Sexism and the Super Bowl

If you, like me, only half watched the Super Bowl while doing homework, you may not have paid complete attention to why this year was a lot different than previous years. This year, while we saw an obvious shift in more marketing towards women, we also saw things that were blatantly sexist or exploitative. Here are three reasons why this year’s Super Bowl was more than just a man’s game.

  • Commercials

A couple days ago, Taylor blogged about the ads that were pretty sexist to say the least. One I’d like to add is the Calvin Klein underwear ad that was clearly used to draw in more women.

My roommates were pleased with the ad, but I was annoyed. We complain enough about men objectifying women and the use of sex appeal in ads to men. We’re no better to accept Calvin Klein’s ad, especially when it presents such hypermasculinity.

  • Beyoncé and sexuality

When I walked into one of my GWSS classes the other day, a few students were debating about Beyoncé’s halftime performance. We all agreed that she was extremely talented and put on a good show—I mean, she is Beyoncé. However, one side argued that she was giving into mainstream music by being so sexual in performance. The other side said that she had the right to present herself in any way she wanted.

Either way, the debate lies somewhere between slut-shaming and objectification. We celebrate a woman’s decision to be more open about her sexuality, yet if she goes too far she’s a slut. Beyoncé, regardless of her fame and wealth, is no different. Is she a product of the media industry, which has hyped up her sex appeal and has put her in sexy clothing? Or are all of her dance moves and outfits her decision to express herself? I leave this as an open-ended question to you, readers. Beyoncé is one of the most powerful women in America, but even the best artists give in to industry standards.

  • Human trafficking

Remember the influx of sex workers for the 2012 Republican National Convention? Apparently Super Bowl XLVII follows in its path. Thousands of prostitutes have been brought in for previous Super Bowls, making it the largest human trafficking incident in the U.S. Of course, when we think of Super Bowls, we think of commercials and football, not sex trafficking. It’s funny (and by funny I mean upsetting) that there haven’t been more crackdowns on these operations. When there are arrests made, authority figures need to focus on the people in charge of the prostitution, not those who are exploited by the system.

What are your thoughts? Were there any other sexist/feminist aspects of the Super Bowl that stuck out to you? Because football is such a male-dominated culture, is there anything we can do to start tackling these issues?

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One thought on “Sexism and the Super Bowl

  1. On Beyoncé:

    Most of the discourse around her performance at the Superbowl has been completely inappropriate. Note that I say discourse instead of discussion, as discourse also takes into consideration context and who is speaking. Non-black people, female or not, should not be talking about Beyoncé or her performance. Even in this well-intentioned attempt to be neutral, the entire point of what it meant for Beyoncé to put on that performance was completely lost. (This is why non-black people should be left out of the conversation – they don’t take intersectionality into account and come at it from their own standpoints, which are completely irrelevant.)

    What I am about to repeat is wise analysis I’ve read from intelligent black women – mostly on Tumblr. It is a shame and a disservice that I, a non-black woman, have to be the one to repeat it and have it discussed here. However, these women receive much harassment on their blogs, so I also know that they don’t appreciate being linked to outside of Tumblr.

    Beyoncé is a black woman. White feminism has always been problematic for black women. White women in the United States have for too long been relegated to the status of dainty princesses meant for princes to save. Black women have NEVER had that privilege. For too long, white women have had to take their husband’s name, whether or not they desired to. Black women are in a society that trivializes and rarifies fidelity in their marriages, and the rate of single mothers in the black community is soaring. So, black women RARELY have the privilege of – like how Beyoncé uses her name in her newly announced tour – basking in the security and safety of their marriage via claiming their husband’s surname. White women have been objectified as sexual objects, but never have they been hypersexualized and exotified along with that objectification. Black women have.

    White feminism indiscriminately vilifies aspects of traditional womanhood in this country that, to women of color, have been denied. To deny the fact that Beyoncé’s blackness isn’t playing a role in the Superbowl critiques is folly.

    The Superbowl performance was wonderful. There was not a single male on stage at a performance scheduled on the most male-glorifying day in the American year. The women were empowered, talented, and took on traditional male roles, such as bassist, guitarist, and guitarist-with-a-flaming-firework-guitar. The performance was also the marked recreation of Destiny’s Child, the all-female group that spawned Beyoncé and was the shining star in many young black girls’ lives growing up. This performance was POWERFUL.

    I sincerely doubt that the same slut-shaming, objectification discourse would be going on if it were, say, Florence from Florence + The Machine onstage that day. She would have been glorified as owning her sexuality in a powerful manner. Instead, even white feminists STILL see black women as inherently sexual objects, so the thoughts immediately turn to Beyoncé playing into her own objectification [which is also victim-blaming, so extra points to those that have done this]. THAT is the where the truth lies and where thoughts need to be fixed.

    Her performance was indeed sexual, but it was not of conformity to industry standard, nor was it of self-objectification or self-disrespect. Even in the discourse of white women in regard to black women – the exact discourse being had by those well-intentioned GWSS students – black women do not OWN their sexuality. Beyoncé was discussed – if not by those students, then by every other white feminist I’ve heard talking on the matter – as though she could not be the agent of her own sexual freedom, as though she does not have the capacity to understand the constraints put upon her by [white] society. She does.

    Beyoncé’s performance was of a black woman taking back her sexual agency as a black woman and doing it in an empowered way in front of millions of Americans who were expecting her to cater to their sexual desires on a day dedicated to the white male. She did it flawlessly.

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