Super Bowl Commercials and Misogyny


Super Bowl ads! Analyzing the Tim Tebow ad, and the deluge of misogyny from other ads. Also, Tracy Van Slyke talks about the importance of the netroots for media activism.

 

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Links in this episode:

Tim Tebow ad

Beyond the Echo

Ad analysis at Feministe

Your point?

 

On this episode of Reality Cast, I’ll be interviewing Tracy
Van Slyke about the netroots and influencing the political system.  And then another two-parter, this time
regarding the Super Bowl ads.  The
first segment will be on the much-ballyhooed Tebow ad and the second segment
will be on the outrageous sexism overall in ads this year.

 

PBS NOW took a look at clinic escorts.  What was interesting is how loudly and
clearly it comes through that anti-choicers are largely motivated by both
hostility to women and a perverse obsession with breaking down a woman’s basic
right to respect and privacy.

 

  • escort
    *

 

It’s like gossip, except meaner and more in your face and
blatantly misogynist.

 

**********

In the run-up to the Super Bowl, there was a lot of fussing
about an ad sponsored by Focus on the Family that would be about the Florida
Gators quarterback Tim Tebow, and his mother’s claims that she was encouraged
to abort the pregnancy that resulted in him. The ad itself ended up being,
well, hard to really understand if you didn’t know much about it going in.

 

  • tebow
    1 *

 

At this  point,
he tackles his mother, which is supposed to prove how tough she really is. The
first thought I had while watching this is that someone who hadn’t heard about
the controversy would assume this is just an ad about how much Pam Tebow loves
her son, which is weird, because don’t pretty much all mothers of sons love
their sons?  The ad is shot on a
white background and resembles the eHarmony ads so much that you’d be forgiven
for thinking that this woman in the ad is Tim Tebow’s wife, not his mother.

 

But then I thought about the ad in terms of what I know
about the anti-choice strategy. 
Mainly, by having this woman tell the story of the choice she made,
they’re trying to impress us with how misogynist they’re not, even though they
are objectively campaigning for laws that would kill millions of women
worldwide.  And they’re even trying
to imply they love women making choices, when of course Focus on the Family and
the Tebows are fighting against a woman’s right to choose.  But they’re really tone deaf about how
to do this.  Having a man run over
his mother while she’s trying to talk isn’t really the best way to send home
the message that you’re pro-woman. 
In an ad that’s not about restricting women’s rights, that would just be
cute, but in this ad, it has weird overtones.

 

But what really bothered me was that Pam Tebow brags about
how tough she is.  Since she’s
advising women to ignore their doctors when their doctors tell them pregnancy
is dangerous, this is alarming.  It
implies that if you can’t survive a dangerous pregnancy, it’s because you’re a
wimp.

 

On the Rachel Maddow show, Rachel made a good point about
what it means to encourage women to choose to go forward with dangerous
pregnancies.

 

  • tebow
    2 *

 

The innocuous nature of the ad probably protects CBS itself
if someone takes this advice not to listen to your doctor seriously, but Focus
on the Family is treading on to some seriously unethical ground trying to
convince women to do things that risk their health, their fertility, and even
their lives. 

 

If you actually follow the ad’s instructions and go to Focus
on the Family’s website, you’ll find that things start to get really weird.
Basically, it’s hard to figure out what Pam Tebow’s trying to say here.

 

  • tebow
    3 *

 

But she doesn’t explain why the doctor thought this.  Instead, she skips right over talking
about that and starts to explain why she, presumably being a god-fearing woman,
decided she didn’t need to live or to receive decent prenatal care.

 

  • tebow
    4 *

 

So it’s worse than even Rachel Maddow thought. They’re not
just encouraging women to go forward with dangerous pregnancies, but they’re
casting a wide net so that women with very severe conditions might believe they
should.  And they’re encouraging
women to avoid prenatal care. 
Well, Pam Tebow believes god rewarded her serious self-abnegation by
giving her Tim Tebow, who went on to the win the Heisman.  This is where the argument gets
illogical. 

