So, for uni this week, I’m required to give a ten minute speech on a ‘cultural artefact’. This can range from a family photo, through to a doll, through to a movie or TV show. I chose a Napisan container. Oh, yes, I did.
Imagine if archeologists, 2000 years into the future, unearthed a Napisan container. What would they think? Would they wonder why it’s such an obnoxious shade of pink? Would they wonder why we got so excited over the ‘Oxi Action Intelligence’? Or would they simply conclude that there was some secret about laundry that only women knew- and that’s why men never did the laundry?
So how is a Napisan container a cultural artefact? Because of what it represents. Not only does it represent centuries of domestic tasks completed by females, but it’s also symbolic of the time- the Napisan commercials would have us believe that laundry isn’t just a chore- it can solve a myriad of problems. I’ll show you a clip later that may explain this better.
Facts about Napisan:
-Napisan is part of a larger set of products that sit under the ‘Vanish’ banner. These products include Preen clothes & carpet products
-Owned by Reckitt Benckiser, who also own Mortein, Dettol, Air Wick, and Finish dishwashing detergent. Napisan was launched by RB in 1972.<
-In 2007 Vanish hits the world No.1 spot. From it’s UK launch in 1999, Vanish becomes market leader in 75% of the 57 countries it now sells in.
-Napisan’s motto is “Trust Pink, forget stains”. Funnily enough, after viewing over 10 minutes worth of Napisan advertisements online (both Australian & international ads) I couldn’t find one single man doing the washing. In fact, the only thing men seemed to do in Napisan’s advertisements were dirty the clothes.
The advertisements and promotion of Napisan are what infuriate me the most. In this day and age, there’s no need to insinuate that women are the ones that do the laundry. I know plenty of men who are capable of sorting whites from colours, and putting them in a washing machine. It’s this ‘discourse’ of women being expected to do the clothes washing that frustrates me the most. Yes, these jokes are funny, and I can see that. But what isn’t as funny is that I haven’t found one, single Napisan ad that shows a male washing clothes. Not one. And that’s part of what’s shaped my history. That this stuff still exists- it’s what has made me want to go to university, so I can better understand it, and then later, reject it.
So just to show you some of the more typical stereotypes that are found in laundry detergent ads, i’m going to show you a brief clip from youtube.
Finally, the ‘pink’ factor.
Isn’t it a particularly horrific shade of pink? There are a few reasons that I suspect they marketers chose this shade:
-It stands out on the shelf. Doesn’t it? I mean, Barbie has already claimed pink, but HOT PINK? They’ve taken it to a whole new level.
-They’re jumping on the breast cancer bandwagon. Excuse my cynicism, but I’m sure the thought floated through some marketer’s brain at some point- that some customers would associate the pink with breast cancer, also. It can’t hurt.
-It’s a product for women, duh! Therefore, it needs to look pretty.
So why is it? What is it about laundry that screams out ‘WOMAN’S JOB!!!!!!!!!!!!!”.
Honestly, I have no idea. I can point to the history of laundry, and say that is was used as a form of repression, of keeping women at home while men were out making the money. I could say that laundry is a woman’s job, and a man’s job is to mow the lawns. There are a bajillion reasons as to why this discourse continues in society, but the only conclusion I’m going to make here is this. Napisan has become my permanent yard stick of how far women have (or haven’t) come in society. The minute I see a Napisan ad starring a male who appears to be genuinely interested in Oxiaction Intelligence, that’s the minute I start celebrating. Because I’m rather sick of my gender being linked to the boring process of cleaning clothes- I think it’s about time we got out and started making those dirty instead.