Attempting to prove that nostalgia always wins on the Internet these days, Swiffer has created a marketing campaign that updates Rosie the Riveter for the Lean In era — and misunderstands the entire point of the feminist icon.
On the box for its new steamer (spotted by Heather Beschizza, at right), the kitchen mopping giant features a sexed-up version of the famous World War II-era Westinghouse poster. Rosie 2.0 is also featured on this online splash page for the product, complete with animated steam. But instead of marveling at the we-can-do-it arm, 21st-century Rosie is brandishing a Swiffer Bissel Steam Boost — a full transformation for a symbol of female strength, now put back in the kitchen, where the suits over at Proctor & Gamble apparently thinks she belongs.
Perhaps the steam-mop-wielding model is supposed to suggest that modern women finally can "have it all" — as long as they, as the accompanying video prompts, "make the the new Swiffer Bissel Steam Boost a part of your new cleaning routine." Rosie, now manufacturing war-plane parts by day and managing a household by night, all with help from trusty mop! The only thing missing from that picture is a baby in a briefcase.
While that narrative isn't far from the truth — women, even the working ones, still do the majority of housework — there's another, more obvious, way to read this ad: Swiffer wants the symbol of the working woman in the kitchen again. The image not only pushes forward the common stereotype facilitated by many TV commercials that cleaning floors is women's work; it also suggests that Swiffering is what women should aspire to do. After all, the original Rosie compelled a gender into non-traditional fields for women, where they tend to make more money and get the independence that comes with controlling one's own financial life. This new Rosie, then, is still saying "We Can Do It!" — but she's saying yes to mopping up floors, which is the exact opposite of what Rosie would have wanted. Or to use the apt words of Boing Boing's Jason Weisenberg, Swiffer has managed to pay "clear tribute to an important historical image done in such a way as to piss on its legacy." My, how far we have come.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.