 

  • tebow
    5 *

 

She keeps going on in this vein about how she feels God
intervened to save Tim Tebow.  At
the end, they talk about how they discovered the placental abruption in the
delivery room.  Or at least that’s
the implication, which would mean that can’t be why Pam Tebow was told to
abort.  We’re left with an
incoherent story, where she was told to abort, but we don’t know why.  And she insists that God had a plan for
Tim Tebow, and he kept saving him. 
Well, if God controls everything, it seems it would also be part of
God’s plan for women to abort, if they feel that’s right, as well.  Women who have abortions often go on to
have  more children or to raise the
ones they want or have careers or education that the abortion made
possible.  If you think God was
working through Pam Tebow, then why not working through other women who do
other things besides give birth to football stars?

 

*********

insert interview

 

*********

The Tim Tebow ad wasn’t the only ad to air during the Super
Bowl, as you can imagine.  In fact,
it was surprising to many of us that an ad that was, at the end of the day,
trying to encourage women to go forward with dangerous pregnancies, still
managed to come across as a less misogynist ad than many that played during the
Super Bowl.  The big theme in a lot
of ads this year was that women are all-powerful castrators who need to be
resisted by buying products.  There
was an exhaustive amount of pro-feminist response to many of the ads on blogs
and on Twitter.  Guest poster Kate
at Feministe rounded up some of the ads and had an interesting thesis, which is
that these ads are ineffective because they’re unpopular  She noted that some of the most
misogynist ads were ranked the lowest on Hulu by both men and women. 

 

I was happy to see that the public at large was as hostile
to the sexist ads as I was, but I’m pretty sure Madison Avenue is going to keep
plunging down this road.  And the
reason is that you don’t have to like an ad for it to work on you.  In fact, products that are sold on insecurity
sometimes work better if you hate the ad. 
Let me play an example from a universally reviled, misogynist ad, for
the Dodge Charger.

 

  • commercial
    1 *

 

The ad alarmed a lot of people, because the sheer anger and
hatred from the male narrator aimed at the presumed harpy wife who makes the
target audience put his clothes in the hamper.  More than a few feminist bloggers pointed out that the ad
plays footsie with domestic violence before charging off into the "work it out
by driving fast" territory.  One
thing is certain.  The ad linked
the sort of low level boredom we all feel at having to be grown-ups to fears of
emasculation and blamed it all on women, who are treated like we just love
having to do household chores or something. 

 

Even if you hate this ad, the implicit argument, which is
that having to do your boring work like everyone else is an assault on your
manhood, may be something men reject consciously, but will creep back up when
they’re feeling low.  And the
advertisers hope that low feeling results in a car sale, but unfortunately, in
many cases men take the argument that women are to blame for all their problems
seriously, and end up lashing out at women.

 

Another ad for Flo TV took a more playful tone, but it was
still sexist as could be.  In it,
you see a guy shopping happily with his female partner, and this is presented
as inexcusable behavior.

 

  • commercial
    2 *

 

This ad makes the underlying idea more explicit, which is
that the advertisers don’t care if you like shopping or like being with your
wife.  They’re going to insist that
you feel insecure about these things, and feel emasculated.  And that the only way to get over the
feeling of insecurity is to buy the product.

 

Ads like this work in the same way that hyper-skinny models
in magazines work on women, by preying on insecurities.  We can intellectually denounce the use
of models who encourage eating disorders, but at the end of the day, the body
anxiety it produces stays with us, and the marketers have products designed to
alleviate that anxiety, but only for a little bit, so we will need more
products.

 

These ads I covered are misogynist but they’re also
anti-male; they’re there to exploit men’s anxieties.  There were ads that were just openly misogynist,
though.  Like this ad for Bridgestone
tires.  A car is stopped by a bunch
of super villains.

 

  • commercial
    3 *

 

Basically, when asked to choose between his tires and his
life, the guy misunderstands and gleefully hands over his wife.  This is less anxious masculinity and
more about reaching out to male consumers on the assumption that everyone here
can agree that women are awful and suck. 
This ad is more narrowly aimed at men who find pleasure in hating on
women.  The other ads prey on men
who may not like the ads, but who nonetheless are made to feel insecure and
uneasy. 

 

*************

And now for the Wisdom of Wingnuts, wow, you’re kind of dim
edition.  James O’Keefe, who is
trying to make a career for himself creating highly edited videos supposedly
exposing mostly innocent people, and who got himself arrested allegedly trying
to sabotage Senator Landrieau’s office, also released a video where a male
friend of his and he tried to get married, claiming they were straight with no
external evidence to prove it. 

