I’m not much of a football fan. When I was a waitress, I’d always volunteer to work on Superbowl Sunday, in hopes that someone would volunteer to work for me on Oscar night. Since then, my Superbowl-watching has been confined to the years when someone I know has a Superbowl party or people come to my house or whatever. Left to my own devices, I spend Superbowl Sundays sewing or knitting or watching DVDs or whatever.
This year my boyfriend wanted to watch the Superbowl, so we invited my sister and her husband over for food, drinks, football-explaining (my boyfriend’s forte) and general mocking (my forte). Dear readers, if you saw the Superbowl, I’m sure that my anger regarding a number of the ads will come as no surprise to you. The message in many of them was: Women are bringing you down, men! Bitches have removed your spine! They’re making you watch vampire TV shows! They’re bossing you around! They’re inferior to a set of tires! It’s time to remedy this by buying stuff and acting like an asshole.
(Side question: Regular Superbowl watchers, is there always this much misogyny in the ads? I don’t remember it being this bad before, but as I said, I’m a sporadic viewer.)
Anyway. The worst, most rage-filled ad as far as I’m concerned was the Dodge Charger one (which you can see here; I’m not going to embed it). I found this clever response to that ad and posted a link to it on Twitter:
A woman I follow on Twitter wrote that she didn’t watch the game, but from what she could tell, the ads were pretty alienating to the female audience. I responded:
Yeah, a LOT of the ads were of the “WOMEN BE SHOPPIN'” variety. Made me wish @sarah_haskins was still doing “Target Women.”
Then I said:
Our superbowl: leftover party food, @meganheadley falls asleep, @luiztauil watches the game, I bitch to @bpriker about sexist commercials.
I got these two replies within two minutes of each other:
@bluishorange yuck. I hope the fallout from the critiques doesn’t further it with “women are too sensitive and can’t take a joke”
@bluishorange I tried bitching about the sexist commercials, but everyone thought I was being an overly sensitive whiner. ARRRG.
It took a lot of exposition for me to make this point, but here it is: Thinking critically about the portrayal of your gender, race, nationality, sexual orientation, etc, in the media does not qualify as being oversensitive. Speaking up about it does not mean you can’t take a joke.
The fact that two people I know worried at nearly the same moment about being thought of as oversensitive whiners is evidence to me that this sort of “Oh, lighten up!” response is still pretty common. Well rest assured, people, I’m not planning to lighten up on this issue anytime soon. It’s not that hard to create TV shows and movies and advertisements that are funny, interesting, enlightening and engaging without insinuating that women are bitches; and it’s up to us, the viewers, to demand that standard.
I’m fortunate to have a boyfriend who is happy to discuss sexist commercials and sexist other things and general feminism with me. He maintains that the ads like the ones aired during this year’s Superbowl are offensive to both sexes: they’re hostile towards women, but they also assume men to be thoughtless, anti-intellectual cads. And I think he’s right. Gentlemen, if you’re part of the “lighten up” contingent, you may want to start evaluating how you’re being portrayed.
P.S. Matt Haughey made a good response video as well: