A few weeks ago, Sheryl Sandberg posted ‘Share the Load’ giving the Glass Lion winning piece of creative from Ariel India a second round of fame and attention. In case you haven’t seen it, it’s the story of a working mother doing what working mothers do – multitasking – she is taking a business call while clearing her son’s toys while making tea. Sounds familiar, right? Just add the smell of a burning dinner, and that could be any weeknight at my house.
Her son plays and her husband sits on the couch watching sports (again, eerily familiar) as her father observes. In response to what he sees he writes a letter to his daughter acknowledging and apologizing for the example that he set, and that she has repeated with her own family. Even if she has broken out of traditional gender roles by sharing the load in terms of bringing in income, she hasn’t evolved her expectations to ensure that her husband shares the load when it comes to child and home care. Her father decides to take action and returns to his home vowing, ‘I may not become the king of the kitchen, but at least I can help with laundry’ (natch, it is an Ariel ad).
Since seeing this I have been busy praising and posting it until a friend challenged me. Her view is that while it’s great for the woman’s mother who is going to get some help around the house, the woman is still stuck with deadlines, a house to clean and a football-watching husband. It is exactly this fact that makes me love this content so much. It’s easy to be divisive or dad-bait and attack men for not taking on enough in the home. In contrast, the woman’s father gives her husband a get out of jail free card. He takes the blame for setting the precedent, and seeks to break the cycle himself.
While it would be great if we all had such self-aware, laundry-loving fathers to inspire change, I think the conversation about equality at home will be far more productive if we shift from the default mode of blaming and instead take action – basically, put the dishes down and hold our partners accountable for playing an equal role. If women want to break the cycle of falling into traditional gender roles the moment we walk through our front doors, we need to ask for help and expect it to be delivered, modelling the behavior we want our children to one day mimic. [Note to self: schedule conversation with husband] I mean it’s great if #sharetheload is trending, but it will be even better when it becomes a way of life.
There are actually great similarities between #sharetheload and the latest content from Always #likeaagirl (a campaign H+K London proudly works on). Anyone who knows me will be aware that I have concerns about emoji – I worry we’re going to stop using words and revert back to communicating like we did in the time of the Caves of Lascaux. But since billions of emoji are sent a day, I will withhold my concerns and get on-board.
The idea behind this piece of creative is that emoji aren’t reflective of what girls do and what they want to be. If we are to interpret how women behave based on the emoji currently available then all women are supposed to do is get married and eat eggplants (yes, British people, I know you call them aubergines). If they don’t see active, achieving, ambitious females represented through emoji, it’s all the harder for girls to imagine the possibilities.
Both #sharetheload and #likeagirl are powerful reminders that we internalize the behaviors and images we see, and more often than not, repeat them, continuing the pattern out of familiarity. I hope that one day my daughter has a full set of emoji to choose from – that she can text, tweet, post or peach (is that a verb yet?) both a working woman and a man doing laundry – because when she sees it, both in the living room and online, she will believe that she can be it.