The Superbowl is Sunday, February 1st this year. For many people it is a time to get together to watch the last game of the football season. It is also a time to gather with friends, have some great food, a few beers, and just have a good time. Some people tune in just to watch the commercials. Ah yes…the commercials. Year after year people around the world are anticipating the new crop of clever creations designed to make us spend. After those ads have aired, many become fodder for “water cooler talk” for many weeks afterward. Some even become cultural icons. Last year it was the talking stain from Tide and the baby that gives stock tips. Other favorites from years past are the Reebok series featuring Terry Tate – Office Linebacker, Jordan vs. Bird from McDonald’s, and the one where Mean Joe Green tosses his jersey to he kid that shares his Coke with him. These are all great commercials that have left an indelible mark on me and millions of others over the years.
As with most things, with the good comes the bad. Sadly, many companies use the Superbowl advertising frenzy to create ads that objectify, sexualize, and even dehumanize women. Many portray women as sex objects and tie womens value to their bodies or to their sex appeal. In the last few years, GoDaddy.com has been a major culprit. This year promises to be no different. GoDaddy has been holding an on-line contest so that the general public can vote on one of two possible commercials they’d like to see this year. Both options are hypersexualized and degrading toward women.
Danica Patrick – the race car driver is the new spokes person for GoDaddy. In case you aren’t familiar with Ms. Patrick, she is the top female race car driver on the Indy circuit. Her greatest achievement, according to her website, is leading at the Indy 500. She is clearly a very talented driver. However, it seems her appeal lies with her looks. She is a very attractive women and advertisers have been quick to cash in on that. Most of her print and video ads portray her as a sex symbol rather than a race car driver.
I am telling you this because I have a challenge for you. This year as you are watching the Superbowl, take a moment to acknowledge just how many of the commercials objectify and sexualize women. You can simply make tick marks on a napkin or better yet, jot down the premise and the company responsible for the ad. If you are really brave, point it out to the group you are watching the game with and get a discussion going. In any case, I want you to be aware of what is going on. Then, consider your buying habits. Do you support the companies that are behind those ads? Chances are, you do. I know I often do. It’s even OK if you do. However, it is not OK for you to remain silent about it. You can use those ads (and many others for that matter) to help create a collective consciousness among your friends and family. Use them to educate your children that sexism is bad and that women have value beyond their sexuality and their bodies. You can also let the offending companies that you, as a consumer, demand something different.
The only way to create social change is to act. Our culture will not change itself. As Barack Obama said, “…we are the change we’ve been waiting for.” It is up to us to rewrite the script for future generations. Our children are tuning in now and they are intently watching. Are you?
Here are some of the print ads featuring Danica Patrick: