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Revisting the Super Bowl: How Did Women Fare in 2010 Commercials?

Revisting the Super Bowl: How Did Women Fare in 2010 Commercials?

It’s a week since the Super Bowl, and we’ve had time to develop a little perspective.  On Super Bowl day I pointed out that 2009 had some of the most sexist commercials known to tv, and wondered what 2010 would mean for women viewers.

I suppose few were surprised that this year was even worse. 

Some criticized the excessive violence so many ads displayed.

If you were not a thirty-something (or younger) chip-eating, beer-swilling, insensitive, immature, macho male, you probably noticed the distinctive misogynistic tone of many of the commercials.

Those commercials that weren’t stereotyping and insulting and doing violence to women, gays, dwarves, and the elderly, were over-the top, over-produced, dull, un-funny, illogical messes, most of which were embarrassed to show the name of their product until near the end of the commercial.

FunnyorDie even went as far as to create a “violence montage,” merging all the clips of commercial violence into one long and disturbing video.

The sexism and derision of women was so blatant in this years commercials that even people from other countries are talking about it.

In between the beer and auto adverts during last night’s Super Bowl, CBS television spared 30 seconds to address its female audience, with New York Jets’ quarterback Mark Sanchez urging female viewers to learn more about the symptoms of heart attacks.

“You’re important to me,” he said, as the prerecorded sound of his heart beat in the background. “Especially if you watch football. CBS cares.”

If CBS cares so much about women, an estimated 40% of the Super Bowl audience, why am I again writing about the blatant, juvenile sexism of the adverts that last year earned the network more than $200m in ad revenue? Instead of having a cute footballer tell women he doesn’t know how much he cares about them, perhaps Rupert Murdoch’s Fox network (airing the 2011 game) should screen out the mockery and derision of women that was again so explicit in the breaks between the on-field action. The theme this year: women are nags who don’t want you to have any fun, but through buying the right stuff, you can regain your manhood.

Speaking of regaining your manhood, perhaps the most talked about “Be a man” ad was this commercial for Dodge Charger, claiming that although women have been emasculating their men for years it was time for them to take a “last stand” and get a manly car.  A new salvo in the Dodge “be a man” meme for selling cars, this one riled enough women to earn its own response from the feminist community.

Then, of course, there was the Tebow Ad.  So much anticipation, so much media.  In the end, it was the least watched ad of the entire production.

Will I be here again, next year, discussing how 2011 Super Bowl ads became the most sexist, violent ads ever to air.  I really hope not. 

But sadly, I can’t say I will be shocked if I am.

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131 comments

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8:28PM PDT on Mar 16, 2010

Koo J., you mentioned the exact words I was looking for: Ads are part of our "cultural landscape"

We can't blame ad agencies or corporations. They do what people like. They spend millions of dollars testing the effect of their ads before they launch them. So, sadly, they are a reflection of our culture, as is the Jerry Springer show, or the Simpsons, or other shows that demean families, women, etc.

We can only change this with education. No goverment, school system or industry can change the cultural make up of the people. Only the people themselves can.

7:40PM PST on Feb 23, 2010

The Dodge Charger ad is hostile over mundane things, such as walking the dog, and the male voice acts hard done by for mundane and little things many men don't even do. The car is driven aggressively which gives the impression of being part of the tone of hostility to women.

Ads are part of our "cultural landscape" even if we don't watch them or buy the stuff advertised. Ads, their tone and images reflect and reinforce attitudes, and many people absorb their general tone and attitudes, even if subconsciously.

10:47AM PST on Feb 18, 2010

I don't watch Super Bowl so it does not affect me.

11:34PM PST on Feb 17, 2010

T say that women should not go to the Superbowl with men, is facetious.
Surely there are quite a large number of women that go to these games for simple enjoyment.
Therefore it behoves these idiots making the ads and the idiots trying to sell their products, they should all be more "womenfriendly".
Surely these people don't treat their wifes with so much disrespect and disdain!
Paul Lentz (male)

3:29PM PST on Feb 16, 2010

I guess it also depends on who is watching. All I remember about this year's ads was men in underwear and lots of rodents (squirrels, groundhogs, etc.). Since I am not influenced easily by advertising, I personally don't care. Beer commercials don't make me run to the cooler, car commercials don't make me run to buy a car. I love police and forensics shows, and yet I don't even kill a cockroach.

I think the important thing is to teach our kids to think independently and not allow advertising or stupid TV shows influence their lives or opinions. And by teaching our kids, I mean at home, not just let the school take on that responsibility.

7:48AM PST on Feb 16, 2010

You misread me Alice, I do not support sexist exploitation of males or females - for that matter exploitation is at the pinnacle of everything abhorrent to me - on any level.

But as others here seem to think, women seem to protest a lot but participate more in a way that condones such crap and not nearly enough (for my liking) in a way which would bring it to an abrupt halt.

I love my wife deeply still after 47 years - I wish that I had realised at a younger age how much one person has to offer his/her lover - the depth and breadth of the trip through life together - and yet, with a Mum and dad who loved each other for all of their lives moreso than any other couple I have ever known, and as aware as I have always been of the desirability of never stepping away from the path we tread together, I am still "working" at being more and more for her, every day.

I do all right ... but I still need to do better!

But I agree with what you say and think maybe you are placing too much emphasis on my being comfortable with nature. I need to get this right it seems. Please do note that my post(s) of 14th were in condemnation and no way do I mean to imply that we men can be excused for our immorality.

7:18AM PST on Feb 16, 2010

I guess it would be fair to say that woman were not portrayed in a very positive manner and as a results many woman here seem to be upset. Yet I never hear a word said of the negative manner in which men are depicted on the various sitcoms. Oh well.

5:56AM PST on Feb 16, 2010

To stop seeing these sort of ads, stop dating these sort of men.

6:08PM PST on Feb 15, 2010

Ron Bradbury - I'm surprised; I have read profound comments by you in the past. This one below doesn't measure up [pun intended]. Sexism has NOTHING TO DO WITH REAL MEN BEING ATTRACED TO WOMEN. It has everything to do with exploitation of men's insecurities, fears and lack of authentic self-esteem. It is about PROFITS at the expense of women. Every time a male human being settles for an objectifying, generic template instead of humanely and creatively doing his utmost to discover the actual woman he is involved with, that male sacrifices HIS OWN MANHOOD. He settles for a vastly diminished, ridiculous 'relationship' harmful to the woman involved and to himself.
SEXISM KILLS ANY CHANCE FOR AUTHENTIC RELATIONSHIP - WHETHER THAT IS A DALLIANCE, A FLING, SPORT-F*CKING, OR A LOVE AFFAIR WITH COMMITMENT INVOLVED.
Sexism sucks - and NOT in a good way!

5:00PM PST on Feb 15, 2010

My husband and I went to a Super Bowl pub party 'cause there was free chili at half time. Neither of us could care less about football but we did notice one thing, there were commercials EVERY FEW SECONDS! The football guys would run around a bit, then there were commercials, then they'd run around a bit, then more commercials etc. Though we didn't stay too long after the chili, we figured the broadcast was about 4 hrs but could have been cut down to one! If I was a football fan, I'd probably be furious since it wasn't a football game. It was one huge commercial! To add insult to injury, the commercials we saw here (Canada) were dull. The only really funny one was the guy falling out of the coffin in an avalanche of Doritos.
They didn't even run the abortion one. Personally, I wish they'd run both the abortion one and the gay rights one. This would've incited a stadium riot that would be way more fun to watch that the football game :D LOL

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