 

  • maroons
    *

 

I think what’s telling about this supposed expose is the
silly belief that only same sex marriages could work this way.  Why doesn’t O’Keefe think that a gay
man and a lesbian could get married for benefits?  Or a straight man and woman?  Or a straight person with someone gay of the opposite
sex?  Does he simply think it’s
impossible for men and women to be close enough to arrange that sort of thing
without having sex?  What a sad,
narrow view of the world.

 

Follow Amanda Marcotte on Twitter: @amandamarcotte

  • bornin1984

    When you look hard enough, you can find misogyny in anything.

  • daredevil

    “Well, if God controls everything, it seems it would also be part of God’s plan for women to abort, if they feel that’s right, as well.”

    Bad logic.

    It does not follow that if God controls everything, that He approves of what happens that He permits and does not intervene to stop. Allowing people to sin against others, whether it is murder, rape, etc., is not advocating those things. It is allowing those things to take place, yet God finds a way to make good out of evil. For example, Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery, intending for evil, but God made good out of that. That in no way means what his brothers did was pleasing to God.

    “Women who have abortions often go on to have more children or to raise the ones they want or have careers or education that the abortion made possible. If you think God was working through Pam Tebow, then why not working through other women who do other things besides give birth to football stars?”

    First off, no one I know of suggests that God onlys through those who give birth to football stars, other than you and those on your side using that as strawman to knock down.

    Secondly, God is in control, yes.

    But if you want to suggest by that logic God sees abortions as good, then let’s follow your absurd logic to its conclusion: God also must see us breaking all ten commandments as good and pleasing to Him, since all that happened every second every day throughout the world. Abd plenty of people in this world prosper doing those things, too.

    And plenty of people get away with murder, rape, incest, etc., in this world, also. So do you want to suggest then that since good came for those folks in their own eyes, that God must be pleased with their actions?

    Your argument don’t wash one bit.

    And continually rehasing the Tebow ran over his mother shows the ad hates women also don’t get your point across other than your hardcore fans. The rest of the world, INCLUDING PRO-CHOICERS, are not laughing with you- they are laughing AT YOU.

  • crowepps

    It does not follow that if God controls everything, that He approves of what happens that He permits and does not intervene to stop.

    An all-powerful God who has the ability to intervene would have to actively ‘permit’ things, since if He is all-powerful, He could easily stop them.  Certainly if God ‘controls everything’, when thousands of ‘innocent children’ and ‘innocent preborn’ inside pregnant women are slaughtered and maimed by tsunami or earthquakes or floods, it would be obscene for Him to fail to act to save them.  Apparently God prefers a hands-off policy in the world.

     

    It seems like kind of a stretch to me for it to be a ‘grievous sin’ for women to abort babies when at the exact same time God ‘allows’ a far higher numbers of zygotes to fail to attach in the first place or to miscarry or to be disastrously misshapen so that they’re unable to survive birth.  If they’re so valuable to Him, why is He so profligately wasteful of them Himself?

     

    There is a reason religious arguments about how this or that are ‘sin’ or ‘God’s Will’ aren’t particularly convincing.  Once the discussion hinges on ‘God’s mysterious purposes’ anybody can justify anything at all, anybody can discover a ‘good which God has brought out of supposed evil’, and amazingly, God is so flexible that His Plan is always found to agree with each person’s preexisting prejudices and beliefs!

  • daredevil

    Your argument holds no water when interacting with Christian beliefs. In Christian belief (specially in Augustinian/Calvinist/Lutheran POV), we believe we are all sinners, except Christ. And we believe all sin condemns us with God, and all sin is evil in God’s eyes, though some are more heinous perhaps than others.

    So by your logic, when discussing Christian theology, God would have to kill every single one of us before we really exist so no sin exists.

    So it does not prove God has a hands off policy.

    It shows God’s patience lasts very long (“slow to anger”), not willing any to perish but all to come to repentance(2 Peter 3:9).

    God does in fact allow evil in the world, but still make use of it so that good may come. It does not change the fact that those who do evil and remain unrepentaful and unbelieving will still be condemned for those things.

