Beyond Marriage: Valuing All Families under the Law

“A woman married to a man for nine months is entitled to Social Security survivor’s benefits when he dies; a woman living for nineteen years with a man or woman to whom she is not married receives nothing.”[1] The debate over marriage equality for same-sex couples was one that took over the country’s social and political agenda in the early 2000’s. Nancy Polikoff’s Beyond (Straight and Gay) Marriage challenges this agenda by asking both straights and gays alike to consider a broader definition of what constitutes a family and how this structure should be protected under the law. Those protected by the institution of marriage have privileged status in regards to tax benefits, estate benefits, government benefits, employment benefits, medical benefits, and death benefits among others. Polikoff calls for a revamping of family law; one that takes into consideration the changing nature of family units while also deemphasizing the status of marriage in our society.

Nancy Polikoff is a professor of law at American University Washington College of Law. She teaches Family Law and a seminar on Children of LGBT Parents and has been writing about, litigating about, and speaking about cases involving LGBT families for the past thirty years. Her accomplishments include co-founding the Washington, DC Feminist Law Collective, supervising family law programs at the Women’s Legal Defense Fund, and co-authoring one of the first law review articles on the custody rights of lesbian mothers. Beyond (Straight and Gay) Marriage is Polikoff’s first book. She has a daughter in her twenties and lives with her partner in Washington, DC.

The first half of the Beyond Marriage gives the reader historical context as to how we got to the position we are in with marriage today. It begins with the advances made by the second-wave feminist movement in the context of marriage, and then describes how those advances have been attacked since the 1970s by the religious right. Betty Freidan, Gloria Steinem and others are cited in this section, along with groundbreaking legislature like Title IX. From there, she moves into the gay rights movement and the intersection of lesbianism and feminism. Eventually she delves into the marriage movement of the conservative right and the how the push for preserving marriage as an institution for heterosexual couples strengthened marriage’s societal status. She then brings the reader to the contemporary fight for marriage equality, the most thorough part of the first half of the monograph.

Generally, there are two dominant perspectives in the contemporary marriage debate. First, there are those who support the institution of marriage and believe that opening it up to non-heterosexual couples will undermine social structure. Second, there are those who support equal access to marriage for LGBT individuals since they deserve the same access to benefits as married heterosexual couples. Throughout the book, Polikoff makes reference to groups on both sides of the argument. Frequently mentioned supporters of the marriage movement include The Institute for American Values, the Alliance Defense Fund, and the Liberty Counsel. Those often mentioned on the side of marriage equality include Lambda Legal, the Human Rights Campaign, and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. All of these groups fight for legislation supporting their side of the argument or represent individuals in relevant court cases. Polikoff separates herself from these prominent groups by taking a third stance. She questions the legitimacy of marriage as the necessary qualification for receiving legal benefits and questions whether it is fair to exclude so many other family forms by limiting such benefits. This allows her to reframe the debate over marriage by making the point that the benefits associated with marriage are not inherent, they have been constructed over time and have increasingly drawn a line between families formed through marriage and families formed through other means. By fighting for the right to marriage for LGBT couples, dominant organizations like the Human Rights Campaign are reinforcing the place of marriage in our society as cultural institution that unfairly awards rights to the married and leaves those who are unmarried out to dry. She enforces the argument that marriage is outdated and the benefits that accompany it were developed decades ago when having sex outside of marriage was taboo, illegitimate children were considered outcasts, and marriage had gender roles legally entwined within it. Through the examination of historical movements, she determines that people have changed the way that they view and structure their lives and the current marriage equality movement does not reflect this change.

The second half of the book is dedicated to describing specific aspects of her proposed approach, called “valuing all families,” to make marriage matter less. The most important aspect of this approach is identifying the purpose of specific laws that currently grant marriage-specific legal consequences. By understanding the specific objectives of these laws, relationships can be identified that would further the law’s objective without creating a specific special status for married people. In regards to this approach, she addresses health care, medical leave, medical care, domestic partner benefits, the dissolution of relationships, death, and economic compensation. Polikoff argues that by taking this approach, our society can move more towards a legal system based on the nature of care and dependency in relationships, not just the relationship’s specific name. Her solutions are not only for same-sex couples, they are also for people non-conjugal relationships, like unmarried elderly people, caregivers and the people they help, or friends living together. For instance, through this approach she examines the current family and medical leave practices of businesses across the country, supported by anecdotes of those who were not allowed such leave to care for an ill family member. Many medical leave policies are limited to caring for a spouse or child with serious illness and are often unpaid. Polikoff proposes support of the “Healthy Families Act,” a bill that provides seven days of paid leave per year “to care for a child, a parent, a spouse, or any other individual related by blood or affinity whose close association with the employee is the equivalent of a family relationship.”[2] This kind of reform breaks down barriers and helps to redefine the law’s narrow definitions of family that do not accurately reflect today’s society.

