O Me of Little Faith

O Me of Little Faith

Rant: NOW Hated the Wrong Ad

It’s Tuesday, but I’m still thinking about the Super Bowl ads. I happened to watch Super Bowl 44 at home, with my family, and got to really focus on the ads more than usual. There were a few good ones — as I mentioned yesterday, Google’s ad was genius — but most of them were unmemorable and uncreative.

But that’s not why I feel a rant coming on. I’ve got the rant going because Terry O’Neill, the president of the National Organization for Women (NOW), made headlines in recent weeks about one of the Super Bowl ads being “extraordinarily offensive and demeaning” to women. Those are strong words. Extraordinarily offensive. Demeaning.

Let’s see if we can guess the offensive, demeaning ad.

Was it this ad for, which featured Jim Nantz telling a guy to “change out of that skirt” and grow a spine because he gave up watching a football game in order to shop with his wife?

Nope. Apparently NOW is OK with this ad.

Was it this ad for Bridgestone tires, in which a man in some sort of dystopian future gives up his wife in exchange for keeping his (apparently) excellent tires?

No, it wasn’t the Bridgestone ad. Apparently NOW is cool with the wife-for-tires exchange.

Was it this ad for, a company that seems to sink all of their advertising money into titillating ads that objectify women as sex objects?

No, it wasn’t the ad, which might as well change their tagline to “Tasteless Ads and Websites.” Nor was it the Snickers ad in which the joke was that a guy was playing football like “an old lady” (the hilarious Betty White), or the Dodge Charger ad in which a male voiceover seethed about the sacrifices required by marriage.

It wasn’t any of those ads, of course. According to the National Organization for Women, the “extraordinarily demeaning and offensive” that they tried to get CBS to drop from its Super Bowl advertising lineup was this one featuring Tim Tebow and his mom, Pam.

Seriously? Really? That ad — and its message of “Celebrate family. Celebrate life.” — was more demeaning to women than all the other ones above?

Look, I get why some groups were upset about the ad. Lots of people — liberal and conservative, Christian and secular, male and female — have problems with Focus on the Family. I certainly do, and I’ve ranted about it before.

I understand that there are better ways for a non-profit organization to spend its money than on a Super Bowl ad.

I understand that Pam Tebow’s faith-fueled decision to give birth to Tim despite the risks, and despite its positive outcome, is a decision that — had it gone the other way — could have left her other kids without a mom. (And which doctors were absolutely correct to worry about…and which likely kills too many other mothers and unborn children every year.)

And I understand that this ad was a total letdown after all the controversy of the preceding week. Everyone at my house watched it, and then said, in unison, “That’s IT?”

But what I don’t understand is how this ad, just this ad, in which one mother tells how she exercised her freedom of choice and chose to have a baby despite the risks to her own health…how does this demean women? How does this even damage the pro-choice cause? She had a choice. She chose to give birth. But she had a choice. This is wrong how?

This is more demeaning than women used as sex objects to sell websites?

This is more demeaning than an ad suggesting women are worth less than a set of tires?

This is more demeaning than saying a televised football game is more important than hanging out with your wife or girlfriend? That choosing her over sports makes you a skirt-wearing sissy lady?

Really? Really?!?

I don’t have any problem with feminism. I have a 9 year-old daughter, and as often as I can, I tell her she can be and do anything she wants when she grows up. She can be a doctor. She can be president. She can be a mom. She can do all those things. She is smart and cool and capable of anything a boy can do.

I think it’s ridiculous that, just a few generations ago, women couldn’t vote. I think it’s ridiculous that, in more than a few Christian denominations, women can’t be pastors (like Southern Baptists, who won’t let a woman be the senior pastor of a church of 25 people but will allow Beth Moore to be the most popular Bible teacher in the English-speaking world). If my own daughter wants to be the pastor of a church someday, I will do everything I can to support her in that. I don’t have any problem at all with female pastors or ministers or whatever. I think we need more of them.

I don’t have a problem with feminism.

But I do have a problem with stupidity. I have a problem with mindless, lockstep adherence to a political stance. And I have a problem with logical inconsistency. So when NOW can’t see beyond Tim Tebow’s devout faith or his pro-life beliefs or his connection to an organization they hate — and when this hysterical myopia makes them blind to advertising that is far more offensive to women — then I have trouble taking NOW’s version of capital-F Feminism seriously.

I’m not alone. Even among feminists.

Otherwise, I have to conclude that being a feminist means being OK with objectifying women, and devaluing women, and denigrating women — as long as you complain long and loud when a woman uses her freedom of choice to have a successful, well-rounded son who makes a choice to appear alongside his mother, whom he clearly loves, in an ad promoting a devilish, hateful message that can be summed up this way:

Celebrate family. Celebrate life.

Grrrrrr. I thought feminism was a good thing. I guess I’m wrong. Because you know what? I kinda like family. I’m also a fan of life. And Tim Tebow comes across as a goofball, but I sorta like him, too.

And I hope my daughter grows up to celebrate things like family and life, in a world that does not place limits on what she might want to be and accomplish.

She is worth more than a tire. She is more than a body. She is interesting enough to miss a football game for. If she grows up to be confident enough and smart enough to make hard decisions and live with the consequences — like a certain Mrs. Tebow — then I’ll be proud, regardless of her politics or stance on social issues.

I’ll be a happy, satisfied dad. But I guess I won’t be a the NOW brand of Feminist, because you know why?

They don’t hold women in high-enough esteem for me.


Update: There’s a great conversation occurring at Slate’s Double X blog about the sexism in this year’s crop of ads (“…some of the worst cases of lady-bashing in Super Bowl history”). Recommended.

Comments read comments(38)
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posted February 9, 2010 at 6:28 am

Bravo! Bravo! Bravo! Very well written Jason. I enjoyed reading this very much. Keep up the great work you are doing.

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posted February 9, 2010 at 7:07 am

So true! I've been complaining about the GoDaddy ads for years. They're so stupid.Sometimes we let politics override our common sense.

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Janet Oberholtzer

posted February 9, 2010 at 7:09 am

Excellent post/rant!!NOW blew this one – wonder if O'Neill really cared that much about the Focus ad or if he needed (or felt like he needed) to come out so strong because of his position with NOW. I was totally annoyed at the ad and couldn't believe how negative it was towards women. I didn't even see all the others, cuz I'm not that into the game, but watching them now – WTH? What's with the marketing departments that they seem to see women as objects – darn it, some things never change!Never understood the Southern Baptist/Beth Moore thing either.

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Chris Waluk

posted February 9, 2010 at 7:17 am

This was a brilliant publicity stunt by Focus on the family. They helped create all kinds of talk and controversy, and followed in up with the tamest, most unoffensive advertisement ever. Guys like you and I who typically don't like Focus on the Family, pretty much unanimously came to their support on this one, making the pro choice groups look quite foolish. If ever there was a time to imagine James Dobson laughing it up on his lazy boy, sipping on some cognac and lighting up a Macanudo, now would be that time. BTW, the most offensive, demeaning commercial was Dodge's "Man's Last Stand". The message there: Us men put up with a litany of irritations and harassment from women, so we damn well deserve to drive the goddamn car we want to. Get a Dodge, because it's better than beating your wife.But then again, maybe that is progress…

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posted February 9, 2010 at 7:36 am

thank you! thank you! thank you!! You read my mind sir!

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posted February 9, 2010 at 8:07 am

Excellent post. You hit the nail on the head regarding so many issues. Your daughter is blessed to have a dad that clearly sees her worth.

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posted February 9, 2010 at 8:10 am

Solid post, man. Just discovered you through Relevant magazine. Keep up the good work.