  • daredevil

    “Once the discussion hinges on ‘God’s mysterious purposes’ anybody can justify anything at all, anybody can discover a ‘good which God has brought out of supposed evil’, and amazingly, God is so flexible that His Plan is always found to agree with each person’s preexisting prejudices and beliefs! ”

    Problem is you are assuming all Christians think like that.

    I for one don’t believe we can know God’s plan other than what He revealed in the Bible. In regards to His ways or reasons why He lets things happen, like in Haiti, not my place to know why. I do believe God intends them for good. But His plan? Don’t know.

    I believe Pat Robertson is an idiot (and unbiblical) for the comments he made about Haiti.

    He might like to read Calvin or Luther on the distinction between the dreadful hidden will of God (where God’s in control of all things, including who will be saved, and has a purpose for all things) and the revealed will of God (where God desires all to be saved and does not delight in the death of the wicked).

    Or he needs to simply read Christ’s own words about why people died in diasters or whatever- He simply told those who asked, “repent, or you, too, shall perish.”

  • daredevil

    My point is that the article misrepresented Christian belief in regards to God’s will and sin to make its points.

  • daredevil

    The article wrote:

    “But then I thought about the ad in terms of what I know about the anti-choice strategy. Mainly, by having this woman tell the story of the choice she made, they’re trying to impress us with how misogynist they’re not, even though they are objectively campaigning for laws that would kill millions of women worldwide.”

    FOTF does indeed allow for exception for the mother’s life in danger.

    http://www.focusonthefamily.com/socialissues/sanctity-of-life/abortion/our-position.aspx

    Our Position (Abortion)
    Focus on the Family opposes abortion under all circumstances, except in the rare instance when the mother’s life is threatened by continuing the pregnancy.

  • crowepps

    Problem is you are assuming all Christians think like that.

    I am well aware that there are huge disagreements between different sects of Christians and between Christians in the same sect.  That was my point.  Each person picks the ‘flavor’ of Christianity that confirms their own worldview and attitude toward the rest of humanity.  It’s pretty ridiculous to promote passing laws based on ‘Christian morality’ when the Christians themselves can’t agree with each other what that means.

  • crowepps

    Problem is you are assuming all Christians think alike.  Even if those aren’t your personal beliefs, others Christians do believe those things about God’s will and sin.

  • crowepps

    Actually, the number of women whose ‘life is threatened’ is about 3 to 4% of pregnancies, which I suppose would qualify as ‘rare’.  Of course, even using the more conservative number, that’s about 120,000 women whose lives are at risk annually, three times the number of people that are killed annually in traffic accidents.

  • crowepps

    all sin is evil in God’s eyes, though some are more heinous perhaps than others.

    Actually, as I understand the theological consensus, no sin is considered more heinous than any other, because that tends to encourage people to give themselves a ‘pass’.  Once people are given the opportunity to consider other people’s sins worse than their own, they start to feel that the ones they continue to commit aren’t such a big deal.

     

    By making a big fuss over how evil it is of women to have abortions, for instance, men can ignore the fact that it is the fornication for which they excuse themselves as ‘being tempted beyond their strength’ which is the actual root cause of those abortions.

  • daredevil

    Regardless of how rare or not, FOTF does allow abortion in its view for cases of mother’s life in danger. As do most pro-lifers. The card that pro-lifers are trying to get women killed by not having abortions is laughable.

  • colleen

    As do most pro-lifers. The card that pro-lifers are trying to get women killed by not having abortions is laughable.

     Just to be clear,  the claim is that abortions are sometimes medically necessary.  Sadly,  the fact of the matter is that the so-called ‘pro-life’ movement is full of folks who do not believe abortion should be allowed for any reason whatsoever. There are some  polls at http://www.pollingreport.com/abortion.htm. The number of folks who would see women die range from a low of 16% to a high in the mid 20′s. These aren’t 20% of the ‘pro-life’ movement but, rather, 20% of the entire population. The percentage of ‘pro-lifers’ who hold this opinion is, of course, far higher. I’ll bet you even know more than a few.

     

     

     

    The only difference between the American anti-abortion movement and the Taliban is about 8,000 miles.

    Dr Warren Hern, MD

  • daredevil

    Bottom line is that your side try to make it out that FOTF holds to under no circumstances is abortion ever permitted, not even life of mother in danger. Just as your claim about the Philippines not allowing abortion under that circumstance is disproven by UN report on the country and its laws and applications, your side’s claim about FOTF on this is disproven.