Polikoff’s breadth of knowledge of her field is evident as she provides a comprehensive overview of legal history as it applies to social movements throughout the decades. This method is extremely effective in giving the reader context into the foundational aspects of marriage and establishing the true dividing line that it has become. By making interdisciplinary links through feminism, sexual liberation, class, and justice, her argument is multidimensional and looks at marriage through the views of different legal lenses. The inclusion of a significant amount of laws and court cases is appropriate since the nature of her “valuing all families” solution focuses on reforming these laws. In contrast to the formality of the included law, Polikoff includes many anecdotes and case studies throughout the monograph to explain how the law has failed certain families because of the marriage dividing line. These short stories help to break up the dense law material and make it easy to envision why her reform needs to be implemented in real world situations.

Although at first the idea of diminishing and eventually removing the significance of marriage in a society may seem radical to the general population, Polikoff’s presentation of her argument makes it seem truly possible and reasonable. She provides concrete solutions for reforming laws, many based at the state and local level, and also provides several examples of places where similar laws have been successfully enacted. Even with the abundance of case law, the Beyond Marriage is very much readable by those without Polikoff’s extensive background. This monograph is meant to reach a broad audience due to its increasing relevance, however, due to its connectedness with the marriage equality movement and gay rights, the audience becomes more limited.

Polikoff reinforces in Beyond Marriage that people should have the choice to marry based on their individual beliefs, whether they be cultural, spiritual, or religions in nature. It should not be a choice that people are forced into to obtain unique legal benefits that are specific only to marriage. The end goal of her efforts is a system in which marriage is not the rigid dividing line between who is in and who is out regarding family law, through her “valuing all families” approach. This monograph is a valuable resource for people in all family structures and can help our society move towards a legal system that helps improve the lives of all individuals and families.

Works Cited

Polikoff, Nancy D. Beyond Straight and Gay Marriage: Valuing All Families under the Law. Boston: Beacon Press, 2008.

[1] Nancy D. Polikoff, Beyond Straight and Gay Marriage: Valuing All Families under the Law (Boston: Beacon Press, 2008), Cover page.

[2] Nancy D. Polikoff, Beyond Straight and Gay Marriage: Valuing All Families under the Law (Boston: Beacon Press, 2008), 172.

“If it’s in a word, or it’s in a look”… An Analysis of “The Babadook”

“If it’s in a word or it’s in a look, you can’t get rid of”… societal norms. The Babadook, especially in this trailer, both reinforces and questions many of the underlying assumptions our society has around gender and sex, class and sexuality. Amelia, the mother at the heart of this film, is simultaneously defined by her distance and increasing slippage away from norms, but also the societal pressures that she feels trapped and tormented by. The trailer looks at both Amelia’s perspective as a mother in society, but also society at large’s view of what it means to be a woman, and what it means to be a mother.

The expectations for Amelia seem to overwhelm her throughout the film. The most prominent of these expectations that Amelia struggles with are her responsibilities as a mother. As a mother, she is expected to be always emotionally and physically available to help her son, and able to quickly and effectively correct anything disruptive or societally detrimental that her child does. The first shot of Amelia in the trailer is her reading to her son, Samuel, in bed, a quintessentially maternal action as defined by our society. However, as the trailer continues, the world that Amelia lives in seems to be crumbling around her. Her son misbehaves and acts out in violent ways, like building a slingshot to fight the monster. Samuel is loud, disruptive and potentially violent, in ways that Amelia soon realizes she cannot always control. Samuel’s outbursts are Amelia’s “fault” as a mother, and through the institutions that surround her, she is blamed and shamed for her inability to control Samuel’s every move.

