“Master of the Universe”

15 Jun

I receive emails from Daily Candy and in the latest one was a feature of “Fifteen Gifts For Dad”. The first of the series I thought made telling commentary on how subconscious gender conceptions are still upheld by tradition.

Here’s the description:

“Master of the Universe

For Mom, it’s flowers. For Dad, it’s a desktop carnivorous plant set ($25). Everything but the water is included. And after a few weeks of care, seven killers (Venus flytraps, Cobra Lilies) emerge.”

So here we see some associations. Women like flowers, men like killers. Flowers are often delivered cut, or dead. Inactive, ornamental.

Carnivorous plants are alive, active, practical, violent. I say violent because the term “killer” connotes a certain amount of intention and human quality. To say it’s a carnivorous plant is, to my mind, not problematic in that it eats non-vegetation. To say it is a killer implies intention.

Additionally, the ad refers to the gift as for the desktop; implying that the father a. works and b. works at a desk job. Not that this is an ad for a mother’s gift but the “flowers for mom” are not “desk flowers for mom”. And the first google search for “mother’s day gifts” shows no  work-related gifts and very few activity related gifts (the exception being for yoga).

What’s more, the dad gift is on a website called “Think Geek” and at top there is a banner with a headless (white) man with forearm tattoos, hands in pockets (to suggest laid back comfort) and a button up shirt and tie. So here we see associations between whiteness and Geekdom as well as gender and class. None of the gadgets below the banner are ornamental, all serve some purpose or make some action.

It’s not to say that because of just this ad or ads like it that we have constraining gender roles but that they play a part (as do many other factors) in maintaining and reinforcing our ideas about proper gender roles.

And so as little boys are still mostly taught to be active and little girls still mostly taught to be ornamental there remains this conception of men that I suppose is best worded in the title of the email I was sent:

Master of the Universe”


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