Dixie: Use Paper Plates, Or You’re Not a Good Mother

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I can go months without being bothered by ads on TV, and then suddenly they come out of the woodwork all over the place. Take the following ad for Dixie paper plates, for example. Everything about this ad is wrong.

Oh. My. Word. Is Dixie for really reals? All but one woman used in this ad say something that offends my sensibilities as a woman. I am really at a loss to do anything but splutter incoherently.

Woman #1 – No woman I know is defined by the number of dishes she washes, and it’s insulting to imply this. FAIL.

Woman #2 – Wait, wait, wait a minute, did they really just have a female actor say “I’m trading in my apron…” and move on to more glamorous things such as painting one’s nails? FAIL.

Woman #3 – Okay, needing a paper plate as strong as she is and is strong enough to hold messy food? I can get behind that. But it’s still relying on the women-in-the-kitchen bullshit. Partial FAIL.

Woman #4 – Ah, the kid card. I’m sorry that taking fifteen minutes a day to load the dishwasher will drastically decrease the time you spend with your children. Women-as-nurturers for $200, Alex. FAIL.

Woman #5 – Repeat of #4, with the added bonus of being proud of using disposable dishware. Uhm. FAIL.

The cloying, ubersweetness of all these women might be what gets me the most. Dixie is relying heavily on the Happy Housewife trope, and it causes sharp pain behind my right eye every time I see this ad. It…it…flames. Flames on the side of my face…

I’m leaving out any in depth critique for two reasons – see note above about incoherency and I’m really interested in what you all think. I can’t be alone in thinking this is one of the most aggravating and problematic ads on TV right now, can I?

Comments

  1. Dom Camus says

    I’m really interested in what you all think

    Too busy being shocked by the anti-environmental subtext message of the ad. Are they seriously advocating using disposable plates due to being too lazy to wash the regular sort?! That’s… actually a bit scary.

    You’re right about the women too, of course. Except I don’t entirely agree about #3. You’d never get a man talking about “a paper plate as strong as I am”.

    In fact I’m now imagining comedy dialogue along the lines of: “How strong am I? As strong as a paper plate. And not just any paper plate. We’re talking top-of-the-range premium paper plate here!”

  2. MJ says

    Y’know, I AM a freakin’ happy housewife and this ad offends me. It’s just more of the same: “Look at me, I’m a thin, beautiful woman of indeterminate age, and I have these beautiful children and this beautiful home, complete with all the latest appliances. Which I don’t use, because eww, isn’t that what the nanny is for? On her day off, I use paper plates, but only the really good ones, because I CARE about my family.”

    This is a prime example of why I don’t watch TV ads if I can help it.

  3. sbg says

    Don Camus said:

    Too busy being shocked by the anti-environmental subtext message of the ad. Are they seriously advocating using disposable plates due to being too lazy to wash the regular sort?! That’s… actually a bit scary.

    Rats, I actually hemmed and hawed about including how the campaign seems to be guilting people into using products people might think twice about buying in this age of hypervigilant environmentalism. My jaw drops at the idea, actually, and I’m again reduced to sputtering. I worried people might bring up an argument that running a dishwasher/handwashing dishes uses too much water, therefore isn’t good for the environment, either (depletion of a natural resource).

    You’re right about the women too, of course. Except I don’t entirely agree about #3. You’d never get a man talking about “a paper plate as strong as I am”.

    I awarded points only for them having a woman acknowledging her strength at all, even in comparison to something as stupid as a paper plate. LOL.

    It all reminds me of the ads for Campbell’s Chunky Soup – nearly always hawked by men because it’s “hearty” and is “the soup that eats like a meal.” Meanwhile women get giggly commercials about how many Progresso soups have 100 calories a serving and are the perfect diet food. “I’m on the chicken noodle diet! *giggle, giggle*”

  4. Audra says

    I’m so anti-paper plate that any paper plate ad is going to offend my sensibilities. This one is a double whammy because of the sexism and anti-environmentalism. I also agree with Dom Camus above that the “I need a paper plate as strong as I am” is as offensive as the rest. The coopting of feminist language for non-feminist ends infuriates me.

    Back to just how evil paper plates are—come on, they’re not even on a picnic or anything in the ad. Eating your everyday meals off crappy paper plates so you can save 10 minutes rinsing a few dishes before sticking them in the dishwasher–how is that being a good human being, much less mother? What kind of values are you teaching your children? How about spending extra time with them–while teaching them a lesson about work, conservation, economy, and taste,–by making them help you do the dishes, and (gasp!) maybe even the father of the children could lend a hand.

  5. Terra says

    The ad stinks on ice. Really. It’s especially offensive on feminist grounds. It implies that men don’t do dishes at all and shouldn’t be expected to do dishes – that the proper solution to the “dishes” chore is to throw them out since teaching a guy to wash up is a patent waste of time. In my family everyone does dishes, even my grandfather, who considers it proper to do the dishes since his wife does the cooking.

    If women loaded the dishwashers with their children – as any adult member of the family ought to do since teaching children how to get by in the world is one of the chief jobs of being a parent – then they wouldn’t be skimping on quality time. Quality time is not what you do, it’s how you do it, and what attitude you share when you do it.

