Escaping June Cleaver: The Domestication of Women Through Advertising

Allison Hawn

Arizona State University


June Cleaver, and the women who attempted to emulate her perfect housewife ideal, were considered the epitome of “womanhood” in the 1950s. However, the image of the quintessential domestic diva, in pearls and floral dress, is surely tired and no longer relevant to the modern woman. In an attempt to examine this phenomena, 1,250 American television commercials, spanning from 1970 to 2016, were gathered and analyzed using critical content analysis via a specially designed “June Cleaver Test.” The overall results showed that 54.4 percent of commercials sampled failed to show women outside of domestic or caregiving roles, with no decade managing to show women outside the home more than 50 percent of the time. Several trends and patterns were also noted in this research, showcasing the ways in which women’s portrayals in American advertising created a dominantly domestic expectation. The implications of these results is that the trope of women as homemakers and caretakers, instead of employed or having lives outside of domesticated settings, is still being mass produced as a cultural norm. These findings have significant implications for not only the options available to women in society, but also in moving towards a place where women can find economic equity and equal respect in their chosen vocations. June Cleaver has not so much left the kitchen; instead she has just updated her wardrobe.

2018 National Conference
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