Amelia’s problems, especially with regards to Samuel, are often treated in an institutionalized way through a male perspective, as seen throughout the trailer, in ways that contradict and cause conflict within Amelia as a character. For example, the male administrator of Samuel’s school tells Amelia, in response to Samuel’s bringing a weapon to school, “the boy has significant behavioral problems” (while the female administrator remains silent), and the medical professional that Amelia sees tells her “all children see monsters”. Even the governmental agents of order, as seen through the police at 1:22 into the clip, are distorted and unhelpful in Amelia’s plight. The police officer is a reflection of the torment Amelia faces, with his gray skin and sunken appearance, much like the Babadook that plagues her and her family. The film simultaneously questions and reinforces the idea that the home and the family are the “woman’s sphere”; Amelia is situated in a context where her inability to mother Samuel “properly” is a reflection of both Samuel and her own failures in a medical sense. Samuel “promises to protect” his mother if she can protect him in the trailer; however, neither characters seems to be able to offer the other protection.

The character of Amelia also reflects and questions the stereotype of the “hysterical woman” and the dichotomy that society often situates between the sane, put-together mother, and the “crazy”, overworked mother who can’t handle her children. Much of the film appears to be presented as though it is from Amelia’s perspective. The quick glimpses of the monster that the trailer shows the audience, such as the knock on the door at the 1:00 mark of the trailer, the shadowy figure in the neighbor’s house at 1:19 and the graying skin of the police officer at 1:23, combined with the increasing desperation in Amelia’s voice and more unkempt appearance seem to suggest that perhaps “the Babadook” is only a figment of her imagination and a hallucination created by stress. Amelia herself seems to buy into the idea that what she’s seeing is not real; as she tells her coworker, “I’m fine…just a bit stressed at the moment.” The Babadook addresses a real consequence of society’s belittling of women and children; Amelia and Samuel face real dangers when what they see with their own eyes is dismissed as the ravings of an overworked, hysterical woman and the overactive imagination of a child. The belittling that Amelia faces as a woman is compounded by issues of class, and represents an example of how intersectionality can affect a person’s place in society.

Though the trailer doesn’t often address these issues as fully as the movie does, the trailer does help reveal how Amelia, by virtue of her class, is often judged and belittled by those of higher class and power. For example, though not addressed in the trailer, Amelia struggles in the upper-class world of her sister, and the assumptions and judgments that higher class women place on Amelia for not being able to “do it all” as both a working woman and a mother. Much of the judgment Amelia receives as a “bad mother” and “hysterical” seems to be compounded by her social class; Amelia has to work and cannot afford childcare for Samuel, and society around her seems to judge her for her inability, by virtue of her social class, to constantly keep watch on and act as an authority figure for Samuel. Directly addressed in the trailer, however, is how wealthier men of higher social status treat Amelia. The administrator and doctor, in addition to being men, are indicated to be of higher class than working-class Amelia in the trailer, and their opinions that they understand her situation better than her because they are men are compounded by the privileges they enjoy over her due to class. They are implied to be “experts” in their fields, which means that, in the context of dealing with Amelia, they assume they understand her life and situation better than she herself does, which, as the film progresses, soon becomes evidently fallacious.

The Babadook, as an entity, is also very interesting from a gendered perspective. While the Babadook is clearly not human, it is still slotted into the gender binary in this movie. It is gendered as male, referred to as “mister”, and wears clothes that Samuel and Amelia take to mean it is male. The gendering of the Babadook helps feed into the storyline of the loss and grief Amelia feels, and her isolation from the world around her. The male Babadook represents the two male people in her life that precipitate her decline. He represents both her deceased husband, who, like the Babadook, acts as an unseen effect on her life that keeps her from being able to live as society expects her to. He also represents her son, Samuel, who, like the Babadook, represents her fear of being unable to handle being a mother, her fear that she has created or “let in” a violent monster into her life and her fear that Samuel is unable to distinguish reality from fiction, into which Amelia herself fears that she is digressing.

The Babadook, while on the surface simply a traditional monster movie, is also a critique and presentation of societal norms and requirements expected of women and people of lower class. Amelia feels simultaneously far from, and dragged towards, societal expectations of her as a woman, a mother and a member of the working class. Just like “Mister Babadook” who Amelia tries to rid herself of, the expectations of society just won’t let her alone, whether or not she “lets it in” or not.

