This Sunday, in cities and towns across the U.S., over 100 million people will gather in front of their TVs with friends and family to watch the Super Bowl. But the 49ers and Ravens aren't the only ones facing off that night. Advertisers will do anything to make sure their commercials are the most talked about on Monday morning, which means sex, violence, and a general disregard for the millions of kids watching with their families.
Despite the fact that nearly 50 percent of the viewers of the game are women, and 86 percent of the purchasing power in the U.S. is in the pockets of women, advertisers continue to objectify, hypersexualize, and trivialize many of the women who appear in Super Bowl commercials.
It's troubling to consider what our sons and daughters will take away from these sexist misrepresentations. What meaning will they derive about the roles of men and women in society, after watching a Go Daddy or Carl's Jr. commercial that depicts women as objects or men as unfeeling brutes? What kinds of dreams will they build for themselves?
Like all parents, we want our girls to dream of success in a world where they are valued for more than their youth, beauty, and sexuality. And we want our boys to imagine happiness without the pressure to be physically aggressive and dominant over women.
Yet that's not the message being delivered by Super Bowl commercials. What's being broadcast is that men are only men when they are big and strong, and that to be a valued as a woman you must be sexy and on the sidelines.
Violent movies, too, will be front and center during this year's game. Studios have purchased airtime to promote a film about the zombie apocalypse as well as the latest movie in The Fast and The Furious series, among others. According to a recent survey commissioned by Common Sense Media and the Center for American Progress, parents across the country are concerned about the possible influence of media violence on their children, and about how hard it is to shield their children from it. Trailers for shoot-'em-up action movies during one of the largest family television events of the year don't help the situation. Indeed, they are inappropriate and irresponsible.
Broadcasters and advertisers should do better, for our kids' sake. But as long as their sexist and violent content generates buzz and profits, they won't. So it is up to us.
If you want healthier depictions of women, men, and relationships, if you believe violent ads are irresponsible when young children are watching, if you think parents -- not advertisers -- should decide what's appropriate for their kids, then speak up. Join MissRepresentation.org in using hashtag #NotBuyingIt on Twitter during this week's Super Bowl, to let those brands which fail to accurately portray women and men know that sexism will no longer sell. Sign Common Sense Media's petition on change.org to tell CBS and the NFL that you think they have a responsibility to families. And if you're watching on Sunday with your kids, make sure you keep those lines of communication open. Talk to them about what they're seeing. Share your values. And don't be afraid to hit that mute button or even change the channel for a few minutes. No matter what, inserting your thoughts and feelings as a parent is an important part of the puzzle when it comes to raising smart, respectful, and savvy kids -- who are tomorrow's consumers.
As Bay Area residents, we are beyond excited for the Super Bowl. It's a great opportunity to cheer on the home team with our kids, celebrate teamwork, and point out good sportsmanship. But it's also a great opportunity to let advertisers know how we feel about their misrepresentations of gender and celebrations of violence. WE are the 100 million watching the Super Bowl on Sunday -- and WE get to choose how to react. We have the power to make a change -- for ourselves and for our kids.
Follow Jennifer Siebel Newsom on Twitter: www.twitter.com/jensiebelnewsom