    And nice way to try to spin the stats to your liking so to justify lumping pro-lifers as if they hold to no exception should be allowed.

    Let’s look at the stats.

    The first poll has as of most recently has at 18 percent those who want abortion as always illegal. What you failed to mention is that 24 percent wants it most of the times illegal. Not always. That makes it the majority if we go by just these two stats, the majority is still with those who allow for exceptions. That still makes it about almost 60 percent of pro-lifers (24/42) allow for exceptions.

    But if we want to dig deeper let’s consider your side of the debate of pro-choice oppose any and all restrictions on abortion. Those who hold to usually legal for abortion by definition would mean they hold to at some restrictions should be in place. Hardly pro-choice, given your side state any restrictions would be against your right to “choose” to abort your own baby.

    If we go by pro-life to mean those who believe abortion should be at least restricted somewhat, then the percentage of those who hold to exceptions get much higher.

    In the Washington post poll, if we just by usually should be illegal and always illegal stats, the should be always illegal stats make up majority of those who voted in those directions. The numbers read as 28-16. Or 28 out of 44, which makes it 65 percent or so of those who would be most strongly pro-lifers who hold to exception or exceptions.

    The CBS poll gives a better indication in terms of those who favor restrictions. 4o percent are for more restrictions as opposed to 23 percent for not exceptions.

    Likewise CNN has in these regards 50 percent to 23 percent.

    And when you break it down to abortion should be legal in few circumstances as opposed to no circumstances, the number is 40 to 23. That is about 64 percent of those who would be the more strongly pro-lifers. And if you include all who favor at least some restrictions, the percentage as shown above is even higher- almost 69 percent.

    Likewise, see USA poll, where the ratio is 57 percent to 21 percent.

  • ahunt

    Bottom line is that your side try to make it out that FOTF holds to
    under no circumstances is abortion ever permitted, not even life of
    mother in danger.

     

    Uh…no.

     

    I do not have the energy or will to address the rest of your infantile flailing, except to note that "pro-lifers" comprise a a significant percentage of abortion seekers.

  • daredevil

    "I do not have the energy or will to address the rest of your infantile flailing, except to note that "pro-lifers" comprise a a significant percentage of abortion seekers."

     

    More like you have the inability to address anything I said that you deemed "infantile flailing" without resorting to infantile flailing yourself like this. Which says alot more about you and your postings than it does about me.

     

    Of course, you have a sad habit of wanting to speak for what pro-lifer side think, and usually, you are hilariously wrong. Get beyond into reality not just parrot some pro-choice propaganda, so you can convince yourself over and over what a victim you are of pro-lifers you see as evil and everywhere out to get you.

     

     

  • ahunt

    Snerk…he came, he saw, he conquered!

     

    Alright Pookie…I’ll  bookmark the bizarre screed and deal with it when I am in the mood to refute consistent irrationality, facts pulled out of your ass, and conclusions that do not follow.

     

    I’m thinking…tax time.