Odd Couples

Human beings strive for relationship and companionship. It is in our nature. Most people tend to bond with others based on the premise of similarity. This is not always the case however. In her work Odd Couples: Friendships at the Intersection of Gender and Sexual Orientation Anna Muraco takes a look at specific types of relationships: those crossing gender and sexual orientation boundaries. “Odd Couples examines intersectional friendships between gay men and straight women and between lesbian men and straight men to show how these friendships serves as a barometer for shifting social norms, particularly with respect to gender and sexual orientation”.[1]

Muraco examines the relationships between opposite-sex, opposite-orientation adults through various interviews with 26 friendships dyads and triads in the San Francisco Bay Area.[2] More specifically, she, “relied on the participants’ self-identification of being in a close intersectional friendship as sufficient to include them during the study.”[3] From there, she asked participants to explain what they believe it means to be a close friend. Muraco has a multitude of reasons for desiring to study the friendships between opposite-sex, opposite-orientation individuals. For one, she believes that previous studies about the same topic do not examine these relationships thoroughly or not in the same way that she desires to; that “A gap exists in social science research […]”.[4] This gap is due to the fact that friendships are more often studied in youth and young adults rather than adults. Another reason for Muraco’s desire to examine friendship groups was the desire to understand whether or not sexual orientation mitigated inequality between men and women.[5] There has been prior research on this question, however, as Muraco points out, the prior research has not answered the question as to whether or not the absence of sexual tension and romance allows for more egalitarian relationships. Neither has it answered whether or not gender norms will still apply in these relationships.[6] Not only does this research by Muraco answer these questions, but it also challenges the concept of compulsory heterosexuality introduced by Adrienne Rich.[7]

Although lack of previous research motivated Muraco to write Odd Couples, she began to examine intersectional relationships by looking at her own relationship and the relationships of those around her. Her best friend of over twenty years identifies as gay, while Muraco herself is straight. As time went on and pop culture changed, Muraco began to notice the similarities between her own relationship with Mike and other relationships that they were exposed to. One example of a pop culture item to which Muraco and Mike related was the 90s sitcom Will and Grace, which detailed the lives of a gay man and a straight woman who were best friends. After noting the similarities between herself and “Grace” and Mike and “Will”, Muraco began to find other friendships similar to her own in films like My Best Friend’s Wedding, The Next Best Thing, and The Object of My Desire.[8] However, while Muraco knew of relationships between lesbian women and straight men, their portrayal was lacking in comparison to that of gay men and straight women.[9] Muraco’s curiosity about why there was less of a portrayal of friendships between lesbian women and straight men spawned her examination of intersectional friendships and eventually led to Odd Couples.

In the area of organization of her argument, Muraco uses each of her chapters to examine a different aspect of intersectional friendships. In her introduction, Muraco provides background into her study; how she came upon the topic and how it was conducted. From there Muraco sets up further background of her own study by examining friendships as a whole and friendships that cross differences. In the second chapter of Odd Couples Muraco introduces the reader to three of the friendship dyads she encountered, Vanessa and Bruce, Emily and Patrick, and Scott and Ruth. These relationships are focused on because they highlight some of the common themes featured in the other dyads and triads presented as the book progresses.[10] One of the benefits of an intersectional friendship is featured in the relationship between Emily (a lesbian woman) and Patrick (a straight man); Patrick reveals that the fact that Emily is a woman allows him to be vulnerable with her than he would with other males, defying gender norms.[11] Ruth and Scott’s relationship shows the common themes that while intersectional friends may care deeply for one another, they do have their struggles.[12] The relationship between Bruce and Vanessa shows another theme common in the other intersectional friendships; the fact that they often form out of common interests and bonds.[13] Muraco challenges the notion that blood is thicker than water in the third chapter, which focuses on how friendships can serve as a secondary family. For example, one of the friendships Muraco looks at is between Brenda and Dan, who met while they were in college. Brenda, a butch lesbian, lives with Dan and his wife Rosie and their children. They all pitched in to buy a home together.[14] This strengthens the notion that “intersectional friends were better or truer forms of family than their families of origin […]”[15]. As the chapter continues, Muraco also discusses child rearing in intersectional friendships and marriage. Gender norms and identities are discussed in the fourth chapter of the book. In the relationship between Mark and Christina, it is clear that Mark, a gay male, lives vicariously through Christina, by commenting on her appearance and with the advice that he gives her. In this way, Muraco believes that gay men have a tendency to reinforce the beauty norms that straight women face. Christina suggests that perhaps gay men have the desire to be women. [16]  Other women in this chapter refers to themselves as gay men living in the bodies of straight women, this is to say that they identify with the culture their friends are involved in, recognize similarities in marginalized positions, or they feel more masculine than their female counterparts. The lack of sexual tension between intersectional dyads also allows for more openness between the friends.[17] In the fifth chapeter, Muraco talks about how sexuality and sexual orientation factor into intersectional friendships. One example of this is how intersectional friendships can tend to begin to resemble heterosexual, romantic partnerships. This was the case between two friends, Jill and Paul.[18] Also to be noted in this chapter was that in relationships across sexuality and gender were said to have less sexual tension than, say a friendship between two gay males.[19] Muraco examines the politics of intersectional friendships in the sixth chapter. She looks at the way these relations tackle compulsory heterosexuality, and how gay men and lesbians expand their horizons by interacting with straight men and women and how the opposite is true. It also leads to more comfort in general when it comes to being with those of a differing sexual orientation.[20] In her conclusion relates her study to what is next for intersectional friendships as the climate towards gay and lesbian individuals changes. Muraco specifically states, “In this final section, I address how we can look to intersectional friendships as a model for postmodern relationships and political alliance and discuss the shifting social contexts to influence the future of intersectional friendships”.[21]

