Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Sexist Super Bowl ads: Do feminists have senses of humor?

I enjoy football! Two years ago, I started watching religiously during the playoffs and told myself that the next year I'd start watching from day one. And I did.

I said "football!"
Photo by danrandom via flickr

Last September I started spending every Sunday afternoon in front of the television watching two games of football. And once the playoffs started, I got a full weekend.

I couldn't watch the full games on Monday or Thursday evenings. I'm committed to a regular sleep schedule on Mondays and Project Runway on Thursdays. So, football isn't top priority, but it's up there.

The Superbowl was fabulous! I I don't have any favorite teams, really. I just like watching the games. So I was pleasantly surprised when the Ravens won, though I rooted for the 49-ers in their failed attempts to pull out a victory.

Okay. I love football and I love the Superbowl. And I really enjoy the Superbowl commercials. I laughed, I cringed, I cried. Great stuff!

And not one bit of it was misogynistic. Unlike the commercials Bryce Covert saw. [Super Bowl Ads Serve Up Sexism] She must have been sitting on a tortilla chip or something, because she's got this idea that some of the ads were sexist. Seriously?

It seems that without fail the brains that pour obscene dollars and ad strategy into some of the priciest spots repeatedly decide that trashing women, femininity, and gender roles is a sure fire way to lock in more sales.

Wow. Trashing women, femininity, and gender roles? I don't remember any of that. And I'm a staunch defender of women, you know.

Okay, let's give Bryce a chance. What's got her panties in a wad?

First, she takes aim at Audi for serving "up sexual assault." Sexual assault? I didn't see that. Holy cow, what did I miss? Oh, yeah. The high school nerdy-but-cute kid kisses that girl without asking her permission first.

Because, let's face it, girls, there is nothing more romantic than a guy asking permission to hold your hand, brush the hair from your face, kiss you, or have sex with you.

The whole story is depicted as a car-fueled saga of bravery and manhood, but the reality underneath it is that it plays on the rape culture we all live in. A boy must prove his manliness by using a woman to boost his confidence against her will, violating her consent and bodily autonomy.
It was at this point that I checked the header to make sure Covert wasn't writing satire. Can we all just step back and breathe for a minute? The prom queen was not sexually assaulted. She was kissed. And if she didn't like it, she could have done something about it. Get over yourselves if you have a problem with this ad. It was brilliant.

And what makes Covert assume that the boy used this girl to prove his manliness and boost his confidence...instead of just finally doing what he'd been wanting to do for years. We don't know anything about these two. We don't know their history. But Covert must assume the worst. Maybe it's in her nature.

I saw a boy go up and kiss the girl he's known since sixth grade, shared lunch with, played kick ball with, then lost contact with once she got popular and started dating an ogre.

Covert saw the prom queen as nothing but an object, and the boy as nothing more than a sexual predator. Hmmm. Who's sexist now?

Next up on Covert's hate list is the Go Daddy ad with the hot chick and the nerd smooching. It was a cringe-inducing ad and yes, it reflected some stereotypes. Covert is pleased that the kiss is consensual, but she has a problem with the beauty and the beast.

But it wouldn’t be a Go Daddy ad without at least some misogyny. The message of the commercial: women are sexy, boys are smart. The two shall never mix.

Misogyny. She keeps using that word. I don't think it means what she thinks it means.

We have to assume that Covert has no sense of humor. If she did, she'd understand that extreme stereotypes drives the genre. What a buzz kill.

Hate the commercial because it was gross. But don't give us that crap about women being sexy and men being smart. Because, sometimes that's the way it is. We can't all be smart and sexy, you know. What we have to wonder about is why Covert must take one pretty girl and one nerdy guy as a microcosm of the entire culture, when we all know (if we're not itching for something to fume about) that it's just one instance, one pretty girl, and one nerdy guy--not all girls, and all guys.

Then Covert rants about the Toyota Camry commercial with the crazy ex-girlfriend.


What could she possibly have to say about that?
This ad relies on one of the most clich├ęd and yet pernicious ideas about women: they’re crazy, and they get even crazier as soon as you’re no longer dating them. No, of course it’s not your own projections of insecurity or your attempt to put distance between you and someone you once cared about. Clearly every single woman you used to date is verifiably insane. The man returns to his current girlfriend, well groomed and totally rational. But the second he dumps her… ax murderer.

Wow, talk about your own projections! Covert takes one instance of a crazy girlfriend and turns it into a string of every woman the guy dated. And she assumes that his current girlfriend (who is clearly his wife, and mother of his two children) will turn to insanity when he dumps her. Because, in Covert's feminist wet dream, he will dump her. Because he's a man. And that's what they do.

