Keeping mum in the kitchen – representations of mothers in ads haven't changed in six decades

phys.org | 10/8/2019 | Staff
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It's the 1950s. There's a woman at home in the kitchen. She's busy running the domestic world of her family, whose health and happiness she's responsible for. Sixty years pass and advertising in women's consumer magazines continue to show her there, sorting out all the family's affairs, and putting their needs first.

Between 1950 and 2010, representations of mothers buying for their families did evolve. At first, mothers were guided by mostly male experts who knew better, but now mothers are the experts themselves. And yet, a mother's knowledge and expertise is still confined to consumption and the domestic sphere of family life. Our mother of the 21st century is still in the family home and, in that, such adverts continue to reinforce traditional gender stereotypes.

Ads - Women - Weekly - AWW - Ads

We looked at 1,147 ads from the Australian Women's Weekly (AWW) and more than 775 ads from the UK's Good Housekeeping (GH) covering the decades between 1950 and 2010, focusing on visual representations of women as mothers. We identified various themes linked to the portrayal of their responsibilities around consumption, families and knowledge (expertise and experience) over time.

The caring mother is one of the most recurring themes in post-war advertising. In the 1950s, ads show mothers following the advice of mainly male experts such as doctors and psychologists, on how to use the "right" product to care for their children. This was because the professional advice from experts was seen as more important than mothers' knowledge based on their own practical experience.

Ads - Mother - Protector - Lot - Time

In these early ads the mother is seen as the protector. She is challenged to devote a lot of time to ensuring the health and happiness of all her family by using products that scientists and other "experts" suggest protect her family.

A 1950s ad for eggs from AWW, for instance, shows a happy, wholesome-looking mother...
(Excerpt) Read more at: phys.org
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