I’m not a big TV watcher, but an ad I saw the other day caught my eye. You may have seen it – it shows an infant at a tray table throwing food into the air. The infant’s father is supervising, and rather than creatively encouraging the infant to eat his food, he coaches him to throw the next bit of food overarm like a bowler playing cricket. At this point the infant’s mother comes into the room, and looks at them with a surprised and disappointed face.
I was struck by how such a seemingly harmless and funny ad can reinforce gender role stereotypes. The mother’s brief appearance is done in a way that frames her as the responsible parent who needs to apply the rules of the house. The father is presented as the fun-loving, playful parent who implicitly likes to bend the rules. He takes centre stage in the ad and no doubt draws lots of affectionate laughter from viewers, while she is relatively invisible and reduced to her function as a parent.