It is not that I do not care about the humane treatment of puppies and all animals, because certainly I do. It is just that as I sit here and type, as a human woman, my breath catches a bit over what our society deems acceptable and that there are things found to be more unacceptable than the exploitation of women.
This week we can use the example of GoDaddy and their predictable Super Bowl advertising shenanigans. The company has been spending many millions since 2005 when it aired its first ad on the big game day to promote their web hosting services. In the decade following we’ve seen one half-minute spot after another using provocatively-dressed women dancing, stripping, and writhing around on cars or old men. Year after year these commercials are the topic of conversation, usually among feminist activists, media literacy folks, and maybe a few angry parents who thought the Super Bowl was supposed to be a family show.
For 2015’s Super Bowl ad GoDaddy finally caught on to what the beer companies discovered a while ago: People love animals, especially puppies. GoDaddy has been hyping a commercial starring a Golden Retriever puppy for weeks and when it finally premiered January 27 the internet responded quickly and furiously. With 42,428 signatures at the time of publishing this piece the pro-puppy petition on change.org demanding GoDaddy pull their ad is impressive. Swift consumer outrage aggregated in under 24 hours sends the very clear message they are not buying what they are being sold.
And the same day it was released GoDaddy announced it would pull the ad and not air it this Sunday. Of course, you probably guessed correctly that GoDaddy has another thirty second commercial submitted, approved, and ready to go, so it would seem they never intended to air this puppy ad to begin with and instead counted on the free publicity it successfully earned them. The change.org petition was not for nothing, but GoDaddy already had this offensive drive planned out well in advance.
So while we can all agree that puppy mills are terrible, and that GoDaddy would have been so much more clever to use the puppy commercial but instead rewrite the ending to show a couple of kids who run an internet business from their garage shipping pet supplies to families with newly-adopted pups from the Humane Society…….
Can we also agree that the sanctioned sexual exploitation of women that has been habitually approved by both the industry and general public be more outrageous to the public than a puppy being sold online and unsafely transported in a van driven by Danica Patrick?
Because while I love both of the rescue dogs my family owns, I love more the natural born right females hold to be seen as full human beings and something more than sex objects for men. So it bothers me more than a bit that a fictitious sale of a puppy earns more public outrage than the real, actually-happened sexualization of women for profit.
We’re listening, message received alright.
Beyond the internal effects, sexually objectified women are dehumanized by others and seen as less competent and worthy of empathy by both men and women. Furthermore, exposure to images of sexually objectified women causes male viewers to be more tolerant of sexual harassment and rape myths… Theorists have also contributed to understanding the harm of objectification culture by pointing out the difference between sexy and sexual. If one thinks of the subject/object dichotomy that dominates thinking in Western culture, subjects act and objects are acted upon. -Source
When we consider that all Super Bowl ads must be submitted and approved by the NFL and the network broadcaster, and that half of the NFL fan base is female, one starts to wonder why it is acceptable to use women’s breasts and commodified sexuality to sell internet domain registrations. Or, anything really.
It has been found acceptable because our society’s majority finds it is acceptable to use sexually desirable women as objects to earn companies money. Sometimes the women are sexually objectified similar to the GoDaddy style and sometimes the woman are actually turned into an object like Carl’s Jr and Fiat has shown us.
The vast majority of ads use objectified, sexualized women to sell a product or service. As research has taught us, the first act of violence against a woman is to remove her humanity and turn her into an object. The Super Bowl commercial breaks are like Oscar night for advertisers and this year half-minute spots go for $4.5 million. Think about that while you watch the NFL’s anti-domestic violence PSA that will air as it tries to clean up its image around how its players, fans, and advertisers respect and value the humanity of women. Let me know if you see any hypocrisy there.
Should the NFL address the very serious issue of domestic violence against women during the Super Bowl? Absolutely, given the press leading up to the event, the enormous national audience for Sunday’s game, and the celebrity power and influence star players hold in society.
Let’s just remember after the game ends, a woman’s dignity, worth, and safety still have value. When we see that compromised, we should muster the outrage we feel over mistreated puppies and demand respect and safety for women, too.
Learn more about the NFL campaign against domestic violence here: NoMore.org
1.800.799.SAFE (7233) is the National Domestic Violence hotline number.
Learn more about safe and responsible pet adoption from the American Humane Association here: Buying vs Adopting
Learn more about how to practice media literacy around Super Bowl ads here: Super Bowl Ads and Media Literacy
Melissa Atkins Wardy is a speaker, media consultant, and the author of “Redefining Girly: How Parents Can Fight the Stereotyping and Sexualizing of Girlhood, from Birth to Tween”. She is the creator and owner of Pigtail Pals & Ballcap Buddies, a company that has been offering empowering apparel and gifts to Full of Awesome kids since 2009 www.pigtailpals.com.