Super Bowl Ads Decidedly Less Sexist Than Last Year’s

Call it progress, or something.

National Journal
Lucia Graves
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Lucia Graves
Feb. 3, 2014, 8:59 a.m.

Any­one who watched Nina Ag­dal writhe in a black string bikini to sell sand­wiches for Carl’s Jr. can tell you that the gender polit­ics of last year’s Su­per Bowl ads left something to be de­sired. (I’m hon­estly not sure wheth­er it’s worse to link or not to link to this, but for those of you who’ll Google it any­way, here you go.)

In fact, the ads were so bad they in­spired the launch of an app to track sex­ism in this year’s ads. Re­leased by fem­in­ist group the Rep­res­ent­a­tion Pro­ject, the app didn’t crown a win­ner for the ad with the most un­for­tu­nate gender polit­ics this Su­per Bowl. But Twit­ter did.

The un­of­fi­cial tiara went to Volk­swa­gen’s Su­per Bowl ad, in which nearly all the en­gin­eers por­trayed were white men (who, as we men­tioned last week, are every­where), ex­cept for one lady en­gin­eer in an el­ev­at­or who’s the butt of a sexu­al har­ass­ment joke. That ad, for hate-watch­ers, is here:

The sup­posed sil­ver lin­ing is that just be­fore that, toy star­tup Gol­dieBlox had an ad up en­cour­aging girls to build things. That’s the fron­ti­er of fem­in­ism right now, ap­par­ently. The com­pany was foun­ded by Stan­ford-trained en­gin­eer Debbie Ster­ling with the stated aim of “dis­rupt­ing the pink aisle” in Amer­ica, and it’s been hailed as a big fem­in­ist suc­cess.

I wrote this fall about how Amer­ica doesn’t really seem ready for a re­volu­tion around the polit­ics of chil­dren’s toys, how des­pite the rhet­or­ic, Gol­dieBlox’s toys are still mostly pink or pas­tel and the nar­rat­ives they put forth still of­ten re­volve around prin­cesses and glit­tery junk.

And yet, as any­one who stifled their own vomit dur­ing last year’s Su­per Bowl watch­ing Bar Re­faeli make out with some un­sus­pect­ing nerd to sell do­main names for can af­firm (hate link is here), we can’t help but ad­mit we’re ahead of where we were in 2013.

GoDaddy has ac­tu­ally gone to con­ser­able lengths to im­prove their pub­lic im­age, re­cently hir­ing Deutsch New York to help them move bey­ond their his­tory of sleazy mar­ket­ing. That hire didn’t pay off in 2013, as my last para­graph can at­test, but this year they did fi­nally man­age to do bet­ter; one ad, about a wo­man who quits her day job to pur­sue her dream of start­ing a pup­pet busi­ness, ac­tu­ally had a quasi-em­power­ing mes­sage for any would-be lady small-biz own­ers out there!

Maybe my stand­ards are hope­lessly high, but I don’t think that’s say­ing much.

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