Ad Nauseam: Huggies

(Reposted from the Balcony)


 
 

Ad transcript:

(All scenes split screen)
A boy toddler, dressed in bright blue, plays with a red truck. A girl, dressed in pale pink, plays with a baby doll.

Boy, dressed in blue and white striped T shirt, plays with mud and has mud all over his clothes. The girl, clean in pale pink with a peter pan collar, is doing cooking play with dough, or sand.

Voiceover: Boys and girls are different.

Boy is dressed in red and white stripes now. He is dressed as a pirate and waving a toy sword. Girl is in pink (again), dressed as a fairy, or princess? and waving a wand.

Boy is gurning like a pale imitation of Paul Hogan and reading a book about TRUCKS. Girl blandly reads a book called The Princess.

Now they’re in bed. The little boy has his plastic tyrannosaurus and the little girl has a lilac unicorn.

Voiceover: That’s why only Huggies nappies have tailored absorbency surge layer where they need it most… Huggies nappies. Because there is a difference.”

You know who to call when besieged by egregious gender policing of tiny helpless children and in danger of wrecking the TV by throwing some heavy object at it? Cordelia Fine! I searched and searched for my copy of Delusions of Gender, which is temporarily (I hope) lost somewhere in the house, unless it’s been “borrowed”. But no matter, because I found this wonderful review which gives a detailed introduction to the book.

Why do people take such pleasure in biological justifica-
tions of gender stereotypes? And why is their automatic reaction
when you point out the rather large leaps in their “reasoning”
to say: “Oh, you feminists just don’t want to accept facts”?
So it has been a great pleasure, this winter vacation, to read
Cordelia Fine’s Delusions of Gender: How Our Minds, Society,
and Neurosexism Create Difference, which carefully and with
great precision demolishes the nonsense that pervades the
popular and technical literature pretending to be scientific
fact, exposing it as truthiness which is nowhere close to
truth.
To set some context, consider the industry—that’s the
only word for it—that has grown up pushing purported sex
differences in public policy. One example, would it were
the only one, is the Gurian Institute…

…and about a million other shoddy “scientific studies”, not to mention “news reports” which consist of little more than credulous regurgitation of press releases.

Read the whole thing, then run, don’t walk, to your bookshop or library, depending on your budget, and get this book if you don’t already have it. Today, when “hardwired” is one of the most popular words in the popular writer’s lexicon, toy departments of chain stores observe a gender apartheid which would make P.W. Botha whistle with admiration, and every attempt to criticise this relentless gender policing is met with cries of “Political Correctness!”, this book is so necessary. It’s also – as the reviewer points out – studded with gems of Fine’s wry deadpan humour.

In 2002, Hines and Alexander studied the play of
vervet monkeys. !ey gave them two boy toys, two girl toys,
and two neutral toys. Male vervets divided their time equally,
but female vervets spent more than a third of their time
with the girl toys. Impressive, yes? But, wait, one of the girl
toys was a pan. To quote Fine, “Although it is true that pri-
matologists regularly uncover hitherto unknown skills in our
nonhuman cousins, the art of heated cuisine is not yet one
of them.”

Parents typically underestimate the power of the cultural signals which bombard their kids literally from the moment they’re out of the womb (see the example of the difference in boy and girl birth announcements and differing treatment of boy and girl babies in general). Suddenly, everyone’s going hooray! for gender essentialism, and the whole infernal machine is given another spin for the next generation. Ads like this simply capitalise on the whole phenomenon and ram the message home with all the subtlety of a full disposable nappy in the face.



Categories: Culture, gender & feminism, media, parenting, Sociology

20 replies

  1. I’m reading DoG right now (library copy). I can barely put it down! It’s even helping with my new job – I’m dealing with a fellow trainee (a bloke) who needs to condescend to me at every conceivable opportunity (I apparently don’t know anything: he must explain it all to me reaaally slowwwly). I now prefer to see the microaggressions as data points!

  2. I enjoyed DoG hugely and whenever I happen to see TV ads (which is rarely) I am gobsmacked at how offensive they are. Then I remember that for many people this is normal, like seeing ACA as a source of information. it’s always a depressing realisation. If only reading Cordelia Fine were normalised….

  3. Have you seen the large k-mart toy sale catalogue? They’ve separated a lot of the toys into blue pages and pink pages, but the photos of kids playing with the toys are often mixed up (sadly its still a girl on the Barbie page), but I was impressed with the mix across the catalogue.

  4. I’m checking the Kmart catalogue out now, Catherine. Nothing but girls (well, kids presented as feminine) on the Barbie and the dolls section. In the Pretend section, they have girls doing the shopping and working at the checkout and playing in the kitchen, and a boy operating an ATM. (Gack.) The craft and art section is labelled pink. They’ve just thrown in a few token girls playing with cars in the blue (action) section. The ostensibly unisex section, bikes and scooters, does have both – but the girls are all very clearly labelled in pink clothing and helmets, and are all, as far as I can tell, riding pink vehicles.

  5. I know this is tangential, if not downright OT, but what is it with the goddamn endless frigging PINK? It reminds me of the Olde Days when men could wear only charcoal grey or blue suits. And even so, they had it better. Those colors aren’t nauseating eyesores.

