Super Bowl Ads and Gender Equality

Everyone knows the real reason more than 112 million viewers tuned in to Super Bowl XLIX was for the commercials, right?

Okay, now that that’s established, I’d like to say a few things about this year’s Super Bowl ads. Football is traditionally considered a “man’s” sport, so it’s refreshing to see, however, that in the past few years, some companies are not afraid to shell out the big bucks (and I mean big bucks) for a Super Bowl ad that is empowering to women. The following include several of those empowering ads that show how far we’ve come and a few of the sexist ads that show we still have a ways to go.

I’ll start off this post-Super Bowl ad evaluation with probably one of the most obvious “commercials” that dealt with “women’s issues” aired during this year’s halftime: the NoMore.org PSA.

I commend the airing of this moving PSA during halftime. I hope the NFL continues to push this campaign forward and spotlights it during all of its games. Otherwise, it could very likely lose momentum and NoMore.org and the issue of domestic violence and sexual assault could fall back into obscurity. NoMore.org has actually been around for five years but is only starting to see awareness since the NFL jumped on board as a partner a few months ago following the Ray Rice domestic violence incident. If the NFL half-asses this movement, its fans will continue to not be affected by the campaign’s message, so please NFL, don’t be doing this just to save face.

Second commercial: “Like a Girl” – Always, Proctor & Gamble

This campaign has been out for a while. I really like the simplicity of balancing reinforced gender stereotypes among adolescent men and women against the opinions from young girls who haven’t yet been brainwashed to think that being a girl indicates weakness. When I was younger, I would climb trees, play baseball, ride my bike on trails, and play and study just as hard as the boys around me. I saw myself as strong, capable, and powerful. Somewhere along the way, however, me acting “like a girl” became more important than me feeling empowered. In fact, I began to get the feeling that being empowered as a woman was a bad thing. Kudos Always for making gender stereotypes look silly.

Third commercial: “How Great I Am” – Toyota Camry

I just love that they have Amy Purdy, a kick-ass woman, at the center of this commercial and that this was aired during the Super Bowl! Let’s not forget, while we’re watching a game of a male-dominated sport, that there are some pretty awesome women in the world, too. Plus, I drive a Camry. I might have to start calling it Purdy.

Fourth commercial: “#InvisibleMindy” – Nationwide Insurance

Oh Mindy Kaling, where do I even want to begin?!?! So, I included this commercial because 1) Mindy Kaling is an amazing example of a woman who dares to get important conversations started and 2) this commercial started a conversation about minority women in the U.S. and how one woman wishes she were, at times, invisible in her home country due to the danger and stigma associated with simply walking outside as an Indian woman. While perhaps there was no underlying societal message intended by Nationwide, it did seem to strike a chord with a woman who identified with Mindy’s dilemma.

Fifth commercial: “#KimsDataStash” – T-Mobile

Oh, Kim Kardashian West…where do I even not want to begin? Okay, while I appreciate the occasional self-deprecating humor (and Kim does it pretty well in this commercial), it’s doing no service to women by continuing to reinforce her seemingly vapid, self-absorbed selfie taking personality. I say “her seemingly” because I don’t know her personally, but I hope this type of personality is not what we’re aiming for our young women AND men to aspire to, because yes, as Kim’s husband Kanye shows, men can be affected by the “me me me” bug, too.

Sixth commercial: “#RealStrength” – Dove Men + Care

I liked this commercial because it also works to knock down gender stereotypes on the male side, which can be empowering to women as well. When men are allowed and encouraged to be tender and caring, affectionate and emotional it benefits everyone, just as it benefits everyone to allow and encourage women to be assertive and strong, determined and independent. Being a dad doesn’t mean you have to “be a man”.

Seventh commercial: “My Bold Dad” – Toyota Camry

So this is the second commercial that Toyota paid for to be aired during the Super Bowl. Going along with the theme of the Dove Men + Care commercial and the fact that Toyota featured Amy Purdy in its first commercial of the night, it seems pretty clear that Toyota wants to break down gender stereotypes as well. Fathers can be great role models for their children, and as this commercial reiterates, their daughters.

Eighth commercial: Victoria’s Secret

To all the people who complained about the NoMore.org PSA and the “Like a Girl” commercial being included in Super Bowl ads because they have “nothing to do with football”, I think this is one of the most unnecessary ads of them all, but I don’t hear a lot of people complaining about this one. If you’ve figured out the tone of my blog, I probably don’t have to explain much here, but just in case, check out the blog I did for the Women’s Programming Advisory Council’s meeting on “Body Image and the Media.

Honorable (or dishonorable) mention:

Nissan – “With Dad”: In the first Super Bowl ad Nissan has done in 18 years, Nissan reinforces some of the stereotypes that fathers have to be out in the world earning money in manly ways while the family stays at home missing him and the mom having to take care of the kids. I know Nissan was trying to play the emotional card for this one, but I think it really missed the mark. Hopefully, if it takes another 18 years for Nissan to make another Super Bowl commercial, they’ll be more with the times.

Carl’s Jr. – “All Natural” w/ Charlotte McKinney: Carl’s Jr. is known for pushing the boundaries for its sexist commercials. This ad was banned, and for good reason. Women’s body parts are more than pieces of fruit and vegetables to be squeezed, poked, and prodded by men who obviously can’t interact with women in a mature way. I’m really tired of Carl’s Jr.’s marketing methods, but it gets them in the news and their videos usually go viral, so I doubt they will be changing anytime soon.

Game of War – “Who I Am” w/ Kate Upton: Kate Upton, former Carl’s Jr. girl, once again uses sex appeal in a commercial geared toward an audience that is already dealing with its own controversy with the GamerGate scandal. At least she has some type of “clothing” on, which is more than I can say for the above commercial.

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