    Environmentally, it’s scary on account of the trees that are dying, but in regards to landfill it really depends greatly on what kind of dishwashing detergent people are using and what kind of recycling program their cities have. My city composts food paper garbage like paper plates, half-gallon milk cartons, etc. and recycles 1-7 plastics – it’s a fabulous program and I don’t feel guilty about composting my paper plates when we have lots of people over. Having four different garbage cans in the kitchen is ok with me. Many cheap-o dishsoaps and dishwasher detergents are horribly bad for the environment and lay waste to the water supply, but people automatically consider washing with chemicals to be better than throwing anything out, because we accept without reservation the idea that disposing of things is bad. Sometimes it’s better to compost a plate than to poison fish, though best would be to carefully check ingredients in household cleaners and learn which ones are hazardous to the local wildlife – not to mention figuring out where your wastewater ends up. It’s not hard, it just sounds hard.

  6. sbg says

    MJ said:

    It’s just more of the same: “Look at me, I’m a thin, beautiful woman of indeterminate age, and I have these beautiful children and this beautiful home, complete with all the latest appliances. Which I don’t use, because eww, isn’t that what the nanny is for? On her day off, I use paper plates, but only the really good ones, because I CARE about my family.”

    They all come off as very Stepford to me.

    I find the argument ridiculous anyway. Seriously – not doing the dishes is going to make your (general your) relationship with your children so much better? Uhm, if so I fear you’re doing it wrong.

  7. sbg says

    Audra said:

    Eating your everyday meals off crappy paper plates so you can save 10 minutes rinsing a few dishes before sticking them in the dishwasher–how is that being a good human being, much less mother? What kind of values are you teaching your children? How about spending extra time with them–while teaching them a lesson about work, conservation, economy, and taste,–by making them help you do the dishes, and (gasp!) maybe even the father of the children could lend a hand.

    I keep forgetting that by washing dishes, it heavily implies rinsing and loading the dishwasher. I grew up without a dishwasher, so cleaning up after dinner was sometimes a 45 minute affair (I, uh, have a super-large immediate family). I still don’t have a dishwasher. The only apartment I ever had with one I used as extra storage. I cannot fathom it takes much time at all to do dishes using a dishwasher, so the logic in this ad fails monumentally for me.

    And that’s without the plethora of sexist and anti-environment messages it sends out.

  8. says

    I can’t add anything – y’all covered it. Frick on a stick.

    I would agree it’s easier to be green by washing dishes than by using and disposing of paper plates. There are always ways to save water, and they’re developing systems that improve how a home’s plumbing system uses it, and so on. There’s not much you can do about the amount of wood it takes to make a paper plate, nor the fact that it’s used once then recycled.

  9. sbg says

    Terra said:

    My city composts food paper garbage like paper plates, half-gallon milk cartons, etc. and recycles 1-7 plastics – it’s a fabulous program and I don’t feel guilty about composting my paper plates when we have lots of people over. Having four different garbage cans in the kitchen is ok with me.

    So does mine. I think eventually more municipalities will get on board – but I went back east for the holidays last year and it made me realize how good I’ve got it. I was horrified at the number of things going into the garbage instead of compost. I think I fill up a regular garbage bag once every two and a half months (being single helps), and my sister and her family went through one every two and a half DAYS.

    Your arguments re environment are why I hesitated and ultimately decided not to even mention it in my reaction post. ;)

  10. Scarlett says

    I was too busy being jacked off about the disposable thing to get steamed about the Stepford tripe. Now I’m just… I really don’t know what to say.

    It’s an ongoing bone of contention in my house because it’s always the same two people doing the dishes when they pile up, my brother is notorious for leaving his plate on the counter after he’s had a sandwihch (we don’t have a dishwasher). Seriously, empty counter but for this plate. But even then no-one would think to solve the problem with disposable stuff. That’s treating the symptom, not the cause. (Lazy people in general… and I’m sure if we had paper plates, my brother would put them on the counter rather than in the bin.)

  11. says

    Now, there *are* green disposable plates – my local organic store carries them, I think they’re made out of waste starch and water, kind of like a more durable version of those water soluble packing peanuts. But every time I think about getting them – I loathe doing dishes, always have, always will, as people who read my blog will know (the crack about rice wasn’t fictional, folks – one time it *was* the other things) but I don’t make enough money to spend it on ecofriendly disposables as a habit.

    And nobody would ever make the ad that I and some RL girlfriends of mine all came up with to advertise a cleaning product that really worked well and wasn’t too terribly caustic. Our idea – because this is what would sell to *us* – was “HATE housecleaning? Buy brand X, because you’ll have more time for books!” And show the happy housewife on the sofa with her cat and a big stack of books.

