Monday, February 1, 2010

Of Super Bowl Ads and Women

Ever since Focus on the Family announced their pro-life Super Bowl ad, there's been arguments and discussions all over. Should it be allowed by the network? Are feminists taking the wrong approach to criticizing it? (thanks, Sarah Palin!) And so on. One of the more interesting pieces was in the Washington Post - it basically suggests that feminists be, well, warmer and fuzzier and more appealing.

Echildne wrote a good (if very angry) bit about treating the pro-choice movement as if it was some sort of for-profit corporation, and loosing sight of well, a woman's right to choose.

I'm going to suggest a slightly different take; the problem is all in the framing.

Isn't it ironic that this is all about a Super Bowl ad? Think about it: the Super Bowl is, well, football. The game that consists of large, muscular men crashing into each other. The Super Bowl is perhaps the archetypal symbol of hyper-masculinity. And that's the context in which we're discussing women's rights.

This is a problem.

Now, I don't have and thing against men - or women - playing football. At the end of the day it's just another sport. But the sport has a long history of sheer hatred toward women, from the beer ads all the way down to the attitudes of the players and coaches (remember all those instances of college coaches hiring strippers with public money). That the Super Bowl is far and away the most watched sporting event - no, televised event period - in the United States says something very significant about our culture (for the record - the most watched event worldwide is the World Cup - that's no better. But I digress).

And here we are, arguing about an anti-abortion commercial which will be played during an overwhelmingly masculine, patriarchal event. So I'd like to suggest this: The commercial doesn't matter. While Kissling and Michelman suggestion for a counter-commercial is certainly apt, and would no doubt have a positive effect - so long as women's issues have to hitch a ride on bigger, more expensive, and more (in the public's mind) important, essentially masculine events, there something very, very wrong with the picture.

That's what we need to fix. As long as we look at this as some sort of big commercialized game (Oh dear - support for abortion rights is down slightly, but hey! Support for gay marriage is up! High fives all around!) we're simply doing it wrong. We need to be about cultural change and ideology, not politics, ads, and entertainment money.

(Crossposted @ Constant Thoughts)

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