Recent estimates say that around 111 million people watched the Super Bowl on Sunday. A few were watching for the football; some for the halftime show; some for the commercials. I myself attended a “Most Sexist Super Bowl Ad” party in honor of the occasion.
Some of you probably followed the proceedings on the #femsuperbowl hashtag on Twitter, where posters discussed the gender dynamics at play. In what I was able to catch, I saw a lot of great points being made, some I’d noticed myself, some not. Most just put the criticisms more eloquently. But I was somewhat disappointed to see this particular tweet from @anastasiakeeley:
Nothing like an Eminem endorsement … it even more certain that I’ll never drive a #Chrysler. #femsuperbowl
She has a valid point. Eminem, who praises domestic violence in his raps, is not exactly feminist material. Still, I was disappointed to see this, because, well, I really liked the ad.
I’m originally from the Detroit suburbs and am used to hearing stories about how terrible the city is. Scandals, budget crises, violence, high unemployment, failing schools… the list goes on. But this ad actually showed a positive portrayal of the city! Instead of showing abandoned factories (some of these photos are misleading, by the way), the ad featured the Fox Theater. It talked about Detroit’s blue collar workers instead of Kwame Kilpatrick. And despite what some said, I thought it really captured the Midwestern ethos.
I’ll admit it: I also kind of like Eminem. Do I support the messages in his music? No. Obviously I take issue with promoting violence against women and believe that he has a lot to do to atone for his words and actions. But our sense of taste doesn’t always follow our wills and desires. Sometimes it’s easier to say that you should dislike something than to actually make yourself dislike it. You can choose not to buy his songs or to change the radio station when his song plays. But that doesn’t preclude you from enjoying the song, on some level.
So, my questions for myself are this: how do I reconcile my love for Detroit and my love of feminism when it comes to this ad? Is it a problem that I liked the ad even though a part of it (the inclusion of Eminem) was not friendly to women? To what extent can one (or should one) promote feminist values, and when is it okay to support other, perhaps incompatible, interests? We are all complex individuals, and as much as we may want to uphold feminism in every moment of our lives, is this always a possibility? For instance, if an unemployed worker is offered a position at a company that exhibits gender discrimination. Or if an otherwise good friend makes a joke that stereotypes women. Is it a problem to like the ad, take the job, or laugh at the joke? When is it okay to be inconsistent?
And how does one reconcile ideology and aesthetics? How to cross the gap between “I shouldn’t like this” and “I don’t like this?” Is it enough to express one’s ideology in actions (e.g., by not buying an Eminem CD)?
Even if you don’t like Eminem, I suspect you face this issue in some area of your life. You hold some belief that makes you think that you are a “bad” feminist (whatever that means). Yet this attitude can’t be healthy—no one wants to go around feeling guilty all the time. So the question becomes, how do you draw the line? When is it okay to take off the feminist hat for a while? And what do your other hats look like?