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posted February 9, 2010 at 8:18 am

Wow … that was just excellent. I came here because a friend sent me a link and i'm glad I did. Thanks!

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Nietzsche's Downfall

posted February 9, 2010 at 8:18 am

I think you might be one of my favorite bloggers in the history of the blogosphere my friend. Mad props all around.

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Danny Bixby

posted February 9, 2010 at 8:51 am

Nothing quite like a good rant ;)

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Travis Thompson

posted February 9, 2010 at 9:58 am

My favorite thing about this one was when the president of the Womens Media Center said she hopes Americans would be "united" while watching the super bowl. she doesn't understand sports…

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posted February 9, 2010 at 10:15 am

I came to the simple conclusion during all the Super Bowl ad hype that critical thinking is at an all-time low in our nation. I usually don't condone rants, but this one supports my personal opinion and therefore I am hypocritically applauding. Carry on.

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That Guy K.C.

posted February 9, 2010 at 10:16 am

sheer brilliance in action! well said my friend! a rant worthy of Lewis Black himself!it is a shame that feminism seems to revolve around a single choice in a woman's life.

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Travis Thompson

posted February 9, 2010 at 10:17 am

I just watched last night's broadcast of NBC's nightly news and they had a segment on the sexism of the ads and didn't mention the Tebow ad. Good to see a big media corporation get it right.

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Stretch Mark Mama

posted February 9, 2010 at 10:46 am

That was spectacular, thank you.

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Little Miss Emmy Lou

posted February 9, 2010 at 10:57 am

Props. Thank you for respecting women. Very well written. And I couldn't agree with you more!

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posted February 9, 2010 at 11:00 am

So, so true!! I love seeing such blatant displays of hypocracy. Gives me something to laugh about…On the Beth Moore front, keep in mind that she speaks to audiences made up almost exclusively of women (and the men who are there are usually either on staff or related to staff), so that doesn't really count as being a leader in the SBC. I grew up in a church where women could either sing in the choir or work with the children and have struggled with where I belong in the ministry of the church for my entire life. Still trying to find the "right" answer…

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posted February 9, 2010 at 11:03 am

Very well done!! I will now be sharing this with friends….

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Tess Mallory

posted February 9, 2010 at 11:21 am

Yes, yes, yes!! Great post, Jason! You and Susan Jenkins both put your finger on the heart of this matter — that if a person is PRO CHOICE then that should mean that person believes women have a CHOICE, not that their choice should be the one someone else deems correct. And for NOW to complain about this commercial instead of one of those others—it's just insane! (What about the porn commercials of Victoria's Secret? Shouldn't that be a NOW issue?) What a great dad you are!! It's been proven that girls who grow up with strong father figures in their lives, those that give them approval, attention, and praise, are less likely to engage in promiscuous behavior and will have higher self esteem! So Kudos, Jason! Your daughter is going to have a great life! You keep ranting. I'll keep reading!! :)))

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posted February 9, 2010 at 11:45 am