    • Those colors aren’t nauseating eyesores

      There’s many gorgeous shades of pink IMO, but the chewing gum pink that so many toys come in is indeed mostly hideous.

  6. Not at all OT, if you’re talking about little girls. Do you mean the current fashion for pink shirts and pink ties among suits, particularly (in my experience) the more dominant & bossy suits? At a time when the colour is deemed mandatory to denote girls under 15? It will take a better woman than me to explain that one: any sociologists/anthropologists in the house? It’s definitely a thing.
    (Maybe “I’m so dominant I can wear the colour of the sex class and still retain my privilege”?)

  7. “I am not performing masculine gender expectations by wearing pink, which has not been deemed manly for half a century. Want to make something of it?”

  8. Since that Huggies ad implies that the difference between girls and boys is behavioural rather than anatomical, does that mean that tomboys should wear boys’ Huggies? I find using this kind of gender dicotomy kinda bizarre for nappies – sure, parents may be dressing and treating their babies in a gendered manner from birth, but their behavioural differences (created partly by how they’ve been treated) don’t really manifest until they’re getting past nappies.
    As for the pink power shirts and ties: I don’t think there’s too much argument that red is a dominant, aggressive colour and that red ties have always been popular with men wishing to send that kind of message. Maybe red is now seen as too blatant, and so pink, as a softer colour like red, is used instead?

    • As for the pink power shirts and ties: I don’t think there’s too much argument that red is a dominant, aggressive colour and that red ties have always been popular with men wishing to send that kind of message. Maybe red is now seen as too blatant, and so pink, as a softer colour like red, is used instead?

      Red being considered dominant/aggressive/regal is exactly why pink used to be the colour for boys while blue (tranquil/calming/restful/peaceful) was the colour for girls. Especially reinforced by blue being the colour associated with the cult of the Virgin, while red was the colour of the hierarchy of the bishops, and the papacy (and purple was for cardinals).
      The switch between the colour codification is extremely well documented, seeing as it’s not very long past living memory, and yet we still have evo-pop-psych bozos claiming that gathering ripe berries on the savannah genetically determined a female preference for pink.

  9. “Because there is a difference.”
    Yes, and it’s WHICH PART OF THE NAPPY THEY PEE ON.

    the chewing gum pink that so many toys come in is indeed mostly hideous

    A friend of mine refers to it as ‘turbo pink’.

  10. “we still have evo-pop-psych bozos claiming that gathering ripe berries on the savannah genetically determined a female preference for pink”
    Huuuuh? You can’t be serious. (But I know you are. Sounds on a par with their other BS.)
    Oh, and another good term for it is “Pepto-Bismol Pink.”

  11. As a mother of a 5 year old and an almost 3 year old I am thoroughly sick of pink. Peggy Orenstein’s Cinderella Ate My Daughter is a fantastic take down of the pinkification/princessification of girlhood.

  12. I hate hate hate this gendered nonsense. Huggies shit me so much (Disney branding as well as the gendering… yuck.). Am already noticing the countless ways in which I personally am unconsciously gendering my 3 month old – the way I talk to him, the poses I put him in… every now and then I catch myself and wonder, would I do this if he were a girl?
    I have bought three copies of DoG already and give them away to anyone I think – or hope – will read them…

  13. I have bought three copies of DoG already and give them away to anyone I think – or hope – will read them…

    Oh good ON you!!

  14. I’m having trouble finding definite evidence that pink for boys and blue for girls was a strongly defined thing, rather than one suggested option among several which settled (arbitrarily) down to pink for girls and blue for boys after WWII.
    I recommend this link on the subject.

    • Aqua, you are quite right that pink for boys/blue for girls was never so sharply defined a thing as the current pink for girls/blue for boys thing. The justifications offered in the 19th century as to why pink was appropriate for boys and blue appropriate for girls were along the lines of what I stated though – that as a shade of red pink was strong/dominant/authoritative, while blue was soft/nurturing/tranquil.

      • Yes, most baby’s and children’s clothes were white because it was easiest to sterilise. Now that we have colourfast dyes we have to put up with colour coding!

  15. Oh quixote, sadly, very very serious. Also, emotional and sexual cheek-pinkening.

    https://hoydenabouttown.com/20070823.859/pinksquee-evpsych-dickwittery-du-jour/

  16. I completely agree that if you’re going to use colour psychology and gender stereotypes, red is masculine and blue (or some other more peaceful colour) is feminine. “Logically” it should thus be (if you’re going to have pastels for babies) pink for boys and blue for girls. It’s intriguing that it ended up the other way around.
    Certainly, if you look at childrens’ toys past baby, the bright primaries, red, blue, yellow, and green are more common in boys’ toys; girls’ toys are dominated by pink, but also purple and turquoise, in softer pastel shades. I sometimes wonder if the really eye-piercing pinks are to give girls who want it a “bright” colour without abandoning the gender stereotype that boys are allowed to be active, energetic, central (and disruptive) while girls had better learn to be demure and on the side lines as quickly as possible.
    It’s to me the colour expression of “make me a sandwich; oh, you can bake those silly cupcakes too if you like”.

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