Swiffer’s new Rosie the Riveter ad has caused quite a controversy. Rosie, a long-time feminist icon that originated during World War II, has been given a so-called sexist spin by the cleaning company, who has appropriated the image to promote its new Swiffer/Bissell SteamBoost mop. As Yahoo! sarcastically puts it, “an icon of women's war-time strength and adaptability [is] back in the kitchen where she belongs.”
Swiffer’s Rosie the Riveter ad campaign has been pulled just one day after its release due to the public outcry over the sexism in the imagery. Consumers went into an outrage online; in one case, the Women’s Fund of New Hampshire sent out a tweet saying, "Swiffer tells women 'We can do it!' 'It' in this case being housework. We’re super unimpressed.”
News outlets picked up on the story after Heather Beschizza tweeted a message with an image of the above ad that she found in a Sunday newspaper insert:
— Heather Beschizza (@hbeschizza) June 2, 2013
"Because nothing says, 'I can’t wait to rush home from my full-time job to start my second shift of devalued, unpaid household labor with my Swiffer Bissel Steam Boost!' like Rosie the Riveter," wrote Maya at Feministing. "If you can't see why it's offensive, or at least incredibly ignorant, to use her likeness to market a FANCY BROOM, then you're not looking," commented Raina Douris at Buzzfeed. "The whole point is that Rosie symbolizes women's DEPARTURE from being solely responsible for homemaking. This ad is backwards." Swiffer immediately released a statement about the Rosie the Riveter ad for Steam Boost. "It was not our intention to offend any group with the image, and we are working to make changes to where it is used as quickly as possible," the company said in a statement. Swiffer is now taking to social media channel Twitter to apologize to offended customers – individually.
@debweinstein @catherineheroux We hear you Deborah and Catherine. And we are sorry. We want you to know that we are removing this ad ASAP. — Swiffer (@Swiffer) June 6, 2013
@reekimikw We hear you, Kirby, and we're making changes. We are sorry and we do appreciate your feedback.
— Swiffer (@Swiffer) June 6, 2013
@mandiwhitten Hi Mandi. We hear you and we are sorry if our ad offended you. We're trying to move as quickly as possible to remove it. — Swiffer (@Swiffer) June 6, 2013
@lafbw We're listening and we're so sorry if we offended you with the ad. We're working quickly to make changes.
— Swiffer (@Swiffer) June 6, 2013
@tuotraehruoytae Hi Frank. We apologize for the ad. We would like you to know that we are moving quickly to pull back the ad. — Swiffer (@Swiffer) June 6, 2013
This isn’t the first time that a brand has promoted their cleaning products with a vague sense of sexism. Mr. Clean ads makes women swoon, and then the girls start scrubbing. Meanwhile, Mr. Clean just watches as the woman does the cleaning. Liquid Plumr promoted their Double Impact drain unclogger with a sexual commercial featuring a woman moaning at a supermarket while an attractive man watches. The Brawny man inspires women to purchase “manly” paper towels to help clean up big messes.
While Swiffer’s ad featuring Rosie the Riveter is certainly not acceptable in this day and age, it can’t be argued that there is a reason that cleaning companies market their products to women. Despite the fact that women now make up 40 percent of the sole/primary breadwinners in the United States, women still do the bulk of the housework, according to Pew Research Center.