Officeworks releases ad campaign promoting damaging gender stereotypes

Participating in a weird form of gender segregation, Officeworks has split its marketing campaign to target women and men, separately.

The first part of Officeworks’ new campaign shows mothers enthusiastically packing their children’s lunch and participating in the tried-and-true role of the housewife. Having successfully completed the “back-to-school” shopping, their daughters are shown squealing over glittery, pink lunch boxes.

In contrast, a video was released depicting fathers and sons playing cricket outside, separate from the rest of their families.

bts officeworks ad campaign
Photo: YouTube (Still from Back to School Theme A)

Honestly, who thought this was a good idea?

The segregation of genders seems not only excessive but highly exclusionary. By creating a divide in the campaign, Officeworks creates a spotlight on the stereotypical expectations of each gender, obnoxiously amplifying and normalising them.

The expectation of women to fulfil their duty to the house, to cook, clean and nurture the children, is shown as defining their motherhood. On the other hand, the fathers don’t shoulder any concern for household tasks, already preoccupied with entertaining their sons. The sexist power imbalance is impossible to ignore.

Dianne Hill, the CEO of Women’s Health Victoria, said it was “disappointing to see this campaign trading in tired old stereotypes of mums doing the ‘back to school’ shop and making cakes, and girls getting excited about pink stationery, while the dads and boys play backyard cricket.”

“These kinds of stereotypes are still all too common in Australian advertising: women portrayed as housewives and mothers; girls valuing beauty and fashion; men and boys unconcerned with household tasks, engaged in physical activity,” she continued, explaining that the ideas reinforced in the advertisement are “outdated” and “harmful” when considering the role of “men and boys and women and girls in society.” 

Officeworks’ Marketing and Insights General Manager – Jess Richmond – said of the ad campaign: “Given the many challenges that Australians have faced in 2020, we want parents to feel empowered and in control of their Back to School expenses in 2021, and even have a little fun while getting their children’s school list supplies.”