I've got news for Covert. There are some crazy women out there. And sometimes you don't figure it out until you've been dating for a while and it's necessary to "put distance between you." Same goes for men. There are crazy people in the world. Whether Covert likes it or not.

Next she takes aim at the adorably cute Doritos commercial. A father is tempted away from his plans by the yummy nacho cheese chips. So cute, right? Not to Covert.

Not only is the little girl threatening to take daddy away from his game-watching buddies (a threat only diffused by her Doritos bribe, heaven forbid her dad prioritizes spending time with her), but her innocent game becomes the butt of the joke. Daddy and his friends decide to eat her Doritos and play dress up with her. Which would be great! Except that the punch line is that men have put on dresses and make up. A joke that relies on caricatures of gender roles is as old as time. It’s also offensive to anyone who doesn’t conform to these strict roles. Also bonus nagging wife carrying groceries thrown in at the end because women are the worst.

Holy crap, woman! Were you watching the television?

We have to assume that in Covert's perfect world, any time a girl makes a demand of a guy it must be met. Who cares that you have plans? Who cares if people are waiting for you? She wants to play princesses now, god damnit!

Why does Covert assume that this father does not prioritize spending time with his daughter? In fact, they clearly have a relationship that involves playing princess--and I'm willing to bet it happens often, judging by the speed with which the father has his gown and makeup on.

Covert understands the joke of men wearing women's clothes and realizes it's an old one. But she demands that we all stop thinking it's funny because, god damnit, some men really do like to dress up as women. Who the hell cares? It's still funny when men who typically don't enjoy a satin gown put one on.

Lighten the fuck up, woman.

Then she really sticks it to rational women everywhere. The nagging wife--because women are the worst. Is Covert saying that this woman should not be the least bit peeved that some bearded guy is wearing her wedding gown?

It's funny because she doesn't start shrieking, like Covert, and instead shrugs it off and walks away. The ad is brilliant.

If anyone should be complaining, it's the men. They're portrayed as goof offs who don't understand the value of a wedding gown, easily tempted into clown shenanigans by food, while the woman is the only rational, responsible person in the house.

Then Covert gets pissy over the CBS ad for 2 Broke Girls, because they act like strippers.

The fine line between female friendliness and flirtatious invitations (a line that many men confuse) are done away with in this ad. Not to mention that making the girls swing from poles is taken as just another employer request the girls must comply with, no matter the absurdity.

Covert reads so much into this short bit that it's a wonder she enjoyed the game at all. Her brain must have been hard at work trying to build up enough rage for a column. The ad is silly. It's stupid. It's got these two waitresses dancing like strippers. So what?

Yes, women are objectified. But as we see next, Covert is enraged that we are all objectified. She goes after Calvin Klein.

Calvin Klein seems to be the one company that recognized the female contingent watching the Super Bowl who control so much consumer spending. It played up to the female viewers, airing an ad entirely made of a man in underwear flexing his abs. Kudos for finding a way to objectify men and assume that women are just as shallow as the other sex!

Actually, the dude didn't spend the whole time flexing his abs. I'm pretty sure I saw some running, or something...

And I've got news for Bryce Covert. Women are just as shallow as men.

The Calvin Klein commercial was the stupidest, worst ad in the bunch. I'm sure, however, that a lot of women enjoyed it and they'll be buying their toady couch spuds some new underwear this week.

Look, I'm not always fond of the stereoptyped gender roles. I don't often watch reruns of Everybody Loves Raymond because Ray is so stupid and his wife is a nag. I hate it that we continually use these buffoon/bitch roles for humor.

But I laugh when I watch it just the same. Because, while I can recognize sexism and misogyny when I see it, I'm not looking for a reason to get angry when watching something as simple and funny as a Superbowl ad.

And now, let me teach Covert a lesson in sexism.

Men and women see each other as sexual objects. That's not sexism. It's human nature. There is nothing wrong with celebrating it, making fun of it, or using it to sell stuff.

Sexism isn't about us all making fun of stereotypes. We'll always have those. It's about people forcing women or men into them. Sexism is humorless. Sexism won't let men play princess with their little girls. Sexism won't allow that a cool guy could actually find and marry a rational girl. Sexism would never allow a man to be objectified, because in our world, the objectification has traditionally been female. Sexism sees stripping as vulgar, not funny. Sexism has nothing to do with a boy kissing a girl without asking first. And sexism has nothing whatsoever to do with nerds and models.

Here's sexism.

NJ School Implements 'No Cursing' Rule But Only for Girls

Girls are asked to take the pledge against cursing, but not boys. And the young baseball player, Nicholas Recarte, is sexist, because he thinks girls who curse are unattractive, but boys who do aren't.

That's sexism.

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