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 Flo.tv, 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 GoDaddy.com, 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 GoDaddy.com 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?
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.