    Obviously, this is far too subversive and radical for 21st-century America! (featherless gods, I wish that *wasn’t* snark…)

  12. Scarlett says

    bellatrys, I LOVE your idea! That would totally make me buy the product even if the product was only so-so I love the idea of promoting free time for reading. I’ve bitched so much on my blog about how people on tour (recently was on a 6-week tour of Europe) found it odd to the point of offensive that I could spend hours reading or writing. The fact reading is a preferred use of leisure time rather than an obligation is lost on a lot of people, i think in part because the media likes to use it as a joke and only see partying or partening as *good* ways to spend your time. I don’t like cats much, but your comment made me wish I had a new book to read curled up in bed. (I only had room in my bag for one book, and I don’t regret choosing Gone With the Wind, but bloody hell, it would be nice to have something else after 2 months!)

    It’s a huge pity green versions are so much more expensive. In Australia there isn’t a huge culture of recycling – I found that out when we got to Switzerland and they tried to fine me for throwing my glass bottle in the regular rubbish. They took away the local paper and plastic bins about ten years ago and the next nearest place in 10 k’s away. (Note to Kevin Rudd: when a country town in Poland has better recycling facilities than a major Australian city, you should start feeling ashamed.)

    I realise this is very OT so I’ll stop now.

  13. MaggieCat says

    Good lord. I used to have paper plates in the house all of the time because I had two cats who’d outlived their teeth and I’m sorry, but adding 8 or more plates covered in canned cat food to the dishes every day was simply not an option if I ever wanted to eat again. However I did insist on buying the saucer sized ones made of recycled paper rather than the styrofoam ones that were cheaper and oh so much less likely to stick to the bottom of my slipper when someone decided she wanted to eat looking out the back door rather than in the kitchen like a normal person and left it over there, because I couldn’t live with us being responsible for that volume of non-biodegradable trash.

    When the woman who spent years willing to run out at 9pm for your product can’t defend your ads, you’ve done something wrong.

  14. says

    If women loaded the dishwashers with their children

    Am I the only one who, for a second, pictured a woman cramming her kids into a dishwasher? :D Might have been a better commercial, actually.

    I just thought of another interesting angle here. They’re obviously appealing to those who aren’t interested in/informed about being green, right? So are they assuming anyone who’s anti-green is also married to traditional gender roles from the 1950’s (I’m picturing Lisa Douglas of Green Acres throwing the plates out the window rather than washing them)? They have obviously studied the market and concluded that people who will use paper plates for convenience because they think that green shit is for fuckin’ hippies are also the sort of people who think women are for impregnating and locking in the kitchen until you want a beer.

    What’s really cool about this is: if we can track everyone who buys Dixie paper plates for a year and lock them in a very big kitchen, the world will become a much nicer place overnight.

  15. ACW says

    Hmm. See, I miss out on these because (unlike the women in the ads, apparently – not one mention of juggling career, family, etc.?? – if anything, you’d think that would be a major selling point), I work and attend school full-time. The very few shows I watch are caught on the DVR, and I fast-forward through commercials (thankyou thankyou thankyou for reminding me how lucky I am!).

    Rather than clutter our landfills with paper plates, I spend time *with* my kids and *teach them responsibility* by having them load their own dishes [good call, Terra!], as any child old enough to wear nail polish (?!) (regardless of whether they do) can do. Yes, the hubbie and I take turns ‘doing the dishes’ – which mostly consists of flipping a switch. I agree: the most disturbing thing about this ad is that it is assumed that women are the only ones in the household who could possibly be responsible for cleaning the dishes of an entire family.

  16. sbg says

    The very few shows I watch are caught on the DVR, and I fast-forward through commercials (thankyou thankyou thankyou for reminding me how lucky I am!).

    It’s amazing how many awful things are reinforced in such a short amount of time. One 30-second ad might seem irrelevant, but take that 30 seconds and multiply it…

    Rather than clutter our landfills with paper plates, I spend time *with* my kids and *teach them responsibility* by having them load their own dishes [good call, Terra!], as any child old enough to wear nail polish (?!) (regardless of whether they do) can do.

    I’m sure there was a time my parents did the dishes, but by the time I came around – it was a chore for the kids. And most of the time, one or both my parents plus the kids* who weren’t on dish duty hung around the kitchen and we all chatted and caught up with each other at the same time as work was being done. Not always, of course, but often.

    *Context: I have a large family. Until I was in high school, there were still usually six or seven kids at home.

  17. nm says

    I know of a mother, who doesn’t work, with one teenager at home, a tiny apartment and the luxury of a cleaning lady. She insists that paper plates and disposable cutlery, cups etc.

    Aside from not having any sort of environmental conscience, what sort of messages of responsibility is she sending to her son? She doesn’t even carry the trash out herself.

    I’ve never heard of such out right laziness. I’m a working single mother of two and a night off from doing the dishes is great. But I am not that self absorbed or indulgent to think that I am beyond picking up a dish rag. Aside from that…I think my family is worthy enough to eat from a real dish.

    Paper plates used to be for BBQ’s and kids birthday cakes…what’s going on here?

  18. ACW says

    We don’t even have disposable plates/utensils in the house, unless it’s the day after a birthday party and one or two kids didn’t show… but I know when our region was seriously affected by drought last summer, a lot of folks I know stocked up on paper plates to meet water restrictions… but other than simply not being able to wash dishes or not having enough real dishes to serve a crowd, I can’t comprehend paper plates.

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