Super Bowl Ads Decidedly Less Sexist Than Last Year’s

Call it progress, or something.

National Journal
Lucia Graves
See more stories about...
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.

What We're Following See More »
Bill Clinton Gets Personal in Convention Speech
3 hours ago

“In the spring of 1971, I met a girl,” started Bill Clinton. In his speech Tuesday night at the Democratic National Convention, Clinton brought a personal touch, telling parallel stories of his relationship with Hillary Clinton and the work she has done throughout her career. He lauded the Democratic nominee for her career of work, touching on her earliest days of advocacy for children and those with disabilities while in law school, her role as Secretary of State, and her work in raising their daughter, Chelsea. Providing a number of anecdotes throughout the speech, Clinton built to a crescendo, imploring the audience to support his wife for president. "You should elect her, she'll never quit when the going gets tough," he said. "Your children and grandchildren will be grateful."

Mothers Of The Movement Endorse Hillary Clinton
6 hours ago

A coalition of mothers whose children lost their lives in high profile cases across the country, known as the Mothers Of The Movement, were greeted with deafening chants of "Black Lives Matter" before telling their stories. The mothers of Sandra Bland, Jordan Davis, and Trayvon Martin spoke for the group, soliciting both tears and applause from the crowd. "Hillary Clinton has the compassion and understanding to comfort a grieving mother," said Sybrina Fulton, the mother of Trayvon Martin. "And that's why, in the memory of our children, we are imploring you — all of you — to vote this election day."

Clinton Officially Democratic Nominee for President
8 hours ago

With the South Dakota delegation announcing its delegate count, Hillary Rodham Clinton is officially the Democratic nominee for president, surpassing the 2383 delegates needed to clinch the nomination. Clinton is expected to speak at the convention on Thursday night and officially accept the nomination.

How Many People Protested in Philly Yesterday?
12 hours ago

About 5,500, according to official estimates. "The Monday figures marked a large increase from the protests at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, where even the largest protests only drew a couple of hundred demonstrators. But it’s a far cry from the 35,000 to 50,000 that Philadelphia city officials initially expected."

NY Times’ Upshot Gives Clinton 68% Chance to Win
12 hours ago

Only a day after FiveThirtyEight's Now Cast gave Donald Trump a 57% chance of winning, the New York Times' Upshot fires back with its own analysis that shows Hillary Clinton with a 68% chance to be the next president. Its model "calculates win probabilities for each state," which incorporate recent polls plus "a state's past election results and national polling." Notably, all of the battleground states that "vote like the country as a whole" either lean toward Clinton or are toss-ups. None lean toward Trump.