Impact of Tupperware
The impact of Tupperware has been felt in several ways over the course of time.
Brownie Wise’s home parties were a huge success and represented a revolutionary way of marketing to a target audience.
Diane Ellias’ short story “The Tupperware Party” provides a glimpse of what these home parties might have looked like.
The story takes place in the home of a “Tupperware lady.” The Tupperware lady encourages her guests to take a piece of thread from a spool. From there, the guests are invited to tell a story about themselves as long as the piece of thread that they took. The guests’ stories include tales of romance, gossip about townspeople, and anecdotes about their families, amongst other things. As each guest tells their story, the Tupperware lady and the other guests sip tea out of fine china. 1
Towards the end of Ellias’ short story, the Tupperware lady draws attention to the products she is selling, the plastic containers and lids. She demonstrates how there are five different kind of seals for the plasticware, all “guaranteed for life.” 2
While Ellias’ short story is a simple tale, it is informative because it gives an real-world example of how Tupperware was marketed to clients. This in-person, semiformal style of marketing allowed guests to develop camaraderie and a personal connection with the host and the other guests before purchasing the product.
The option of hosting Tupperware parties gave women, like the host in the short story, to make money while working from home. Brownie Wise herself was a single mother who needed a way to generate income while caring for her children. 3
The invention of Tupperware came at a period in time where the amount of time women should spend in the workplace versus the amount of time women should spend at home caring for their children grew increasingly ambiguous. Tupperware was invented shortly after World War II, just as men who fought in the war were reentering the workforce. 4
Tupperware parties opened the door for women to become entrepreneurs on their own time and build their work schedules around the needs of their families.
Today, several companies have entered the plastic container market, including Glad, Ziploc, Rubbermaid, and many others. Interestingly enough, the term ‘Tupperware’ has become a proprietary eponym for these containers.
Over time, the invention of Tupperware may have affected gender stereotypes in a negative manner, as it reinforced the notion of the home as being a domain for women. Susan Vincent writes that Tupperware is not only a product, but also a symbol of “white, middle-class domestic femininity.” 5
Vincent makes a compelling argument. While Tupperware was useful in helping women balance making an income with providing for their families during the post-WWII period, Tupperware’s legacy shapes the way that we perceive its role in society. Furthermore, the gendered aspect of the way Tupperware was marketed may have perpetuated peoples’ perceptions of women maintaining a domestic role over time, even as the modern work climate has evolved to empowering both men and women to earn their education and enter their desired profession, irregardless of society’s expectations.
Vincent concludes that “Tupperware’s continued dependence on a mixture of domesticity and commodity indicates that women – and men – have not yet achieved a dignified balance between their roles in life.” 6
Thus, as we evaluate the impact of Tupperware over the course of time, it is important that we do not fall into the trap of stereotyping Tupperware as something that is exclusively feminine. The reality is that both men and women use Tupperware to preserve food, several companies have entered the food container market and the work versus domestic roles have changed for both genders since Tupperware’s invention.
1. [Diane Ellias, “The Tupperware Party.” The North American Review 274, no. 2 (1989): 23-27.]↩
2. [Ibid, 27.]↩
3. [Christina E. Bax, “Entrepreneur Brownie Wise: Selling Tupperware to America’s Women in the 1950s.” Journal of Women’s History 22, no. 2 (Summer, 2010): 171-180,215.]↩
4. [Ibid, 173.]↩
5. [Susan Vincent. “Preserving Domesticity: Reading Tupperware in Women’s Changing Domestic, Social and Economic Roles.” Canadian Review of Sociology/Revue Canadienne De Sociologie 40, no. 2 (2003): 171-196.]↩
6. [Ibid, 192-93.]↩