Everyday sexism in real estate advertising: Stop telling me I'll love the spacious kitchen

"It also features a separate laundry which mum will love and a large double garage for dad."

"The kitchen is nice and modern ladies and a very good size, as is the open plan dining and lounge. And YES there is a lovely big and modern garage for Dad and family toys!"

"Mum will love the loads of bench space in the kitchen and neat and tidy scullery and the chance to be first to use the oven!"

These are actual phrases, used in real estate advertising currently online.

My husband and I were house-hunting last year and I remember being amused by all the references I was seeing telling me - the mum - I would love a spacious kitchen, while my husband - the dad - would appreciate escaping to a 'man-cave'.

A quick Google search reveals this type of wording in real estate ads is common. Of course mum needs to know about the size of the kitchen  that's her place, after all... isn't it? 

In fact, no, I don't think a woman's place is necessarily in the kitchen these days. This is not true for me and my family. And I suspect it isn't true for a number of Kiwi families. My husband and I both work, and the household tasks are shared. The kitchen functionality is probably just as important to him as it is to me - he does just as much cooking as I do.  

After a while I found this kind of advertising annoying and off-putting.

I am not alone, acting Minister for Women, Eugenie Sage, agrees, saying there are ongoing issues with gender stereotyping and wording like the above examples limits the appeal of the advertising to certain audiences.

Dr Michael Lee, senior lecturer of marketing at the University of Auckland Business School
Dr Michael Lee, senior lecturer of marketing at the University of Auckland Business School Photo credit: Newshub

It's not blatant sexism. But if we accept this type of 'everyday sexism' we just perpetuate it. 

"We all benefit from breaking down these stereotypes," Ms Sage says, pointing to the rise of stay-at-home dads and the sharing of childcare.

"No one should be pigeonholed into what rooms of the house they occupy based on gender," she adds.

Dr Michael Lee is a senior lecturer of marketing at The University of Auckland Business School. He believes this type of wording isn't malicious, rather a result of "lazy" advertising.

"One of the risks of advertising this way is that you immediately close off your ad or your product to a group of people who would react quite strongly to that sort of gender stereotyping."

Dr Lee says advertising may not propagate everyday sexism, but rather appeals to something that already exists in society.

"If the real estate agent thinks, on average, most of the guys I know like a man cave and most of the women I know do spend time in the kitchen, then that becomes their world view.

"There's no loss to them to adapt their thinking a bit to be more inclusive because who wouldn't want a larger market to be interested in your product."

Gender stereotyping isn't exclusive to real estate - you see it everywhere, Dr Lee says.

"From pink razors and pink pens, to blue razors and pink tools that are targeting the female population, so they're [estate agents] certainly not guilty of being the only ones that commit this gender stereotyping, but that's no excuse," he says.

Bindi Norwell, chief executive the Real Estate Institute of New Zealand (REINZ) says most agencies have advertising training which covers the 'dos and don'ts' of advertising in terms of adhering to the Advertising Standards Authority's Code of Ethics, and the requirements under the Real Estate Agents Act Rules 2012.

"Our advice is simply to use words that are more generic and don't have the potential to offend - so for example, it's just as easy to say, 'There's a stunning kitchen and scullery that is sure to impress the cook in the family,' as it is to say that the kitchen will impress Mum. 

"We will continue to raise this as a potential issue for our members along with useful advice to help ensure advertising is appropriately portrayed," Ms Norwell says.

For those yelling this is PC gone mad, Dr Lee says it isn't about being PC or not, but rather about clever versus lazy advertising.

Clever advertising makes your product attractive to the largest group of people, and increases the value of the product.

"The more people they have that are interested, the price should increase," he says.