February 4, 2014
Tax time is here, even for the procrastinators. And that means accounting-software companies are rolling out their ads for the season from now until Tax Day on April 15. Intuit’s TurboTax has released a series of ads that demonstrates how easy their program is to use—particularly a feature that asks if you’ve bought a house, had a baby, gotten married, and other major life events that will affect your taxes.
One of the spots, “Did You Get Married?,” seems innocuous enough at first glance. The ad follows a woman as she talks to her boyfriend or fiancé, before the announcer says: “You answered a lot of hard questions this year so this one will be easy. Did you get married? If you can answer that and other questions about your year then you can do your own taxes. Intuit TurboTax. It’s amazing what you’re capable of.”
But watch it again: The ad is shot from the point of view of the man, who we never see. The vantage point is the typical “male gaze” and frequently has the camera angled down on her.
And what’s worse is what she’s saying:
“What about now?” she asks. “What if our kids are really tall, like in a gross way?” “What time do we have to get up tomorrow?” “Should we get really good at tennis?” “What is a chorizo?” “What kind of apples do we like?” “Are you sure we’re going the right way?” “Are you even listening to me?” “Do you think my elbows are weird?”
The questions are inane, childish. She’s pretty and young—you get the impression she must be significantly younger than the man, someone he’s attracted to for her looks and not her brains. Listening to her talk is like listening to a little girl barrage her daddy with questions. Worse still, she seems to think only in terms of “we”: “What time do we have to get up tomorrow?” “Should we get really good at tennis?” When she’s not asking questions about her and her boyfriend, her thoughts are narcissistic (“Do you think my elbows are weird?”) or invoke the dreaded nagging girlfriend (“Are you even listening to me?”).
The message TurboTax is sending with this commercial is that your future wife is an idiot, and that it falls to you, the man, to be responsible for figuring out the taxes in the household, because she doesn’t even know what chorizo is.
This is a forehead-slappingly stupid move on the part of Wieden and Kennedy, the normally brilliant ad agency behind the spot, and an even dumber move by TurboTax, whose other commercials in this series managed to not offend 50 percent of the population.
And yet, where’s the outrage, the exasperation? Since it went live last week, I’ve yet to find anyone calling them out. But that’s in part because of how easily we absorb these messages in our society—even today. Women are silly, and lacking in intelligence; they are pretty, decorative, and when they get too demanding, it’s easy to tune them out. Also, ladies: Math is hard.
Don’t believe that? Just look at some of the comments left on the “Did You Get Married?” YouTube page:
“THANKS FOR REMINDING ME WHY IM NOT GETTING MARRIED, someone please deliver a brick to this most annoying girl I’ve ever seen’s face.”
“She is the MOST annoying girl ever. I feel sorry for the dude married to her. ”
“Why would anybody marry such a bleeping idiot??? She is clearly a basket case!!! Misery for the rest of your LIFE!!! ”
TurboTax’s ad is a dumb move for yet another simple reason: More women are taking control over household finances. A recent study released by the Daily Worth, a website about money aimed at women, showed that 90 percent of respondents in a survey of 1,000 women reported that they were the “chief bill-payer and purchaser,” and 76 percent were the “primary retirement planner.” Time ran a cover in 2012 about women and money, titled “The Richer Sex,” which proclaimed: “Women are overtaking men as America’s breadwinners. Why that’s good for everyone.” In 2009, FindLaw.com reported that 37 percent of young and married women are more likely to manage their household finances. With those stats, it’s not hard to believe that women are more likely to be doing the taxes in their household.
And if it wasn’t just tone deaf for that reason, did anyone inform the ad agency that we’re living in an era when we have more female CEOs than ever? Mary Barra at General Motors, Sheryl Sandberg at Facebook, and Marissa Mayer at Yahoo are just a few high-profile women running the biggest companies in the country. It’s very likely that our next president will be a woman. Surely, there are more interesting questions that a modern woman could be asking of her husband than: “Did you do the bills this month?”; “I thought of some ways we could save money on the wedding”; and the one we’d probably utter ourselves: “Honey, I think we should pay a real accountant instead of doing this ourselves.”
Surely there are more interesting questions that a modern woman could be asking of her husband-to-be, starting with: “Did you do the bills this month?”; “I thought of some ways we could save money on the wedding.” And the one we’d probably utter ourselves: “Honey, I think we should pay for a real accountant instead of doing this ourselves.”