When Exploited Puppies Are More Outrageous Than Exploited Women

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.

A GoDaddy advertising yearbook.

A GoDaddy advertising yearbook.


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.

Spokeswoman Danica Patrick plays along with GoDaddy's shenanigans.

Spokeswoman Danica Patrick plays along with GoDaddy’s shenanigans.


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.

During this commercial we see part of a woman's body turned into a billboard.

During this commercial we see part of a woman’s body turned into a billboard.


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 the sexualization of women in media hurts all of us here: Miss Representation   and  Killing Us Softly

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.

Find her at www.melissaatkinswardy.com. You can read her blog at: www.pigtailpalsblog.com or connect with her on Facebook (Pigtail Pals Ballcap Buddies) and Twitter (@PigtailPals).




Asses of Sports Illustrated Swim Issue Six Feet From Kids’ Hands On Learning Area: A Lesson in Naked Women and Men in Suits

What, exactly, is the hands-on learning experience when one brings their child to a popular national bookseller? Well, there are interlocking blocks to manipulate, sets of gender inclusive wooden toys for free play, dress up costumes for imaginary role play, and even a crash course in sexism, objectification, crushing beauty standards, and sexualization.

And you get all of that for free! You just wander around your family book store and while you let your little people stop to play for a bit, BABOOM! Just above eye level of your kindergartner is a display of media crap that even five year olds clearly understand.

Within six feet of the Duplo table (made by Lego for kids 5 and under), the Melissa & Doug preschool toy display, and within 18 inches of the toddler dress up costumes we have this:

Sexualized swim models in upper left corner, impressionable young girl in bottom right corner. A distance of six feet or so.

Sexualized swim models in upper left corner, impressionable young girl in bottom right corner. A distance of six feet or so.

Isn’t that fascinating? Really, take it in for a moment.

Let the sweet little head of that young girl in the bottom right sear into your brain as your eyes travel up diagonally to the topless ass fondling presented to us by Sports Illustrated. Did you even see the girl’s head, or were you zeroed in on the backsides?

Will your kinder kid pick up on the faux-lesbianism-for-the-male-viewers’-sexual-pleasure suggestion from the top row dominated by Sports Illustrated’s annual swim issue?

Will your mini me find intense irony in the fact that the Sports Illustrated swim issue coincides with the Winter Olympics (where fierce, strong women athletes actually compete in sports) and National Eating Disorder Awareness Week (where activists try to educate the general pubic on the prevalence and severity of eating disorders and how the media impacts our body image)? Just typing that makes me chuckle.

That might all be a little over their head, but here is what they will understand loud and clear:

Women are a collection of body parts put on display for others. Men are doers and power brokers who get to wear clothes. 

Now, an older child may take it up a notch: Women are valued for their sex appeal to men and for their bodies, but only if that body is white, thin, and almost naked. Men can be all shapes, sizes, and colors and still be valued.

Your child won’t articulate these messages in that way but as parents have known for millennium, kids soak up everything the see and hear.

The constant bombardment of these images throughout their childhood, if left unchallenged by people raising the child, will act as a foundation that will establish the more advanced understanding I provided above on how women and men establish their worth in our society.

The Sports Illustrated 2014 swim issue.

The Sports Illustrated 2014 swim issue.

I’m not going to dive into a shocked hide-sex-from-the-kids prudish rant demanding modesty or needing black sleeves over the cover or even the retailer’s right to sell this issue. What I am going to do is ask you, moms and dads, what exactly do you want your kids learning about what it means to be a man and what it means to be a woman? What do you want them learning about their worth in society? Ask yourself why are there no nearly-naked men? Why are there no women wearing power suits, standing in authoritative poses? Or playing professional team sports for which they earn millions upon millions of dollars?

Here are the other covers the accompany this SI issue in this particular display.



Runners   Baseball     GQ    Baseball.2  SI swimcover

A PPBB Community Member, Mandy McManus Emedi, shared with me that during a recent trip to Barnes & Noble she told the manager that she was struggling with the SI magazine being merchandised at the checkout. “I’m very thankful my five-year olds aren’t here with me. It is precisely at their eye level.” The manager said he understood my concern, and could “take it up the chain of command.”

So what is a parent to do when he or she has just spent the better part of an hour looking for girl-empowering chapter books with the all-important female protagonist who saves the day without ending up in a romantic relationship as her crowning achievement and as said parent accompanies the child to the register her young, impressionable mind is staring at the SI cover getting the message that no matter what girl-centric adventures she reads she will be most celebrated if she and her girlfriends grow up to have photo-perfect bodies with which they romp around topless in the surf while men they don’t know oggle their bodies? What if that parent is there with his or her daughter who is getting study guides to help with the ACTs so that she can get into the college she wants and yet here is one more reminder that the most important thing she can do in our culture is look thin and sexy at all times?

