It has to do with some of the ads that I’ll be seeing on Sunday afternoon. For those of us in the Boomer generation, there are voices in our heads that have been crowding in there for all of our lives, many belonging to advertisers who repeat messages that are damaging to our sense of self. And on Super Bowl weekend, the megalo-advertisers pull out all the stops to get more of those voices into our heads. They become a cacophony. A helmet may help deflect the new onslaught. And if it doesn’t, it will protect my head if I’m tempted to pound it against the wall from time to time.
Lots of hugely entertaining commercials will be rolled out during the game, to be sure, but as with all television advertising, some are going to objectify women and do their best to bully us into feeling inadequate and, therefore, in need of the products being touted. The advertising mavens have studied all of our inside-head voices for years with ever greater sophistication. They know us. And since they need to sell us things in order to stay alive, they masterfully play us. Any night of TV-watching is a night of assaults on our egos: Your house isn’t pretty enough. It smells bad. You smell bad. You aren’t pretty enough. You know you want to gobble gooey pudding. You should weigh less. You should show you care with cards. Your hair is not shiny. You need to join a health club. You love chocolate and cannot resist it. You need a new car that your children find fashionable. You should not have wrinkles. You should have pleasant family meals. You should look like a million bucks in a red dress.
The worst offenders are the Victoria’s Secret commercials that have been grinding on (pun intended) for years. I find it amazing and so strange that this company that wants me to buy their underwear, pushes undressed young women with porn-star bodies at me (and my husband who sits beside me), floating across the screen or stomping down the runway aisle, boobs bouncing in their push-up bras, faces haughty and taunting. My sensibilities are assaulted when the camera zooms in so we can watch a young beauty bite the tip of her lacquered nail and look into the camera with a knowing, nasty smile.
I’m not a prude (I’m not) but I disagree that I shouldn’t be bothered. I also take umbrage when someone advises me to just turn the TV off then. I like to watch TV (too much, OK I admit it) and my husband likes to watch sports (don’t get me going) and if the TV’s on, then I’m forced to listen to the megalo-advertising bullies talk into my head, and I’m forced to allow women to do things inside my own home that in real life would be outrageous and rude – even sociopathic. Can you imagine the woman next door striding into your living room in high heels and underwear, and parading around while she regards you and your husband with a sneer? Would you not find her behavior invasive and offensive – and would you not throw her out of your home?
I’m not saying that a woman showing off her body is an inherent evil; just that if you want porn, you should be free to go ahead and watch porn, and if you don’t want to watch porn, you should be free to not. Why should you be bullied into “agreeing” that nearly naked women belligerently flaunting their bodies in your and your loved ones’ faces is an integral part of every form of entertainment?
It’s bullying. It’s big business saying that, hey, believe what you want, but the truth – our truth – is that women are still here for sexual objectification. You, me, the “regular” women – are supposed to agree, and feel inadequate, and therefore run out and buy that overpriced underwear and everything else we’re told will make us less boring and sub-par so we can try to live up to the images on the screen.
Here’s a logical suggestion: If this parading of nearly naked nearly perfect bodies is all OK and it does no harm and no one should find it offensive, then let’s open up this party and sell like hell using men in the same way. Let’s call back that Old Spice guy who was such a hit, and march him out to talk to us in that sexy deep voice and show off his build, and smile in his knowing way. Let’s have fantastically endowed young men in their vacuum-fitted briefs move manfully across our screens, riveting us with their piercing gazes. Let’s zoom in with giant close-ups of their bulges of improbably oversized male genitalia so we can stare with wide eyes at these beautiful bodies while our spouses sit mutely by our sides. Over and over and over again, relentlessly.
I have to give kudos to GoDaddy, though. This year they’re airing an ad featuring the ever-present Danica Patrick, but this time instead of putting up titillating images of her or a nearly naked supermodel and inviting viewers to go online to “see more,” they’re doing something different. You will still see lots of skin – but it will be a group of male bodybuilders running shirtless alongside Danica to a tanning salon. Danica, in the center and also scantily clad, is wearing a muscle suit to create the same physique as the men.
And David Beckham Bodywear will run an ad featuring David Beckham nearly nude – arguably insensitive to men just as Victoria’s Secret is to women, but another tilt to the scales toward a more even balance.
Super Bowl weekend is a big opportunity for advertisers to appeal to us – Boomer women, who make most of the purchasing decisions and control most of the wealth, and who comprise a significant percentage of the small business owners in this country. Some of the brands are starting to get it. Let’s support those who do – by tweeting our kudos to GoDaddy for changing their direction, and to Beckham Bodywear for tilting the scales, and to any other advertisers who clearly feel it’s as important to appeal to women as to men with their campaigns. I’ll suggest a hashtag: #adswomenlike.