Super Bowl ads are big business. In 2011, the Super Bowl yielded the number 1 spot for ratings. With record-breaking numbers, an average of 111.3 million people watched this Sunday’s game. With so many people watching, “this means most women, children, LGBT” and people of color are watching too.
Yet the advertising skews to white, straight men. Men comprise 94% of the creative directors for Super Bowl ads. And it shows. 91% of women say advertisers don’t understand them even though women make 85% of consumer purchases in the U.S. and influence 95% of all total purchases.
Anticipating sexist advertising during the Super Bowl, Miss Representation launched a Twitter campaign with the hashtag #NotBuyingIt where viewers (including yours truly!) called out offensive ads in real-time. If we hope to combat sexism in society, we need to critique misogynistic media.
Most people think they can ignore ads or that marketing is harmless. But advertisements splatter across billboards, buses, magazines, TV, radio and the internet. In Jean Kilbourne’s groundbreaking book Can’t Buy My Love: How Advertising Changes the Way We Think and Feel, she argues sexist and misogynistic imagery bombards us, inundating our senses even on a subconscious level. Whether we realize it or not, ads impact our choices and views.
Overwhelmingly, this year’s Super Bowl ads glorified hyper-masculinity and degraded women. Playing into patriarchy, sexist ads showcase masculinity as the dominant gender. Even inanimate objects are sexualized as women’s bodies. Sexist ads normalize sexism and violence against women, bearing the message that women merely serve as sex objects for the male gaze. Sexism harms both women and men. The proliferation of sexist images contributes to our rape culture that condones and accepts misogyny.
Dear GoDaddy, Fiat, Kia, Telflora and other companies churning out sexist marketing…Google Chrome and Pepsi create fabulous ads with gender and racial diversity sans sexism. Why can’t you?
So without further ado, here’s the countdown of the top offenders:
According to Chevy, only men drive trucks. So clearly, only dudes will survive an apocalypse. Yeah, cause women don’t buy or drive cars.
13. DAVID BECKHAM FOR H&M
Slow shots pan over soccer star David Beckham’s buff body. For his new underwear line at H&M, Beckham wears…his underwear. Sure, he’s modeling the product he’s selling, which is a million bazillion times better than other ads where women are scantily clad and they’re not selling bikinis or lingerie. Female objectification pisses me off way more because of male privilege. And yes, David Beckham is a beautiful man. But objectification is still objectification.
The Budweiser ad shows different snippets throughout history, a white-washed, overly male version of history. As Shelby Knox tweeted, “So Bud travels all through history but the 1st Black woman really featured is DANCING IN A CAGE.” Dr. Marcia Chatelain tweeted, “Men move and make history, women are groupies.” Naturally.
11. NFL’s “LIVE LIKE A MILLIONAIRE”
Now I don’t know what the hell I expected from the NFL’s “Live Like a Millionaire” fantasy football contest ad. Apparently, only men play fantasy football. That’s right, cause silly ladies can’t bother they’re pretty little heads about watching football…puke. Women only exist as trophies. Oh and some asshat wears a fucking fur coat. A fur coat?! Wow, that NFL fantasy ad objectified women AND animals in fell swoop.
10. NBC SPORTS NETWORK
In NBC’s ad for its new sports channel, there’s only 1 female…a girl…and she’s dressed in pink. Gender stereotyping bullshit. What about powerful female athletes?? Apparently NBC thinks females must be girly. Oh yeah, and only men are athletes.
9. LORAX MOVIE
One of the nice things about Dr. Suess books is that the characters are often genderless. Ahhh, but the Lorax movie is going to rectify that! They took the book and of course had to make the progonist a boy. The Lorax is about to fight a statuesque woman donning a hat/hairdo combo resembling a Viking helmet. When someone says to him, “Whoa, you wouldn’t hit a woman!” the Lorax replies, “That’s a woman??” Oh great. Just what we need. More gender policing! The media constantly tells us what women’s bodies should, and should not, look like.
Oh, Geico. Why did you have to jump on this bandwagon?? A trio of “popular middle school girl” follow a guy around so he can lose weight. Whenever they see him eating food, they say, “Ew. Seriously. That is so gross.” Oh, that’s right. Girls and women should think food is disgusting. You know, so they can stay super skinny and keep everyone else skinny. Eyeroll. Hmmm, so not only does the media police women’s bodies and their consumption. Now, teen girls are becoming the food police themselves. Eating disorders have risen steadily over the past few years and 95% of people who have eating disorders are 12-25 years old. No wonder so many women and girls have unhealthy relationships with food.
