Mom’s Pop Quiz

Kellogg’s Frosted Mini-Wheats, as part of “Mom’s Homeroom,” proudly presents me and other conscientious, Frosted-Mini-Wheat-owning moms with a pop quiz to help us with our maternal duties:

  1. What’s the best way to encourage math skills at home?
  2. How can you stop homework procrastination?
  3. How can you help develop your child’s reading comprehension?

These are all great questions, and I’m very glad the cereal box asked them.  But I bet you can guess what my problem with my pop quiz is:  Why is it only my pop quiz?  Is it because there are no questions about tickle fights, farts, or video games?   Would those be the proper questions for “Dad’s Pop Quiz?”

The focus on mothering—versus fathering—is so pervasive that it is easy to skip right over.  In this case, and many other examples of advertising, the message that Mom is the only responsible parent is so subtle that it’s almost subliminal. Mom needs a “pop quiz” to make sure she is doing everything right—first thing in the morning, no less!  No anxiety or guilt there!

Of course it’s “Mom’s Pop Quiz” and “Mom’s Homeroom.”  Mom’s the one buying cereal and making breakfast and helping out at school and figuring out homework, right?  Yes, lots of the time.  But around here, guess who buys the cereal and serves it up?  Guess who is the resident math whiz and who reads my daughter’s books and discusses them with her?  Yep:  Dad.

Some dads are getting sick of the double standard.

A group of them got so irked at a series of Huggies commercials that depict fathers as bumbling idiots that they protested the ad on Huggies’ Facebook page and created a petition to stop the ads.  Although one ad in the series was pulled, the others are still in circulation—and Huggies isn’t redefining its target audience anytime soon.  Which means, of course, that those dads who aren’t helping out as much as they could be are getting a free pass to consider diaper-changing mom’s territory.  Changing perceptions about gender roles takes much longer than changing diapers—but dads are proving they are just the dudes for the job.

You know what I think the best thing about this story is?  That the dads did this for themselves.  They were insulted by sexist ads that imply that mom is queen of the household and dad is an inept babysitter.  Many of the dads who protested the ad are the primary caregivers for their children.

That’s significant.  It’s a major social change—something that would not have been remotely thinkable 50 years ago.  I think it’s worth taking a moment to absorb that fact, and to do whatever we can to help our society reflect this reality, while increasing the number of households where dads are the ones who might get a “pop quiz.”

To that end, I went to the Mom’s Homeroom website on MSN.com and filled out a survey about my browsing experience and cereal preferences.  In the comments section, I told them I thought their site was wonderful and it’s great that they are helping moms help their kids succeed in school, but that I’d like to see them rename the site Parent’s Homeroom and include pictures of dads helping their kids with homework.

While I was looking at the site, I realized what good intentions it had—there was a profile of the moms involved, and I could tell they just wanted to do a good job, and help other moms do a good job.  I totally support that—and I know a lot of dads do too.

Maybe one of these days my husband will see a Dad’s Pop Quiz on the cereal box, with nary a question about video games or tickle fights.  If he does, I’m sure he’ll ace it.

8 thoughts on “Mom’s Pop Quiz

  1. rachelci says:

    I think it’s significant that the cereal people aren’t trying to change the way people think; they want to ride the wave of whatever sentiment is popular and thus easy to profit by. They do have the power to change people’s thinking; it just isn’t as profitable. Much easier to latch onto ideas that are already in people’s heads, and attach their product to those ideas. So I think what they’re trying to do here is take a “universal” idea, that all cereal buyers are moms, and that all moms are involved in the school system, therefore “supporting” moms in this way will make those buyers like buying this product.
    So, I guess I’d say I don’t think these people are trying to tell people what to think about gender roles, but trying to mirror what they think people already think. However, they won’t change until they think the number of people who think differently is so huge, that they will lose a lot of money by not giving those people what they want. In this regard, corporate/consumer culture is inherently conservative. They make more money when everyone thinks the same thing, and when that never changes.
    I’d also point out that this ad campaign totally ignores those who don’t participate in school.
    (This whole reply probably unclear and/or redundant, due to typing it while holding a conversation with a 4 year old. :)

    • Elizabeth Hall Magill says:

      You’re exactly right, Rachel–I was thinking about this very thing in terms of the Huggies commercials. Huggies is sticking with most of the commercials because most of their product is still purchased by moms–but isn’t it interesting that they think moms are going to be motivated to buy this brand of diaper when they see men acting incompetent? It seems to me the bigger payoff (rather than laughing at or feeling superior to men) is to get some help!! But the advertisers are going to go with what they believe works, thereby enforcing gender stereotypes. I’d just like to see someone take what they perceive as a risk by respecting moms and dads, and watch the payoff!

  2. rachelci says:

    Moms getting help are more free to make conscious choices, like (gasp) cloth diapers! Much safer just to keep it all in the nuclear home, and play off of the inevitable tensions that come with a new baby.
    As for the payoff . . . I’m cynical enough to wonder if there is one. I suspect there is nothing better than the status quo for a corporation.
    Thanks for this discussion.

  3. Elizabeth Hall Magill says:

    Thank you for the discussion—I always enjoy your comments!

    You might be exactly right on the cynical take of course; I was thinking payoff in terms of parents (both moms and dads) responding to commercials where dads are competent diaper changers by buying more diapers—I think it could be done. I know when my kids were in diapers I would have swooned over such a commercial. :)

    This also reminds me of some of the earliest posts I wrote about the TV show Castle—my first post, The Investigative Methods of Kate Beckett, cynically lamented the objectification of the female star. But later, the show changed direction, and I wrote Props to Castle! in praise of the choices they were making that empowered women. (The post was even tweeted by one of the writers on the show!) Castle has not returned to objectifying women since that show, and has continued to explore ways to make Kate and the other female characters powerful role models.

    However, there are times when cynicism must rule. At the urging of Miss Representation, I emailed GoDaddy after their SuperBowl commercials and asked them to change their sexist advertising. They informed me that I am not their target audience, which of course was very enlightening.

    I think, ultimately, it depends on who makes these decisions, what audience they’re after, and how they view that audience. But it seems to me that someone who is after an audience of diaper-changing moms might consider that showing dads as partners rather than clowns could earn them customers. Now I’m getting all fired up–I might just have to write Huggies!

  4. kim says:

    Kellogg’s Pop Quiz:
    Is the “Mom’s Pop Quiz” on the Mini-Wheats box intended to:

    A. Make moms feel incredibly dumb
    B. Make kids think their moms are incredibly dumb
    C. Make moms annoyed enough to email Kellogg’s the dumb “Mom’s Pop Quiz”?

    • Elizabeth Hall Magill says:

      Kim, That’s a good question for Kellogg’s–given the Mom’s Homeroom site, my guess is that they would reply that they are trying to help moms help their kids in school, and make things fun while they’re at it. The “quiz” is both silly and insulting, however (the multiple-choice answers are supposed to be funny but are just obvious). I love the idea of sending them a pop quiz! :)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s