The Super Bowl is the most watched television event in America – by a long shot. According to the Nielsen Ratings of the top 10 programs of 2011, not only was last February’s game first with 111 million viewers, but in second was the Super Bowl Kick-Off show with 70 million viewers and in third was the Post Game show with 67 million. In comparison, 38 million people watched the Oscars – the highest figure for any non-National Football League related broadcast.
It is no understatement then to say this event and the messages around it have an enormous impact on American culture. The big ratings for the Super Bowl translate into big money for the networks and for advertisers. The average cost of a 30-second ad during the game is $3.5 million. Which begs the question: what are they spending all this money on? What kinds of messages are being promoted here?
The most popular entertainment event in America every year is focused on men displaying athletic skill, strength and aggression. The advertisements mimic and extend these themes by promoting images of “hyper-masculinity.” Women, meanwhile, are often demeaningly sexualized or entirely absent from the screen (save the frequent cuts to cheerleaders on the sidelines during the game).
If an estimated 7 out of 10 Americans are planning on watching the Super Bowl, this means most women, children, lgbt and minority people in this country are probably watching as well. In fact, about 50% of last year’s viewers were women. Yet the programming still feels targeted overwhelmingly to a very specific male demographic.
Even though more women look forward to watching commercials during the Super Bowl than men, more men report enjoying the commercials than women. The troubling thing is that women actually control significantly more household purchasing power than men (85%!). So advertisers are completely ignoring their biggest market during the best chance they have to sell to them!
But of course this isn’t about what’s best for advertiser’s pockets. It’s about demanding respect, standing up to sexism and making sure future generations face less gender stereotypes than we do.
This Sunday, if you’re watching the game, look for differences in the representations of women and men. Point out sexism as it happens and educate those around you by asking questions: who was that commercial directed at? What was the message it sent about gender?
If you’re on Twitter, use #NotBuyingIt with #Superbowl to call out the offensive and sexist ads in real-time. Here’s an example of what to post to Twitter:
Hey @godaddy, your #Superbowl ad was offensive and degrading to women. I’m #notbuyingit!
The #Superbowl is sure to be the most talked-about topic of the weekend – let’s flood the conversation with critical perspectives on sexism in American culture! Together we can help an entire country move closer to healthy representations of gender.
by Imran Siddiquee