  • faultroy

    It really does not matter whether you are pro abortion or anti abortion, if you are a woman, you should be insulted by the tone of this column. Marcotte seems to come off patronizing and treats woman as if collectively they have the intelligence of five year olds. Women are able to run Fortune 500 Companies, become Secretary of State but according to Marcotte, women are too stupid to understand that Tebow’s Mom is "encouraging women to not listen to their doctors" And then Maddow says " it means to encourage women to go thru with dangerous pregnancies." And this is the crux of what I mean about the way pro abortionists talk to woman–they treat them like five year olds. Heaven forbid that a woman should be allowed to make up her own mind–of course not–Maddow thinks that they don’t have enough brains to figure out whether they are being conned or not. Sure, according to Rachel, the 98 percent (according to our best statistics) of heterosexual Women are so stupid, they need a Lesbian to tell them what they are really feeling: how they should respond, and whom they should believe. If we really believe that women have a right to choose, maybe we should shut up and give them enough credit to make the right choices without having "Mommy Maddow" or any other Right Wingnut help in the decision making. I went on the NOW (National Organization For Women) website because I wanted to find out how their members responded to the ad. In their Forum, members overwhelmingly rejected the position of NOW’s President in implying the ad was either anti abortion or "advocating violence towards women." The feeling was that it was no big deal one way or another and that the NOW mgmt was totally overreacting. The biggest danger to nullifying Roe V Wade is not anti abortionists, but the hysterical overreacting left wing of of the Feminist Movement which is so out of step with the concerns, needs and aspirations of women at large. And what is so insidious about this kind of constant over reaction and over exaggeration is that it causes a collective "eye rolling," by Society and this actually undermines the credibility of women as competent, intelligent and independent. Today with so many women out of work, underemployed and many whose husbands are out of work as well, the last thing on a woman’s mind is getting involved in a "tempest in a teapot." It is no secret that the country has made a dramatic shift to the right. The News ratings with Fox just killing the other media and Maddow’s own show having lost substantialviewers (but I have to say that I admire and like her reporting and am glad she is on the air);the bankruptcy of Air America; the very real loss of 6 Democratic Senate Seats and possibly 8 in next year’s election, the implosion of the healthcare Plan and the ever falling approval ratings of President Obama all signal that women who make up the majority of voters in the USA (5.2 million more women than men in the US, and 5 million more women voters than men–US Census Data), are totally unhappy with politics as usual–or perhaps Maddow again thinks that women were "duped," by the meanie "right wingers" into making these decisions? Anyone that has followed these events can see that pro-abortionists were set up. Focus in the Family used the Peta Playbook–create an ad that you know the networks will not accept, then send out press releases to all the news media that the networks will not run your ad–which gives you 100 times the reach that the ad money exposure would have given you–and you didn’t spend a dime. Instead, Focus on the Family created a pretty innocuous ad, required the network to keep their mouths shut, got proabortions all worked up in a lather thereby giving them a hundred times the exposure their ad would have had–and then run something completely different than what your opponents thought you were planning…brilliant, effective and devious…and that is what Marcotte should have  written about…that would have been interesting.

  • daredevil

    "Alright Pookie…I’ll bookmark the bizarre screed and deal with it when I am in the mood to refute consistent irrationality, facts pulled out of your ass, and conclusions that do not follow."

     

     

     

     

     

    Given that’s how you post in general in responses to those you disagree with, everything you accused me of applies to you hundredfold. What you display is nothing rational, but quite frankly the exaxt opposite- whjch is nothing short of a two year old’s temper tantrums. If you have any proof that I made up facts or that I am being irrational, you would be able to communicate why, not put on an immature play about how guilty I am of all these things over and over again, without any evidence. Just more of the same of your posts displaying the usual hate you display against anyone you disagree with. For folks like you who complain about hate and intolerance, you are guilty of all that and throwing stones hypocritically to the max.

     

  • daredevil

    “The News ratings with Fox just killing the other media and Maddow’s own show having lost substantialviewers (but I have to say that I admire and like her reporting and am glad she is on the air)”

    I am not sure that would reflect in the elections. Fox was demolishing the liberal networks during the last elections, yet Obama and his party won- easily.

    Perhaps the reason Fox gets high ratings is it attracts both those who are on its side and those who who are against it almost equally, so the numbers of viewers make it seem like it has alot more support than it has. Just a theory- don’t know one way or the other, but pondering given the results of the last election.

    Good points you raised.

  • daredevil

    "Anyone that has followed these events can see that pro-abortionists were set up." I agree with mucb of your post, but one correction- FOTF did say from the get-go it would not be controversial nor attack abortion, so hard to claim it set others up when they made it clear from the get-go it would be an ad that won’t be so controversial (though you do have a point on it requiring CBS to be quiet about contents of the ad). Frances Kissling and Kate Michelman were wise from the get-go on how pro-choicers should have responded to the ad. Planned Parenthood was the only major organization on that side to follow their advice it seems. It’s human nature regardless of one’s position, it seems, to get work up over what the other side does publically. I don’t think the pro-choice side is any worse than others, right or left side of the issues, in these regards. "Free speech for me but not for thee" is a trait not limited to the pro-choicers.

  • crowepps

    Television ratings measure the estimated number of viewers watching a particuliar show.  The enormously population American Idol is watched by approximately 24 million people.  The population of the United States is 304 million people.  That means ‘enormously popular’ and ‘high ratings’ in television terms equates to about 8% of the population.