I understand where you're coming from, and if you look at purely the ads you're right. And in a lot of ways, you are right, regardless. But what got me about the FotF ad was not the ad, but the media circus around it, all the pro-life rhetoric surrounding it. Because what many feminists* are angry about is not the ad itself, not really, but what it stands for: women only have a right to choose if they choose life. Pam Tebow is being celebrated for choosing life, but the same organization would like to see that choice taken away from other women, ie by banning abortions. I'm a staunch feminist, and I believe every woman has the right to choose what they do with their body. I hope they would choose to carry the pregnancy to term, but it is not my decision (nor the state's decision) to make. I believe we women can be trusted to make decisions about our own bodies and our own futures. The abortion debate is about so much more than unborn children/fetuses. The hard part about choosing the worst ad is that there are two different things going on. All the other ads you named were chock full of misogyny and not very flattering towards men, either. Their danger lies in recipients internalizing the message without realizing it. The FotF ad's danger lies in a political possibility that would severely impact women's lives (and include a host of safety issues!). As such, I don't think they can be compared…but I totally understand where you're coming from. Personally, I think FotF were cowards for copping out of it this way. Go read some other feminist blogs, you'll find much more on the other ads than you will on the FotF one. Just my two cents.and your daughter is blessed to have you as a father. Keep on trusting her, keep on telling her she can be whoever she wants to be and not to let anyone stand in her way.*as you know there is no homogeneous group of feminists, just like there's no one group of christians. THE christians don't exist, and neither do THE gays or THE feminists or THE texans.Oh, and at Travis, the Superbowl does unite Americans. You may not all be rooting for the same team, but that one weekend all everyone talks about is the Superbowl. Jaap Kooijman has an excellent chapter on the unifying aspect of sports in his book Fabricating the Absolute Fake: America in contemporary pop culture. It's a very interesting book dealing with hyperreality in a pop culture context and especially American pop culture in a global context.

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posted February 9, 2010 at 12:16 pm

"I don't have a problem with feminism.But I do have a problem with stupidity."Classic rant. Loved it.Regarding the issue of being Pro Life: Yesterday a friend of mine said that most people who claim to be pro life are really pro birth. It made me laugh out loud, but it's so true.Anyway, thanks for making us all laugh, think, and for using your growing plate form to discuss these issues.

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posted February 9, 2010 at 2:55 pm

saskia hit the nail on the head for me. great post; great comments.

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posted February 9, 2010 at 3:17 pm

that is a great post. Thanks!

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Ruth in the Desert

posted February 9, 2010 at 4:59 pm

Amen. Amen. Amen.

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Matt @ The Church of No People

posted February 9, 2010 at 5:28 pm

Absolutely. It just goes to show that NOW is not out to preserve the 'dignity' of women. They are out for completely other causes, under the delusion that abortion somehow empowers women.I for one, thought the Dodge ad was hilarious. And the Jim Nantz ad

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posted February 9, 2010 at 6:16 pm

You are the first male I have seen actually point out the way that many of the ads during the superbowl denigrated women. Thank you for doing so.

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posted February 9, 2010 at 7:16 pm

Being in another country watching all the controversy get played out on blogs it all seems kinda surreal. What is going on in our culture to make us take so much interest in a few short ads?

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posted February 9, 2010 at 10:00 pm

I really hope you don't write off all feminists due to the stance of ONE organization…I appreciate your thoughts, but a little overboard on the ramifications??

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Jason Boyett

posted February 9, 2010 at 10:34 pm

@Mindy:No, I'm not writing off all feminists. It was a rant. I used a little hyperbole. And I'm pleased that many feminists — including NOW, by the way — have begun discussing the misogyny of the ads. I wanted to make a point.Thanks for reading!

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posted February 9, 2010 at 10:36 pm

Jason, while this is the first of your blogs I have read, and I have to say, I totally agree with your assertions on NOW, I must say, I was dissapointed in your missives on feminism. I think you strayed to far to the world's perspective and have not thoughtfully considered the council of the Bible in this area. Additionally, you have continued a bad habit among Christians today, tearing each other apart. I urge you to use your platform to build up the Body. I believe you could have made your point equally well without the "ranting" about other ministries. By identifying your distaste for specific, theologically sound, ministries, many will say what they have been saying for years, "Who cares, these guys can't even love each other, why would their God love me?" I applaud your efforts in exposing the discrepancies of "ProChoice" groups' ideas, but I hope in the future, you will do so without harming those that are out there doing so with love, every day. For your consideration: "The Feminist Mistake", by Mary Kassian; "What's the Difference?" by John Piper

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Jason Boyett

posted February 9, 2010 at 10:52 pm

@JewelsChohan:Thanks for reading. I appreciate your thoughts, but I think we, as Christians, have to have some freedom to disagree with each other. In the New Testament, Peter and Paul diverged very publicly. John Piper, whom you cite, has publicly called other ministries or Christians to task. Christians have found other Christians "distateful" for centuries. No, it's not always helpful and it's not always loving, but occasionally it can be corrective. None of us are infallible, including me. ESPECIALLY ME.Clearly we have some disagreements about the virtues of feminism, and that's OK.Please note that, prior to Christmas, I ranted against FotF. This time I came down on their side. I agree that "building up the body" via encouragement and support is important, but resistance is equally important. Muscles that never encounter resistance tend to atrophy.

