Wednesday, February 25, 2009

What Can Women's Hands Do?

Women's magazines of the 1940s and 1950s featured many ads showing women's hands (and thus creating an entire category of work for "hand models")—graceful hands with perfect nails, doing mostly domestic chores, and in some cases, shopping. Though today’s most popular women’s magazines rarely, if ever, feature “hand models,” I wondered whether they imply that women’s hands should still do the same things as they did sixty years ago. Or, do these publications somehow convey a broader idea of what work women might do with their hands—brain surgery, technical work, sculpture, farming . . . I wasn’t sure what to expect.

So, I picked up early 2008 issues of Martha Stewart Living, Real Simple, Woman’s Day, Ladies Home Journal, Redbook, Good Housekeeping, Quilting, and Family Circle. I didn’t even need to consult the ads, because now, many articles are “advertorials,” rolling content and advertising into numerous short, mind-numbing chunks. Sorry, ladies. According to the bland, white world of women’s print media, the main purpose of your hands is still to cook, clean, polish, wash, do needlework, and shop.

What are you waiting for? Take off your gloves, buy the recommended products, and get to work!


Anonymous said...

Remember the dishwashing soap that promised "younger looking hands?" They'd put the hands of a mother and daughter side-by-side and have you guess which hand belonged to whom. It was hard to tell, so I'm assuming that this particular soap protected against veins and age spots.
Give me a break! You'd think that advertisers might have caught on by now. I, for one, hope they will finally get the message that woman can do more the dust and clean--hands down!

rita said...

I remember the hand advertising showing women's hands doing menial work. However, at the time the full meaning didn't occur to me. That's how life was and as girls we accepted it.

Anonymous said...

I just came home from a weekend event with Ivanka Trump for my business. It was incredibly busy but I got to be smart, successful and even a little pretty.

I arrived home knowing I have to clean up after last week's lake house visitor, to prepare for the one that arrives today. Plus pick her up at the airport - an hour each way - and find time to run my company and do some research before I leave on my next business trip a week from tomorrow, hold a 3:00 conference call, file my corporate taxes, wash my hair, and so on.

My husband got up and watched me vacuuming. From the top of the stairs he watched and watched and he was smiling. It reminded me of a satisfied plantation owner watching the work being done for him. To say I didn't smile back is an understatement. He said, "Come on, baby? Already? You just got home." Since he reads my blog (only when I'm pissed) I didn't know who else to tell. Thanks for listening. And by the way? My nails are ragged and my hands are cracked. I don't know how those hand models do it...."@MrsHaydee"