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Girls can be cheerleaders

7 Nov

In only 30 seconds, this local Portland commercial for Mattress World manages to rewind gender stereotypes by approximately 50 years, scar children’s psyches, and not say anything helpful about its products’ features. They run more than one version of this exact message here during Trail Blazer games – other versions start with the little girl proclaiming her only dream in life is to be a cheerleader and then move on to the little boy with his many basketball-related dreams:

Not only are the gender roles here patently unnecessary and painful to watch, I fail to see how this campaign could sell mattresses. I imagine the crack marketing team at Mattress World sat down and said, “We need to come up with something that the locals will like. Locals like sports, right? Hmm, well there is only one professional sports team in the entire state. So the Trail Blazers are a pretty safe bet! Now, how to relate basketball to mattresses? Umm, well, they have cheerleaders, and players, right? Boys are the stars, and girls are the sideline decorations. But, we don’t want to be too sexy, we are a family mattress company. Let’s use kids, everyone likes kids. Go!”

They probably learned this form of marketing from reading kids’ books from the ’50s: “Girls can be nurses, boys can be doctors! Girls can be secretaries, boys can be businessmen! Girls can be mommies, boys can be rock stars!” Then they watched a few rip-and-replace local car commercials, where car companies come up with a bunch of generic characteristics they ascribe to a region, then voice them over pictures of their vehicles pasted over static images of local landmarks, and call that a regional targeted ad. It’s insulting. What’s worse is that they, and the vast majority of viewers, probably don’t see anything wrong with this approach.

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