Lux Keep Your Stockings Cultural Studies Essay

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Do you need a good laundry detergent to keep your stockings perfect? Do you "risk constant runs, snaky seams and wrinkles?"(LUX) If you are single or married women, it is most likely that you do. There is no need to worry. For a free box of Lux, write to Lever Brothers and Co. Dept 16, Cambridge Massachusetts .Today, this company goes under the name Unilever. Unilever uses this advertisement to present a sexist view of women living in the 1950's. The company uses lux laundry detergent as a stocking cleaner to keep the wives looking beautiful and put together. Associated with luxury, the lux brand set the standard of beauty and the view of women at the time. The role of a housewife was to take care of children and to keep the house clean. Only the husband was allowed to go out in society and get a job. In this ad, a housewife has to keep her stocking perfect to satisfy her husband and to keep her marriage intact. Unilever uses cinematography and the power of words to create this meagre outlook on suburban life. (To look at the advertisement, go to

*Gender roles/Stereotype

In the advertisement, Unilever uses a picture of a married couple to present the gender roles in the 1950's. A viewer instantly sees the assigned roles of men and women. The husband is dressed in a smart business suit, reading a newspaper while the wife wears her everyday clothes and is knitting in the chair. The difference in attire set them apart from each other. The business suit identifies the husband as an important member of society. The plain skirt and top imply that the wife is just as a housewife. The formal dress make the husband look strong and powerful. This is also evident in the manner, which he sits on the couch. His posture is strait and his body is secure in the sitting position. The casual dress of the wife make her look modest and reserved. Her posture in the chair implies that she is weak and powerless. The wife's legs are crossed out in front of her and she sits on an angle in the chair. She tilts away from her husband while his body faces directly towards her. The body language between the couple suggests that the relationship is cold and distant. A viewer also sees the contrast in gender roles from the objects in the picture. The husband is reading the newspaper while the wife is knitting. The newspaper suggests that the husband is educated and that that he is important. Reading indicates a valid use of time, while the knitting seems less trivial.

This image presents the roles of men and women in the 1950's. The husbands were required to go out in society and get a job. They had to work and to provide for their families. A woman had to fill the role of a domestic housewife. A wife was responsible for raising and taking care of children. She had to keep the house clean and tend to the cooking. The husbands place was in society while the wife's was at home. As the breadwinner, a husbands status was a powerful one.

and ade him indepdenthich meant that a woman was dependent on her husband. Husbands were encouraged to jobs, while a

a women was not permiited

wife was not jobs and thHand th women was seen as inadequate and inferior because she had to depend on her husband

During the Second World War, the government encouraged women to join the workforce and fulfil the jobs of their husbands who were away at war. Female employment rose considerably and unlike previous representations of women as inadequate, dependant and inferior, women were beginning to be represented as hardworking, independent and much stronger than before. However once the war was over, women began to find themselves out of jobs as, now the men were home, there was no need for women workers, and so these positive representations disintegrated leaving women back in their 'normalised role'

as the domestic housewife. This role became re-established as a job description for wmen, how they should act in an idealised world.Representations of this stereotype grew, re-enforcing a woman's role as 'the angel of the home', looking after the children and taking pride in the cleanliness of the house, whilst the husband would take pride

The advertisement clearly contains ideologies of a heterosexual marriage

. In the ad, the stocking had to be perfect and without a run, and so did the woman.

*beatification of women/manipulation/tone

*cultural change?

Taking this 1950's advertisement for Lux tockings cleaner, we can Understanding representation,Wendy Helsby, pg5. and the ideologically-assigned roles within that marriage. The heading reads "Married?- No reason to neglect stockings!"which instantly tells us the concerns of a married woman, or rather what her concerns should be. The text to the side of the image reads "Husbands admire wives who keep their stockings perfect"implying that the only way for women to be "admired" by their husbands is to be defined by their looks, thus becoming passive objects for a male gaze

in the more significant matters which a woman could "clearly not deal with."


Laura Mulvey promoted the idea of the male gaze, noting that females are often represented as objects of sexual desire for men. Mulvey also recognised that men tend to be represented as active: doing sports, driving, working, rescuing women etc, whilst women are represented as passive, being taken care of by the male, passengers, victims,

objects of desire that fulfil male scopophilic desire (Freud). Of course as the men are busy being the hero, too occupied to look at the camera, women have nothing better to do but 'stand and look pretty' giving direct eye-contact, taking the role of the spectacle for the subjective gaze of the male spectator. As most representations are like this,

men will identify with male representations and view themselves as powerful, active members of society. Whereas women can only view themselves through the male gaze that these representations were made for and thus will identify with the female representations and view themselves as sexual objects and as powerless, lacking in

substance and agency.

The male in the image is looking down towards the female's stockings with a disapproving look; he examines her as though she is an object whilst obliviously she happily continues her trivial knitting. False needs are created in the

housewives who view this advertisement as they will question their own marriages, and as "Constant runs are unsightly"women will therefore purchase the product in order to keep a happy marriage (Berger "marginal dissatisfaction" in audiences). Yet this advertisement is not only targeted at married women but also towards single

women as a way to attract male attention, ideologically the primary goal of a female, through her appearance: this conforms to the familial aspect of dominant ideology in promoting the family as the ideal structure in which to live. The smaller text reads "Lovely stockings add so much to your appearance", 'Lovely'having feminine connotations of beauty which reinforces what women should aspire to achieve for male approval. It is degrading towards women as it diminishes their position to a trivial subgroup concerned with trivial matters and re-enforces an inferior female needfor

the superior male. It could be argued that the messages of the advertisement were very much of its time, reinforcing as it does consumerism, and with a need to boost the economy of the time, there was a massive emphasis on beauty; however, the ideologies of both consumerism and female beauty have continued through to today.

Like in many other advertisements for beauty and household products at the time, the woman is a white, attractive,slim female, often shown in a no less than perfect marriage. Such advertisements appeal to women as they suggest that by buying the product, they can live like them. And in many advertisements what is offered is more the lifestyle

which purchasing the product will allow you to experience rather than the product itself. Buying the product will give the consumer access to a better existence.

Overall, the woman is portrayed as a domestic provider who cannot and does not make any significant decisions other than choosing which products will enable her to reach a goal of approval and 'admiration' from a male: she is defined as a woman by male approval, She is dependant on a man and shown essentially as a passive object defined by

appearance. Through such representation, women are symbolically annihilated by being shown as passive, weak and powerless, which will lead them to communicate in the same way within society. Tuchmann's concept of symbolic annihilation in respect of women, refers to the fact that in a dominant patriarchal society, women, their experiences

and activities, are trivialised and condemned within the media.

The 1960's saw the passing of the women's movement (what is now referred to as 'feminism - an ideological pejorative term!) which challenged the passive role of females within society. But the way the media has continually presented this major sociological and cultural challenge towards attitudes was to suggest that it was a few hysterical

women "burning their bras" and challenging 'normal' language such as 'chairman'. A new stereotype of the aggressive feminist was created and was hegemonically-assigned connotations of being anti-authority and therefore anti-male.

Feminists are then represented as this stereotype of the hysterical female, which fits in perfectly with dominant ideology as they are no longer to be taken seriously, thus not a threat to the status quo. "The feminist agenda is notabout equal rights for women, it is about a socialist, anti-family political movement that encourages women to leave

their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians" (Pat Robertson,