One area of strength in this work is that Anna Muraco well situates herself well within the other research completed on similar topics. She thoroughly explains where other studies are lacking, and where her study fills the gaps. However, one weakness in her argument and the way that her study is formatted is that she seems to try to overuse some studies; they crowd the point that she is trying to make.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed reading Anna Muraco’s Odd Couples: Friendships at the Intersection of Gender and Sexual Orientation. I thought that her observation about the lack of representation of lesbian/straight male relationships was astute as well. I would recommend this book to those who are in an intersectional relationship like some of the ones described or to people who are not and desire to learn more about intersectional relationships.

Bibliography

Muraco, Anna. Odd Couples: Friendships at the Intersection of Gender and Sexual Orientation. Durham: Duke University Press, 2012.

[1]Anna Muraco, Odd Couples: Friendships at the Intersection of Gender and Sexual Orientation (Durham: Duke University Press, 2012), LOC 94

[2]Murano, Odd Couples, LOC 243

[3]Murano, Odd Couples, LOC 221

[4]Murano, Odd Couples, LOC 157

[5]Murano, Odd Couples,  LOC 178

[6]Murano, Odd Couples, LOC 178-188

[7]Murano, Odd Couples, LOC 146

[8]Murano, Odd Couples, LOC 83

[9]Murano, Odd Couples, LOC 94

[10]Murano, Odd Couples, LOC 766

[11]Murano, Odd Couples, LOC 862

[12]Murano, Odd Couples,  LOC 960

[13] Murano, Odd Couples, LOC 1066

[14] Murano, Odd Couples, LOC 1189

[15] Murano, Odd Couples, LOC 1269

[16]Murano, Odd Couples, LOC 1672-1683

[17]Murano, Odd Couples, LOC 1846

[18]Murano, Odd Couples, LOC 2186

[19]Murano, Odd Couples, LOC 2209

[20]Murano, Odd Couples, LOC 2502

[21]Murano, Odd Couples, LOC 3002

*The reasoning behind the use of location number rather than page number is due to the fact that this work was viewed on a Kindle.

Defining Mom

Proctor and Gamble’s (P & G) “Thank you Mom” commercial appeared in 2012 as part of the campaign that ran during and put narrative focus on the 2012 London Olympic Games. The commercial depicts the progress of athletes as they move from young children to Olympic competitors, supported along the way by their mothers. Five or six different mothers are depicted waking their young athletes early, making them different (assumedly culturally appropriate) breakfasts, and then delivering the children to various athletic practices. The mothers do it all again the next day, and the next, and the next. The athletes are shown in different stages of life and after trial and tribulation each arrives at his or her specific Olympic event. The mothers look on with tears of pride.

Proctor and Gamble is the parent company of over 60 brands that comprise mostly of household cleaning and beauty products. Dawn dish soap, Brawny paper towels, and Tide detergent are just a few of the company’s most-recognizable assets. Because of the company’s brands, we can assume the advertisement’s target audience is people who work in the home performing domestic tasks: whoever uses dish soap, paper towels, and laundry detergent most often will likely be the buyer of such products. The first (and most important) assumption the ad makes is that the Mother is the keeper of the home. The campaign called “Thank You Mom,” and the text at the end of the ad specifically addresses mothers. By targeting mothers with their ad, P & G assumes they are the primary users of P & G products.