7. OLD NAVY
Now it wouldn’t be a Super Bowl ad if there wasn’t at least one ad aired featuring “real” men. Whatever the fuck that means. What’s up with that Old Navy “Corporado Menswear” ad?? Hyper-masculinity much?? It shows a white dude on top of a mountain, interchangeably dressed as a rugged cowboy and a golfer. Oh yeah, cause either of those things has anything to do with Old Navy’s clothing line. Then the ad tells men how they should “dress like a guy.” So dudes, you’re not really a dude unless you “dress like a guy,” whatever the hell that means. While the media constantly polices women’s bodies and behavior, they don’t forget to police men too. According to this nonsense, “real” men are white, straight and hyper-masculine.
Ugh, this Dannon ad pisses me off so much. A woman and her significant other (John Stamos) eat Dannon’s Oikos Greek yogurt. At first, they take turns sharing one yogurt. Then they get territorial, culminating in the woman head-butting Stamos, knocking him onto the floor. Yeah, domestic violence in my advertisements, whether it’s towards women or men, not cool.
Ahhh, GoDaddy. A company known for their sexist marketing. What a great thing to be known for. In this lovely little ad, spokespeople Danica Patrick and Jillan Michaels start brushing body paint on a half-naked woman’s body. Michaels says, “Who won’t notice a hot model in body paint?” What the fuck does this have to do with selling web domains?! Just what we need, GoDaddy. More sexist objectification and pornification of women’s bodies. Women’s bodies should not be commodified, used as billboards, or objectified for the male gaze. They took two powerful female athletes and turned them into sex toys.
So in this lovely gem, the Sandman pours sand on a snoozing wife and husband. He pours too much on the dude so his dream goes hyper-masculine. In his dream, the guy drives a race car. Model Adrienne Lima waves a flag (phallic much?) to signal the start of a race and scantily clad women cheer the dude on. As he drives around the track, “manly” things occur around him. Burley mountain man saws through a ginormous grinder (that’s a sub or hoagie to the rest of you), wrestlers wrestle and Motley Crue plays “Kickstart My Heart.” Then the dude invades his wife’s dream. She’s riding on the back of a white horse in a cartoonish meadow with some other dude. Yep cause all women just want a knight or prince to rescue them. Wow, thanks for educating me, Kia.
Mars tried an oldie but a goodie advertising tactic with their M&Ms ad. Hey, why stop at sexualizing women’s bodies. Why not sexualize food?? They they objectify the anthropomorphic food. Sigh. So many things wrong with this ad. Voiced by Vanessa Williams, Ms. Brown (who has her own Twitter page. I shit you not.) talks about the Prime Minister and wears glasses. Yes, because only women who wear glasses are smart. And let’s not forget that women (even female candy) must always be sexy. Human men at a party think Ms. Brown is naked because her shell color matches her chocolate inside. They ogle her and giggle. Then the red M&M, who also thinks she’s naked, rips off his outer shell (clothing), basically exposing everyone and then dancing provocatively near her. So the lesson here is that food is sexy and men should expose themselves?? The whole ad is weird and creepy, not sexy or funny. And it sure as fuck doesn’t make me want to go out and eat M&Ms…even if I wasn’t a vegan.
Oh Fiat…you almost had the number 1 spot. This ad not only objectifies a woman’s body, it hyper-sexualizes a car as a woman’s body. Fiat asserts women and cars are interchangeable. Duh! A fast car is like a fast woman and they’re both commodities men want. So men can “own” women…you know, cause they’re just objects (oh, I mean sex objects) after all. But this ad goes a step further. The Italian-speaking Romanian model Catrinel Menghia slaps the man for leering at her as she’s bent over. In reality, women face leering, ogling and street harassment on a regular basis. But in the ad, she shifts from anger to sexuality and quickly starts seducing him. Contributing to rape culture, Fiat’s ad associates and normalizes violence with sexual arousal.
I swear to god when I first saw this ad, and mind you I was watching and typing at the same time, I though it was a Victoria’s Secret ad. NOT an ad for flowers. After showing “sexy” close-ups of model Adriana Lima putting on lingerie, she says, “Guys, Valentines Day is not that complicated. Give and you shall receive.” Let’s trade gifts for sex! Ugh. So we’ve got objectification. Check. And sexual coercion. Double check. So according to Teleflora, women should trade sex for gifts?? No one should ever feel obligated to have sex. No one should ever bribe or expect their partner to give them sex. That’s not romance. You know what I find sexy? Consent. Teleflora glorifies sexual aggression, coercion and obligation. Thanks for objectifying women AND contributing to rape culture. Go fuck yourself, Teleflora.
This piece is cross-posted with permission from Opinioness of the World.