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viva wants you to help your mum with the housework

‘Ajax Spray n’ Wipe made everything alright.’

‘I wash all my curtains in Stergene. I’m very fussy about the way they’re cleaned.’

One quote comes from an advertisement in a 1956 Woman and Home magazine. The other is from a 2010 television ad. In both, women give testimonials about cleaning products.

We’re used to seeing women feature in ads for cleaning products. Advertisers love to use germophobe mothers, in particular, to equate shining, white surfaces with love for their children.

Cleaning brand Viva, which makes paper towels and wipes, have a new marketing campaign that reveals ‘Australian mums do 85% of the housework’. The company has created a 30 Day Share the Cleaning Challenge—participants can get a personalised calendar to allocate cleaning duties to the whole family.

Viva sponsored a post on Mamamia in which parenting contributor Bern Morley makes it seem easy to delegate household chores to the kids.

‘And for so long’, she writes, ‘I have simply gone about cleaning up these untidy areas myself, never requesting help and it never crossed my mind that I should simply ask my children to help me out.’

Well gosh darn it, lucky Viva suggested it! Now Bern and her kids can all clean together!

Viva’s Share the Cleaning Challenge is an advertising ploy to persuade harried mums that the company is on their side. It’s not a feminist movement catalysing cultural change in a re-distribution of domestic work. But the campaign does have a point.
What happens in your home? In your parents’ house? It’s true that the division of domestic labour can be affected by balancing work and study, and everyone is different. But if we’re honest, it’s accepted that women do most of the housework.

In the Melbourne Institute’s 2011 report on Household, Income and Labour Dynamics, researchers found 34% of mums felt they did more than their fair share of the housework. Similarly, a recent fact sheet on balancing family life estimates that mothers spend twice as much time as fathers do looking after kids, and almost three times as much on household work.

The Age reported on this last week.

‘When it comes to the division of domestic labour and paid work, Australian families are still stuck in a time warp where dad brings home the bacon, mum cooks it and does the dishes afterwards.’

Breaking it down even more, Women’s Agenda does the maths: ‘So for those mums working an eight hour day in paid employment, factor in the childcare and household work and she’s working a 14 hour day. That’s not including commuting time, and the extra unpaid overtime she may be putting in at the office.’

It’s obvious this needs to change. Will one company’s efforts make a difference?

On their Facebook page, Viva posted an image depicting a family cleaning. Together. Happy. This saccharine ideal prompted some fans to leave comments dripping with disdain:

‘Men don’t clean kitchens.’

‘Well the girls do everything.’

‘When have u [sic] ever seen a man and a teenager clean.. God make ur [sic] adds [sic] realistic.’

In the end, media (including advertisements) have a part to play in creating our reality. So if we want to shift the 1950s hangover and share domestic labour equally, then let’s support Viva’s attempt to include the rest of the family in housework.

What do you reckon, Lipsters? Is the Viva ad a tokenistic attempt to get mums on their side? Or is housework becoming more shared between the sexes?

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