Updated: Mar 7
A day to celebrate your Mum, and in turn as a Mum to feel celebrated, what’s not to love? But look a little closer at the commercial world of Mothers Day cards, smelly candles, floral cushions and other cloying gifts, and gender marketing is a big problem.
The overwhelming messaging of Mother's Day cards and gifts are that it is a day for Mums to have a break from thinking about everyone else. This message is a clear extension of the slogans seen on clothing for young girls, reminding them to smile, be kind and think of others. Children buy these cards with the absolute best intentions for their adored Mums but it's yet another way that they are learning the social code of gender - women are thoughtful, kind, and always prioritise everyone else. This runs in absolute contrast to Father's Day where Dads are celebrated as the financial provider, taxi driver, all round great role model, and their hobbies are celebrated.
There is nothing wrong with the images and messages seen on either group of cards, but why on earth are we as a society using these days to push stereotyped gender roles?
Let's look at some Mother's Day cards available for 2022
Your first Mother's Day - the perfect time for a reminder that as the Mum of the house it’s your responsibly to ‘hold everything together’, which certainly seems like a sanitized message that you should be bearing the mental load and running the household.
Women and Mums do not have to hold everything together and if they are, they need support from other adults not a card celebrating it.
This one reads like an instruction manual of how to be a good wife from the 1950's, it's just missing 'has dinner ready for husband at 6pm sharp'
Sadly this is highly reminiscent of the slogans and messaging we see on girls clothing. We can be so much more than this, being a Mother is not defined by these attributes and good Dads also have these attributes. We shouldn't be celebrating and pushing these things for only women (faithful?)
'To my beautiful Mum'
No female targeted marketing would be complete without a reminder that what's really important is your appearance, right?
You’re never too old to have a reminder to follow the rules set when you were a little girl.
The quintessential Mothers Day Card (Moonpig, Card Factory and LoveKate)
Gifts promoted for Mother’s Day are so often floral or beauty based. Hey Mum! Spend your special day making yourself look better for others! Marks and Spencer encourage us to:
‘Make mum feel really special on Mother's Day with a wonderful gift she'll love. A pampering gift set of soothing hand cream, sweetly scented candles and melt-in-the-mouth chocolate truffles gives her the luxury spa experience at home. From beautiful blooms to fabulous fragrances, delicious hampers to bubbly champers, we've got lots of lovely gift ideas’
A lovely image - Mum having a relaxing day off while someone else looks after the house and kids. Why is this a special day and not an expected aspect of life that domestic duties are split and everyone gets down time?
There is nothing intrinsically wrong with any of these concepts but as marketing it is packed full of stereotyped expectations of what women, and Mums, like. Pretty, fragrant things, mostly.
In contrast, when Father’s Day rolls around, men are celebrated mainly for their hobbies, with imagery of cars, footballs, tools and beer glasses and messaging thanking them for being fun, interesting or financial providers (The Bank of Dad).
Here's Marks and Spencer's takes on 'Gifts for him:'
'Present buying is easier with our gifts for men. Pick out sports gear for workout fanatics, or elegant accessories like leather bags and silk ties. For foodies, try our bursting-with-treats hampers, delicious wines and mouth-watering chocolates. Relaxing bath bubbles make a thoughtful offering for the busy man.'
Sainsburys on the other hand do at least acknowledge Mums lead busy lives... in the kitchen: "Our range of Mother’s Day recipes will help you whip up a special meal for mum, so she doesn’t have to lift a finger on her special day."
Then there's this: pink or blue.
This is gender marketing par excellence, pink versus blue, but also men/boys as default, here shown in accurate Superman colours (blue, red and yellow), action-posed with bold text. Mum/girls however get the pink version, which I don't know if you've noticed, has nothing whatsoever to do with Superman, Super Girl or Wonder Woman (for that matter) imagery. The text is script implying a softer, less formal form of communication (whispered rather than boldly asserted), the position of the teddy is oddly posed with a simpering, passive look.
Ultimately though, it is children who are presenting these cards and gifts to their parents and so it is yet another way that, as a society, we are teaching them that women are passive, prioritise everyone above themselves, and care infinitely about their appearance, while men are financial providers who are fun, leaders, and free to endlessly explore hobbies. Plus, what is with the Mothers Day teddies? (that's a whole other blog)
Can't we do better than this in 2022? Here's an idea: ask Mums what they would actually like and get the kids crafty with a homemade card. Whiskey and beer are just as suitable for Mums as sparkling wine, and who doesn’t love their children’s drawings?