Verdict in: Unsatisfying ‘feminist Super Bowl’ lacked policy gravitas

Verdict in: Unsatisfying ‘feminist Super Bowl’ lacked policy gravitas

[Ed. – Come on.  You know you knew it was coming.]

I certainly prefer girls throwing punches and Mindy Kaling’s eye-rolls to the back-slapping boys’-club tone of GoDaddy and Budweiser ads from Super Bowls past. But this year’s empowerment-infused commercials left me feeling conflicted. Of course I endorse the idea that “girly” is not an insult, that being a dad is important work, that systemic injustice can render certain women invisible, that domestic-violence survivors deserve support not scorn. I want these ideas to go mainstream. So then why did I cringe watching companies use those ideas to sell stuff during the Super Bowl?

It’s not because I’m an impossible-to-please feminist killjoy. (Though the NFL does tend to bring out that side of me.) It’s because most of the ads are hollow: soaring messages with few concrete policies or actions behind them. Modern feminist-tinged advertising — or “empowertising,” as Andi Zeisler calls it — works on two levels. It feeds our collective hunger for big cultural shifts, while simultaneously allowing corporations an easy way out of helping to make those shifts a reality. High in calories but low in nutritive value, to put it in Super Bowl snack terms. …

Slate declared last year “our first feminist Super Bowl.” It seems safe to say that 2014 was the first of many Super Bowls that will carry that title. But make no mistake: This isn’t companies waking up to feminism. It’s companies getting real about the fact that 46 percent of Super Bowl viewers are women, and pseudo-feminist ads grab their attention a lot better than traditional beer-commercial fare. …

The underlying problem for advertisers is that feminism doesn’t really work as a brand if that’s all it is. Once you bring people’s attention to these issues, they’ll start to notice when things don’t track.

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