Mamma mia, these Tesco, Morrisons and Asda adverts take Christmas back to the 1950s

They've been accused of sexism. But it's not just the mums who suffer

Share
Related Topics

Call me a sentimental old fool, but since a much younger and more excitable me first took notice of the Coca Cola lorry and its accompanying strain that holidays were coming, I have looked forward to Christmas adverts every year. So, this year, when I found myself crying at the John Lewis ad (like I do every year without fail) I started looking forward to a month and a half of festive cheer sprinkled on every ad break.

What I didn't expect, was that that festive cheer would be laced with an attitude which, in its outdated sexism, could have come straight out of the 1950s.

I am, of course, talking about the adverts for Asda, Tesco and Morrisons. The three pillars of bargain food retail have come together to praise that special person who makes Christmas possible. No, not Santa; according to these adverts, Christmas happens because of Mum.

Complaints

It's actually difficult to know which of the three is more offensive: is it the Asda one which sees Mum vacuuming up the pine needles before single-handedly putting together Christmas dinner (including a Christmas Eve dash to Asda and setting the table)? Or the Tesco one, where Mum is swamped in the kitchen, her shouts for assistance ignored by her kids and answered only when, in his own time, her husband comes into the kitchen, to the strains of Prince Charming, and hands her a glass of Champagne? Morrison's, similarly, sees Mum doing it all, unhappy and unhelped by her family.

If I absolutely had to choose which one to crown with the dubious honour of Most Sexist Christmas Ad 2012, it'd be Asda taking the prize: from its assertion that “Behind every great Christmas, there's Mum” to the so-called punchline of the ad, when her husband finally acknowledges her presence after Christmas lunch, to ask “what's for tea, love?”

With over 200 official complaints made to the ASA, clearly I'm not the only one who thinks so.

These ads have struck a chord with many women, who have mobilised via social media to voice their disgust that in 2012 we see the preparation and cooking of Christmas dinner as something Mum does, no questions asked. What's more, all three of these advert Mums are presented as exasperated, tired and unhappy, while their husbands, children and guests are carefree and jovial. The ads assert that this miserable but dutiful domesticity is a woman's lot.

Retrograde

Presenting women in this way is insultingly retrograde and simplistic, and not just to the women it reduces to the role of domestic drudge. These ads paint the man of the house as, at best, a jolly fool and, at worst, an ignorant, demanding bossy boots; either he has no idea how hard Mum is working, or he doesn't care. Neither is flattering, and neither is really that realistic in modern family life.

Not only do these ads present an outdated gender dynamic, they also revel in a totally traditional, heteronormative family set-up that isolates many consumers from its vision of Asda's so-called “great Christmas”. Families with one parent, or families with a disabled member, or families with gay parents, or families where dad does the cooking, are all excluded by these depictions of family life.

Criticism of these adverts has been met in social channels by a chorus of voices claiming it's just a bit of fun, a laugh, a joke. But if it is, it's a weak and lazy one. If these ads express an attempt to confront a stereotype or point out an inequality, then it fails miserably, by reinforcing it in an almost aggressive manner.

From the Mums who are slaves to the stove, to men who actively deny their requests for help or demand further domestic duties be done, nobody comes out of these adverts looking good. Least of all the supermarkets themselves.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - Junior / Mid Weight

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To support their continued grow...

Recruitment Genius: Marketing Data Specialist

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are the go-to company for ...

Recruitment Genius: Search Marketing Specialist - PPC / SEO

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join the UK's leadin...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This caravan dealership are currently recruiti...

Day In a Page

John Noakes was everyone’s favourite presenter in the 1970s. It’s a shock to realise the eternal boy scout is now an octogenarian suffering from dementia  

How remarkable that John Noakes still has the power to affect me so

Matthew Norman
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test
Tour de France 2015: Twins Simon and Adam Yates have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

Twins have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

Yates brothers will target the steepest sections in bid to win a stage in France
John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

Forget little green men

Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy