I Promise to Pretend That You Are More Competent Than I Am, While Still Doing the Work Myself

This short Chemistry dot com spot is running on the Bravo network lately (transcript below):

Woman: I promise to take out the recycling, even though I think you're way better at it.

Man: I promise never to take myself too seriously.

Isn't it time you found great chemistry with someone? Take our personality test and get your first five chemistry-inspired matches free. Visit Chemistry dot com today.
The idea that women should bolster men's egos by pretending to be less competent than they are is a real classic. Last week, Echidne wrote a post on Louisa May Alcott's Under The Lilacs. Echidne presents Alcott's description of an archery competition in which the book's young heroine is winning, but throws the competition at the last minute so that the boy will triumph. In return, she wins said boy's admiration. Echidne notes that Alcott's book shows "how much work has always gone into the turning out of conservative women."

I think this pressure extends to progressive women as well, and it seems we haven't come as far since the Victorian era as we'd like to think. Furthermore, Chemistry's 16-second spot squeezes in an extra wrinkle: not only will the woman feign lower competence; she will do so while still performing the task herself.

And what happens if we comply with this cultural directive? Well, Chemistry dot com can help out there too.

I went and took another look at this commercial from their "vows" campaign:

Man A: I promise not to tell any of our friends that you occasionally wear bronzer.

Man B: Yeah, that's a secret!

Man B: I vow as your partner to never play the martyr role.

Man A: [points and laughs] That's your mother's job. And I promise to respect your rational problem with cilantro.
The martyr role? What, would that be like taking things onto oneself ("I promise to take out the recycling"), while maintaining a properly self-effacing attitude ("even though you're way better at it")? Over and over, forever?

Watching these two commercials, I feel like I'm encountering the same woman at two stages of life: the young martyr-in-training, and the used-up mother good for a laugh about what a silly old martyr she is.

I think it's great that Chemistry dot com is open to clients seeking same-sex partners, and that they're not afraid to show it in adverts. A good next step would be to show two loving men without tut-tutting at women about what pains in the ass we are.

I would also like to see a depiction of two women together without getting into a clusterfuckastrophe of prescriptive gender stereotypes. But if this is how Chemistry dot com does with ads featuring one woman or even no women at all, I won't hold my breath. But I will keep on teaspoonin'.

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