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Krystal Celeste

posted February 9, 2010 at 11:36 pm

So couldn't agree more. Such a great blog, thanks for speaking up on it! :)

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posted February 10, 2010 at 9:32 am

Hi Jason, I liked the ad. I am a mom of 7 children. I had a difficult pregnancy that doctors suggested I terminate also. She had trisomy 13 and was non viable. It was much more comforting to me to hold her in my arms while she died. I am so glad that I didn't allow the doctor to abort her. Holding her in my arms allowed me to see for myself that she did have a problem. If I had had an abortion, I would forever be wondering if the doctors had perhaps made a mistake and that I had allowed the doctor to kill a normal baby. Also, In the past the vote was counted by family with the father representing the family. The father was the one casting the vote.

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posted February 10, 2010 at 10:32 am

Thank you for speaking out for family and life. I have a question though. I saw you and some other posts do not like Focus on the Family, and I'm curious as to why? Did I miss something in past years that they have done that would be displeasing to Jesus? If anyone can let me know I would appreciate it.

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Jason Boyett

posted February 10, 2010 at 11:30 am

Hi, most recent Anonymous commenter. I don't dislike FotF in a broad sense, but in a previous post I complained about their over-concern with the so-called "Christmas wars," which as a believer I found to be stupid and a waste of time. I ranted to that effect in this post: I say there, Focus does some good stuff. Dr. Dobson has made some valuable contributions in the fields of parenting and child-raising. But they also do some political and "culture war" things I think are dumb and end up doing more harm than good to the message of the Gospel. The "Stand for Christmas" emphasis a couple of months ago was one of those.

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Jason Boyett

posted February 10, 2010 at 11:44 am

@Jewels:Thanks for your concern and graciousness. You want me to "wrestle with the issue." I want you to know that I HAVE wrestled with it, for the better part of a decade, and this is where I have landed. I certainly understand that men and women have differences, and that it's important to weigh these differences in light of the Gospel. But I see inclusion and equality all over the Gospel, as defined by Jesus. (It's Paul who muddies the gender-roles water.) And I fail to see how inclusion and equality — and a emphasis on the example of Jesus — are going to damage my view of God. In fact, they improve it.And didn't Jesus "redefine God" anyway?We disagree, but that's OK. Thanks for stopping by, and I hope you'll stick around!

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posted February 10, 2010 at 11:46 am

Jason, thanks for your words and I respect you for commenting so carefully. I also respect that there are many, many Godly men and women on both sides of these issues. While I have absolutely NO problem with healthy debate and can understand pressing the issues, as you said, it only makes us stronger. But, you as a father, I sincerely urge to wrestle with this issue of gender roles. I am in NO way suggesting that we take an antiquated stance, but I believe this is one we HAVE to get right. Men and women ARE created intentionally very different with different purposes, and without these in proper context, we run the risk of redefining God. Men and women in their proper perspective are a picture of the Gospel (Ephesians 5:22-33 and others). We have to get this right.

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posted February 13, 2010 at 10:56 am

The Teabo ad itself was not the problem, it's the group behind it that is problematic. That is the real issue… it's the politicization of a normally non-political event. Furthermore it makes it seem as if there is only one "Christian" perspective on the matter, which is not true. I don't know why the Church was so supportive of Teabo. His gimicky expressions of faith make street-preachers seem dignified.

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