This isn’t a Barnes & Noble issue. This is a cultural issue. I took this photo of my kids at our local mall’s play area last year:

Spencer's store front window one year ago.

Spencer’s store front window one year ago.

It is a cultural issue and unless we change it by pushing back against retailers and using our consumer dollars to follow the strength of our convictions, nothing changes. Unless we teach our kids to reject these messages, nothing changes.

~ Talk to the manager of the store and suggest exploitative magazines should not be placed where kids can absorb those sexist and harmful messages.

~ Better yet, right before you talk to the manager walk across Barnes & Noble to go buy “Redefining Girly: How Parents Can Fight the Stereotyping and Sexualizing of Girlhood, Birth to Tween” and have it in hand during your conversation.

~ Talk to your friends and family about these issues. What seems so simple may not be because this is ingrained in our culture. Make the people around you think about this stuff, question it, and push back. “Once you see it, you can’t unsee it”

~ Don’t buy media that reduces women to sex objects.

~ Teach your children that women and girls are not objects, they are agents with complex lives, goals, desires, and adventures.

~ Talk with your kids about this, teach them to question and challenge it and to use their voices if they feel strongly about something. Teach them to call out retailers and how to have productive conversations with decision makers who can help bring about meaningful change.

~ Model for your kids at home what real respect for men and women looks like.

~ Teach your kids, especially your daughters, that they are more than the sum of their parts.

And finally, teach them that until we start to see images like the ones below as the routine way that we see women depicted in media, we’ve got a long way to go:



Melissa Brantley photo credit, with special thanks to Gabrielle Tenn New and Mandy McManus Emedi.

Dear ChapStick, We’re Through

Pfizer Consumer Healthcare
PO Box 26609
Richmond VA 23261-6609

Attention – ChapStick Consumer Relations

To Whom It May Concern:

I have used your brand for 25years, ever since my mom put my very first tube of ChapStick in the bib pocket of my snowpants before heading out for an afternoon of sledding. I can remember feeling very grown up, and ever since I have had a tube or six of Cherry ChapStick in a pocket or arm’s reach. I have used your brand on my own children, and they know to swipe their lips before heading out to play during our chilly Wisconsin winters. That’s all over now.

ChapStick, we’re through. My family will not be using your brand again. I tried to tell you why on Facebook, but you deleted my comment. You deleted the comments of many, many women who spoke out against your objectifying ad “Where Do Lost ChapSticks Go?” prominently featuring the back end of a woman bent over a couch. In fact, before you deleted it, the photo file uploaded to your page by some intern was labeled “Ass”. I do not support companies that use the objectified body parts of women to sell their product. I do not support a company that deletes the voices of its female customers, but allow sexist and sexual comments from men to remain. I refuse support a company that disrespects its female customers, both in its advertising and social media outreach. As a woman, a mother, and a small business owner those actions offend me. 

Why you paid an advertising agency big dollars to use a woman’s “Ass” to sell me a product I put on my lips seems a bit off. Why you chose to go with the ad that sexualizes a woman and gives off that low budget, basement porny-feeling right at the beginning of the winter season when every parent across America is in need a good balm to put on her kid’s lips seems to me as though you don’t understand that women control 86% of consumer spending. There isn’t much in question about your ad – the odd pose, butt in the air, the skin tight jeans, the sexy blowing hair – it is all a mind-numbingly sophomoric use of implied sex to sell a product. The thing is, for everyone who uses (used) ChapStick, we know that those little tubes go missing all of the time, and there were dozens of other very clever ways for you to depict this. But you didn’t. You chose to go with “Ass”.

So I no longer go with ChapStick. This weekend I spent $16.00 on four tubes of Burt’s Bees and I love my new balm. I’ll be a Burt’s customer now, because I don’t have to worry about them sexualizing and degrading me or my daughter, nor reinforcing to my husband and son that women are nothing more than sex objects. That is simply not good enough for my family, and I do not accept it.


Melissa Wardy


UPDATE: Because ChapStick is deleting voices from Facebook and does not have a Twitter account, should you choice to join you voice and speak out against this, I encourage a mailed letter, or add your signature to the change.org petition:


“Turning a human being into a thing is almost always the first step towards justifying violence against that person.”- Jean Kilbourne, Wellesley Centers for Women, Miss Representation


Updated Update: ChapStick has removed the ad and issue a really crappy apology that is both deflective and untruthful.

We see that not everyone likes our new ad, and please know that we certainly didn’t mean to offend anyone! Our fans and their voices are at the heart of our new advertising campaign, but we know we don’t always get it right. We’ve removed the image and will share a newer ad with our fans soon! We apologize that fans have felt like their posts are being deleted and while we never intend to pull anyone’s comments off our wall, we do comply with Facebook guidelines and remove posts that use foul language, have repetitive messaging, those that are considered spam-like (multiple posts from a person within a short period of time) and are menacing to fans and employees