First of all, I want to congratulate the New York Giants, winners of Super Bowl XLVI, and Mario Manningham, fellow Michigan Wolverine, on a well-played victory.
Now onto what many people really watch the Super Bowl for: the commercials. America’s biggest night is met every year with companies vying for the most sought after TV spots. What’s more predictable than this marketing plan is the content of the commercials, which overwhelmingly target men. Last year, it was estimated that 7 out of 10 Americans would watch the Super Bowl. That includes men, women, and children. And yet, the best method those companies can think of to entice all of these potential customers to purchase their products? Objectifying women of course!
Viewers saw everything from a sexualized M&M, to the classic comparison of women to cars, to Adriana Lima telling men that they’ll get lucky by giving flowers, and of course, the obligatory Go Daddy spots featuring overtly sexualized spokeswomen. But wait! H&M mixed it up with an underwear commercial featuring the objectification of a man, soccer player David Beckham. Let’s hear it for gender-equality…
I could go on and on about how offensive these commercials were to both women and men. But instead I’d like to talk about the backlash that began on Sunday. Using the hashtag #NotBuyingIt, launched by Miss Representation, people took to Twitter in an effort to broadcast their disgust with the ads. At the same time, users made a point that using women as sexual objects to sell a product is a completely tired way of advertising. The power in this kind of backlash is that it mobilizes consumers to send a message to companies – that not only are we “not buying” the sexism in these ads, we are also not buying the products themselves. A sample of the comments include, “if your product was any good, you wouldn’t need sexism to sell it” and “could I see just one commercial showing woman buying cars…we buy cars damnit.”
I hope that companies are not only aware that they are alienating a huge market with these advertisements, but that they actually stop airing these types of ads. You could tell me to stop watching TV and boycott the Super Bowl, but I don’t think it’s fair to make women everywhere turn a blind eye towards mass communications in America. The sexist commercials that aired Sunday weren’t only viewed by the critical eye of feminists like me, but also by the impressionable girls and boys who were watching the biggest football game of the year with their families. The fight for gender-equality isn’t over and it will continue with those children as they grow up. How can we make progress if they are continually bombarded with images that make it seem like gender stereotypes are not only alive and well, but also completely acceptable?