Domino’s Pizza has a commercial that runs between innings on MLB.com’s “Gameday.” (I would be interested to know if it runs on television at all too, or if the audience is just us people who like to follow a baseball game while we are working and can’t have a radio or TV on.) At first glance, it seems like a pretty innocuous ad: it features a college-age woman (white, but with dark hair and eyes hinting at a bit of some ethnicity besides straight Anglo), a slightly older white woman, a black man probably in his mid twenties, with dreads, and a middle-aged white guy. All of them are using their various mobile devices to order a Domino’s Pizza.
So far, so good: it’s not all vanilla and it has a diversity of ages. But as soon as you start to analyze the commercial, the appearance of diversity falls apart and the commercial is purely stereotypical gender and race roles. Nor are any of the characters disabled.
College-age woman: sitting on the couch in her pajamas, watching TV. When she orders her pizza, the TV is showing a hunk coming out of a swimming pool.
Second woman: she’s shopping for clothes.
Black man: he’s on a football field.
White man: he’s in a fancy restaurant, ordering a meal for another man, who is presumably a coworker and not his gay partner. He’s also the only character depicted with another person in the scene – his dining companion and the waiter.
What we have here are two women portrayed as paying attention to frivolous things, one black athlete, and a middle-aged white man exerting power. He’s also the one who orders his pizza from a watch rather than a mobile device.
Let’s rearrange this commercial:
Middle aged white guy is watching swimsuit babes on TV; college-age woman is on a football field; black man is shopping; white woman is ordering dinner for a man in a restaurant.
Let’s rearrange it further:
Black man is watching a television news program; white man is shopping for something really boring, like underwear; white woman is on a tennis court and sweating; college-age woman is ordering dinner. (Or let’s REALLY rearrange it and have the dinner ordered by a black woman, who doesn’t exist in this commercial.)
If that scenario occurred to the makers of the commercial at all, it was rejected in favor of something that wouldn’t shake norms. This commercial is a perfect example of how sexism and racial stereotyping are omnipresent, in ways that one doesn’t even notice. When people say that racism and sexism don’t exist anymore, they are overlooking this kind of stereotyping, which permeates commercial advertising. The gender and racial stereotyping in this commercial really shouldn’t exist at all after so many years since the women’s movement and the civil rights movement. The fact that it still does is exactly why we need to keep working for real equality.