The argument P & G addresses to its viewers runs along these lines: Domestic work leads to greatness; washing uniforms, and cooking meals allow children to become Olympic athletes. P & G ties greatness to working in the home. At this point in the commercial, it appears that P & G has made the assumption that all primary caregivers are women: no male caretakers appear in these video sequences, unless you could the fuzzy half-outline of a dad at a gymnastics meet.

The ad furthers this assumption when the words “Thank you, Mom” appear on the screen. All caretakers are women, and all Mothers are caretakers. The ad also assumes that the same member of the family is responsible for both the housework and taking care of children, a situation that does not hold for every family structure. One interesting consequence of the lack of male caretakers in the ad is the resulting lack of comment on caretakers’ relationship status. Are the mothers of the commercial straight, lesbian, or trans? Are the mothers perhaps single mothers? No assumptions are made in regards to this element of family life.

The ad assumes all caretakers are women, all Mothers are caretakers, and the caretaker performs all the housework. The argument is simple: domestic work (the kind facilitated by P & G products) leads to greatness. Just as mothers work tirelessly to support their children, P & G supports Moms (and so moms should buy their products).

Proctor and Gamble’s ad is an attempted intervention into the myth of the happy fifties housewife: yes, taking care of a child and taking care of housework is hard, says the ad; The text at the end of the video reads “The hardest job in the world is the best job in the world.” By acknowledging the difficulty of maintaining a household and raising children, the ad disrupts the image of the smiling mother who has lots of time for book-club and social gatherings. (Maybe my own image of junior-leaguers and country club cocktails is shaping my view of this commercial a little too much here.)

In The Feminine Mystique, Betty Friedan enters into Proctor and Gamble’s chosen world of the happy housewifeFriedan argues (contrary to P&G’s ad) that mothers and wives must stop searching for happiness among their husbands and children: happiness lies in fulfilling the dreams that are frustrated when intelligent women give up education and careers to stay at home with children. Friedan contradicts P&G’s message of motherly fulfillment through self-sacrifice, yet both Friedan’s and P&G’s arguments have the same oversights: both ads entirely ignore differences of race and class. (Though, admittedly, P&G does attempt to address the race issue by showing athletes and mothers of all nationalities).

bell hooks’ criticisms of Friedan in Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center, hold for the P&G commercial. hook argues that Friedan’s narrative of the troubled 50’s housewife is the narrative only of the white, upper-middle class housewife; Friedan’s dilemma in no way parallels the experiences of lower class white women, or of women of color (from any class). Friedan assumes that all women (her assumed audience) are mothers with husbands and no careers. Similarly, Proctor and Gamble assumes that all mothers are stay-at-home moms, who take care of cooking and cleaning. The ad leaves no space for mothers who have to work (usually a class issue), or for mothers who choose to work, or for fathers who are the primary caregivers for their families.

According to the Proctor and Gamble, children who achieve great things have mothers that sacrifice; sacrifice to wake up early, sacrifice to drive children to practice, and sacrifice to do all the housework that allows their children to be great. Don’t worry, says the narrative of the ad, being a mother is the “best job in the world.” Plus, you’ll get thanked and acknowledged for all your hard work… if you sacrifice. How do career moms feel when they view this advertisement? Do they feel that they are being thanked for all their hard work? P & G’s “Thank you mom” ad supports existing stereotypical norms of American family structure (white, mother and father, 2.5 kids).

BUT WAIT. What if these are real athletes and these are their real mothers? Are we to fault companies for reflecting real-life realities? Or perhaps the commercial is not based upon real Olympic athletes, and is rather a strategic attempt to sell product to P & G’s target demographic. Is it wrong to assume that the large majority of P & G’s buyers are mothers who are also primary caregivers and housewives? The ad is undeniably touching, and on some level appeals to nearly everyone. Everyone, at some point, had a mother. Most people have had a caretaker who cared for them with the maternal affection demonstrated by P&G’s mothers. The analysis of a commercial is tricky business: do we evaluate commercials based on their effectiveness as advertisements, or based on their representation of the society to whom they are selling? The morality of the advertising world is a topic that will have to wait for another post…

This post, by the way, is dedicated to my own mother. Mom: sorry I haven’t done anything as impressive as win a gold medal. Nonetheless, #thankyoumom.

Works Cited

The Feminine Mystique, Betty Friedan, 1963

Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center, bell hooks, 1984