Husband and I don't generally watch football -- we're more into baseball, go Yankees! -- but, like most Americans, we watch the Superbowl. This year we'll have a little Juban Princeling watching with us, though he's unlikely to follow much more than the flashy movement of color on the screen.
If, as he gets older, my son decides he likes football and wants to follow it, that's fine by me. I think it's healthy to have a team to follow, to cheer on your favorite players, to live the ups and downs of wins and losses, to take pride in one's city, and to have a spirited rivalry with another team. (*coughredsoxcough*) And football is fine. Nothing wrong with football. I do not believe that liking football automatically turns an otherwise ordinary guy into a knuckle-dragging, monosyllabic, sexual harassment enthusiast. In fact, one of the biggest football fans I know, my brother "Mr. Funny," also happens to be one of the most sensitive people I know, an "enlightened male" who is married to "Daria," an outspoken, unapologetic feminist. I also happen to know plenty of women for whom football is the spectator sport of choice.
What bothers me is the prevalence of sexism in football ads. In the 21st century, how can anyone be ok with this? How do these ad companies -- and the companies they represent -- even do it? Sexism in ads, to me, is not only offensive, it's beyond outdated to the point of being pathetic. Do we really still need half-naked women in bikinis to increase beer sales? Or dancing supermodels in mini-dresses to sell some vitamin drink?
Maybe it's because I live in a cushiony little bubble of liberalism and sensitivity, but most of the men I know are uncomfortable watching those ads, and not just because we womenfolk are watching with them. After six years of watching TV beside me, my husband is able to spot sexism in an ad from a mile away. For him, the problem is twofold: one, he's married to a feminist, so he's offended on my behalf; and second, as a straight heterosexual male he's confused as to why companies need to use scantily clad women to sell him, say, breath mints, and offended that they think all they have to do is appeal to his baser sexual instincts in order to get and keep his attention.
Last year 97.5 million people watched the Superbowl. That is a LOT of people. To help in the fight against sexism in ads, and in particular Superbowl ads, the National Organization for Women launched a watchdog group where viewers could report the biggest offenders. This year, Bust Magazine encourages viewers to report sexist ads to their local NBC affiliates, or to contact the offending companies directly and let their disapproval be known. I plan to speak up. There is absolutely no need to demean women in order to sell a product, any product.
So it's fine by me if the Juban Princeling grows up to be a football fan. Hopefully, by the time he's old enough to appreciate the game, these antiquated ads will be a thing of the past. Until we get there, though, he'll have Uncle Funny explaining things like interceptions and first downs and point spreads (we're a gambling family) on one side, and me and Aunt Daria on the other side explaining why the half-naked blond does not belong in an ad for an Internet company.
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