3 Jul 2012, Comments (4)

Ad Nauseam: Huggies

Author: Helen


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
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.

Comments (4) »

  • Jess says:

    This ad makes me nauseated!Anyway my three year old son loves rubbish trucks and roller derby with equal fervour and our 5 year old love flowers and swords as much as each other. Roller Derby bouters are the heroes in this house despite the obvious handicap of being *shock* women and the fact that so far 3/4 of the household are male. Oh and my experience with the nappies is that they are crap too…

  • Kath Lockett says:

    We get the same ad here on British TV too and I wondered just how it could air without any fuss from anyone with a functioning brain….

    ….having just spent yesterday entertaining eight toddlers with my thirteen year old, apart from two girls wanting to ‘share’ (ie snatch) the only, non-gender-specific baby doll, they all played equally with blocks, books, cars and the rocking horse.

  • Helen says:

    Jess, if you come over here for a holiday (the cultcha, don’t cher know), try to fit in the VRDL at Melbourne Showgrounds. Mr Bucket does a stall there sometimes and you could go in with him.

    Kath, you get British TV in Geneva? I guess there’s quite a large anglophone community so it makes sense.

  • Kath Lockett says:

    There’s French, German and Italian stations (dozens) but we pay a tiny fee to get the free-to-air UK ones so it’s BBC, ITV and Channels four and five. I’m now a guilty addict of ‘Come dine with me’ and ANY panel featuring comedians talking about British current affairs….

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