If you want to see a problematic portrayal of women, look no further than the commercials during the Super Bowl. For one of the most televised events of the year, Super Bowl 47 aired some of the most horrifyingly sexist commercials I’ve ever seen. The following is a rundown of what I feel are the worst offenders of the evening.
I can always count on Go Daddy to come up some highly offensive advertising, and this year was no exception. In the first commercial, Go Daddy wanted to show us that hosting your website with them blends the smart and the sexy together. In order to demonstrate this, we were shown an attractive female model to represent “sexy,” and a nerdy, slightly overweight tech guy to represent “smart,” with a close up of the two making out. The message is clear: women can’t be smart and sexy. In fact, they’re not smart at all. The sexy woman needs a smart man in order to achieve perfection.
And you really think I want to host my website with you, Go Daddy?
Their second commercial is just as offensive. The 30 second ad flashes between a husband and wife of varying ethnicities sitting on a couch, with the wife nagging her husband to put his “big idea” online. Each husband refutes her, claiming that his idea is so original, no one else has thought of it yet. The wife is skeptical, and the husband treats her like she’s stupid for even suggesting he do something with his “big idea.” The last shot shows a husband who did put his idea online, sitting on a private jet with his wife while an attractive female flight attendant brings him a beverage and an equally attractive female pilot flies the plane.
There are several problems with this ad. We have the most obvious: the representation of woman as nagging their husbands, who are the only ones with worthwhile ideas. After watching the ad a second time, I noticed that, despite showing families of various ethnicities, the families were pretty much the same. There were no mixed racial pairings or same-sex pairings, reinforcing the message that there is only one type of family out there. I wonder, does Go Daddy realize that it’s 2013 and not 1953? It’s no longer considered taboo for either an interracial couple or a same sex couple to get married. Men aren’t the only one with ideas, and women don’t sit at home and nag their husbands. This might be a new concept to you, Go Daddy, but women can actually earn a living for themselves. They don’t have to wait for their husbands to come home with all the fancy ideas. Our brains are capable of independent thought.
This commercial sticks with me as the worst offender of the night. We see a boy going to his prom alone, looking confident because he’s driving his father’s Audi. The boy sort of swaggers in, walks up to the prom queen, and kisses her out of nowhere. The girl’s boyfriend sees this and begins to walk towards the two. We don’t see anything happen, but the next shot is the boy in the Audi again, grinning and sporting a black eye. The commercial ends with the tagline, “Bravery. It’s what defines us.”
Here’s what you’re actually telling your audience, Audi: That it’s okay to walk up to someone and kiss them out of nowhere. In fact, it’s a brave and romantic gesture. Who cares about the girl’s consent or her angry boyfriend? You still look super cool because you’re driving an Audi! And now you’ve got this awesome black eye showing how daring you were to sexually assault a girl you probably have a crush on. Absolutely nothing wrong with this picture.
This commercial doesn’t sell sex, nor does it even sell a car. What it does sell is the idea that sexually assaulting someone is cool and shows courage. But it doesn’t. It shows cowardice.
I had never even heard of this company until I saw the commercial, and I can safely say that I will not be buying any of their products. It seems that one commercial portraying sexual assault just wasn’t enough for this year’s Super Bowl; apparently two is even better.
The Gildan commercial features a guy waking up from what appears to be a one-night stand in a girl’s bedroom. It’s implied that the night before was a little crazy; still attached to the guy’s wrist is a pair of leopard print handcuffs. As he extricates himself from the room, he notices that the sleeping girl is wearing his favorite t-shirt. Rather than call it a lost cause, the guy attempts to remove it from her while trying not to wake her up.
Because Gildan doesn’t seem to get it, I’m going to explain things very clearly for them. It’s never okay to remove another person’s clothing for them while they sleep, unless perhaps that person is your own sleeping child of an age where they cannot yet dress themselves. In fact, it is never okay to do anything to a sleeping person without their express consent. There is no excuse for assaulting a woman, including retrieval of your favorite article of clothing.
2 Broke Girls
I’ve never really watched this CBS show before, but I’m assuming that the title is pretty self explanatory. The commercial that aired didn’t really help their cause, either. It showed the two girls wearing a bedazzled version of their waitress uniforms, dancing around on stripper poles to “Pour Some Sugar On Me.” Halfway through, one girl stops and asks why they’re doing this. Her friend replies that it’s for the Super Bowl, and the two resume their sexy dance.
I’m assuming that this is supposed to be some kind of social commentary about sexism in Super Bowl advertisements, but it fails to hit the mark. Appearing to be humorous about the stereotypical objectification by portraying said objectification doesn’t make it any less sexist.
Super Bowl 47 was a pretty bad year for problematic car commercials, and Kia is a double offender. The first commercial shows a shiny car with two female robots (“hotbots”) as decoration for selling a man the car. Yes, Kia actually saw fit to turn women into machines in order to sell their car. This goes beyond normal objectification as women are actually stripped of their humanity in order to sell a car.
The second commercial isn’t so much sexist as it is problematic. It shows a family sitting in their car when a little boy asks where babies come from. The father then makes up some elaborate story about an imaginary planet that brings a mother and father their baby. When the boy tries to say that his friend told him something different, the mother squashes his question by putting on “The Wheels on the Bus.”
I’m not sure why this car company thinks they have the right to tell families how they should discuss reproduction with their children. Rather than sell cars, this commercial reinforces the idea of abstinence-only education, which has been proven time and again to be ineffectual. But whether you agree with this view of sex education or not, this commercial promotes flat out lying to your children when they ask where babies come from. Kia, you are supposed to be selling cars, not sexual education. Why don’t you leave that to the professionals?
While we’re on the subject of objectification of women, it’s only fair to mention the commercial that saw fit to objectify men. Honestly, I wasn’t sure who this underwear commercial was aimed at. Although it was selling men’s underwear, the entire commercial consisted of an attractive, toned male model wearing only the aforementioned underwear, flexing his muscles while the camera panned over him. I’m assuming that the commercial was meant to be popular with the straight cis female demographic. Seeing as I have no interest in buying men’s underwear, they might want focus more on the demographic they’re actually selling to. I’d also like to point out that objectification of a man rather than a woman doesn’t make it any less objectifying.
What do you think was the most sexist, problematic commercial of Supsr Bowl 47? Share your thoughts in the comments.
Written by Jackie Klein