is the Kaplan Thaler Group.
    It’s headed up by a wonderful woman named…

    Linda Kaplan Thaler
    CEO, Chief Creative Officer

    K, Now I am just being a jerk, but I really really wanted to make sure I was right on this one.

  • Nonpareil @ at 10:58 am, September 12th, 2010

    Swiffer commercials are just plain stupid. They don’t contain some underlying message that women should stay home and clean.

    So…now will we say the Pine-Sol commercial contains a message of “This product is so great it’ll entice your husband to mop because men don’t know how to clean/are too busy earning money for your Pine-Sol and bon-bons to clean.”

    It’s THAT kind of sterotyping on BOTH ends that prevents us from moving forward in terms of equality among the sexes.

  • Political Correctness: Where’s the Line? | fbomb @ at 11:01 am, September 15th, 2010

    […] metaphorical in its depiction of violence, not literal. Maybe there’s nothing sexist about that swiffer commercial. Maybe this movie doesn’t mean to portray blatant gender stereotypes and messed up messages about […]

  • Sara @ at 11:06 am, September 18th, 2010

    OMFG! Girl’s tend to do the cleaning. I mean someone has to… Any smart company will advertise to the person that does that. Seriously. wtf.

  • Joe @ at 9:08 pm, March 21st, 2011

    How on earth are these commercials sexist? You have no sense of humor.

  • Sandra @ at 5:29 pm, May 8th, 2011

    Well I don’t really find this commercial to be very sexist. It is true that it shows a woman cleaning but that may be because woman would be most likely to purchase this product. They are the target market and it’s just part of advertising towards the consumer.
    The part where the the broom finds “someone else” isn’t supposed to be insulting. It’s trying to appeal to people that have a sense of humor. A commercial needs either sex, violence, or humor to stand out these days. Perhaps you shouldn’t look into it in the sense that it is trying to give women a bad name, but that it is trying to stand out in order for people to remember the product when purchasing cleaning supplies in a store.

  • marla m @ at 10:36 pm, January 11th, 2012

    Ummm….honey? You’re writing an article about how sexist you think a commercial is, and yet you clearly state “I was going to college to meet guys”, specifically “marrying a lawyer”? Because me and all my friends are in college because we want careers, but no I guess women are only supposed to have MRS degrees, so my bad!

  • Debra @ at 9:14 am, August 30th, 2012

    Seriously??? With all the murders, rapes, drugs, unwed mothers, abortions, job losses, people losing their homes, WARS and many other truly offensive situations, you are complaining about a cute and funny TV advertisement???!! Check out the real world people. Grow up!!! No need to reply unless you want to hear your own horn tooting because I won’t be back to read it. UNBELIEVABLE!!

  • Beth @ at 2:11 am, December 19th, 2012

    @marla m: I think the writer was being sarcastic.

    I, for one, am super glad that Reba wrote this article. I agree with her sentiments. I’ve been wondering how advertising companies have been getting away with this for so long.

  • Andy Harglesis @ at 4:49 pm, February 8th, 2013

    I’m waiting for Swiffer to hire a male actor for their commercials. Until then, sorry, but they are reinforcing stereotypes of female housekeepers, and in 2013 I think that’s getting too worn out. It is also insulting to males, saying they can’t clean, and only women can take the cake of pushing a mop around and taking care of a household. Sexist both ways, really.

  • Roz Weedman @ at 4:02 pm, August 28th, 2013

    Well, they hired a male actor all right. And it all just went downhill. As sexist as ever with infuriatingly insulting to old people thrown in. If they view their demographic as the 80+ age group (hard to believe but what do I know), surely that dumber-than-dirt old couple would alienate the market. Unless there’s some men out there who think the way to their wife’s heart is a new mop.

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