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Jill began blogging for Feministe in 2005. She has since written as a weekly columnist for the Guardian newspaper and in April 2014 she was appointed as senior political writer for Cosmopolitan magazine.
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43 Responses

  1. norbizness
    norbizness February 8, 2010 at 12:36 pm |

    I liked that Dodge commercial better the first time, when it was called Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer.

  2. Angie
    Angie February 8, 2010 at 12:43 pm |

    I’m surprised that one particular tire commercial didn’t make the list. In the commercial, a sleek car drives down a highway at night, only to encounter a roadblock full of thugs. The leader of the hooligans demands, “your tires or your life!”. The driver pushes a woman out of the car and drives off, leaving the disappointed brigands to lament, “I said LIFE, not WIFE!”

    Yeah, great message, guys. Women are expendable. Sacrifice your woman to save your possessions. Honestly, Superbowl commercials can’t get much more sexist!

    I agree that the “Dodge Charger: Man’s Last Stand” commercial is frightening, as it comes within a hair’s breadth of condoning domestic violence (“We know you probably want to hit her, but buy a car instead”).

    Isn’t there some constructive action we can take? Isn’t there some media advocacy group we can ally with to call out these sexist advertizers?

  3. jfm
    jfm February 8, 2010 at 12:46 pm |

    The polling feature is fascinating. Of course it’s not exactly a scientific one, but even without necessarily having a good representative sampling it absolutely does point out the fact that there’s often a significant gap between the messages these companies are trying to convey in their ads, and the messages people receive or are receptive to. In this case we can see that many advertising campaigns seem to be based on the assumption that men dislike the women in their lives and feel anxious about their masculinity–in other words, women are evil bitches and men are weak and incompetent. But many of the men voting on these ads don’t particularly like them and aren’t buying into that message. Misogyny + misandry is perhaps not a winning formula, at least not for everyone in the audience.

    It’s probably also worth noting that these ads essentially use the same basic tactic as is often used for ads targeted to women: there’s something horribly horribly wrong with you, and to fix yourself you need to buy our stuff.

  4. Steph
    Steph February 8, 2010 at 12:48 pm |

    Isn’t the Doriotos ad with the little kid offensive too though? I felt it put women in the same category as Doritos…property. *Shrugs*

  5. Renee
    Renee February 8, 2010 at 12:58 pm |

    Would it be possible to erase the hulu ad with a youtube version? Those of us that live outside of the US do not have access to hulu. Or for future reference the same thing applies to comedy central.

  6. Samantha
    Samantha February 8, 2010 at 1:44 pm |

    Yes, I am with Renee, please use Youtube versions whenever possible. We can’t view the hulu videos outside the US.

  7. Seize
    Seize February 8, 2010 at 1:46 pm |

    Oh, and did I mention that a television serial-killer (Michael Hall who plays Dexter) does the voice-over? That’s not creepy or violence promoting at all.

    A minor criticism: I agree with you wholeheartedly with most of your observations, but I think pulling in Michael Hall’s role as Dexter is a bit of a stretch. As you discussed, the writing, shooting and acting of that commercial make it plenty scary without us having to phone in something about the voice actor.

    But on to other things. While misogyny was in force, either overtly or covertly, throughout most of the Superbowl commercials, I really enjoyed the elegantly simple ad by Google, which painted the picture of a happy, adventurous man who finds love, marries, and fathers a child. Implicit to the ad’s very concept is the assumption that this man has agency in his decisions to love, to marry, and to have a family life. It’s a captivating and effective ad that manages to target the desired demographic without resorting to another tired play on anxious, subtractive masculinity. I found it a breath of fresh air in an otherwise deeply misogynistic three hours. (There may have been other “good” commercials, but no other stand out in my memory.)

  8. Jadey
    Jadey February 8, 2010 at 1:51 pm |

    Yeah, same comment on the Hulu links here. I mean, have the Hulu, by all means, but it would be awesome if a link to YouTube or other internationally-accessible places could be thrown in as a back-up.

  9. CBrachyrhynchos
    CBrachyrhynchos February 8, 2010 at 1:53 pm |

    The urge to buy a TV tuner and do more than suck down the occasional show from Hulu strikes now and then. And then I read something like this and change my mind.

  10. PrettyAmiable
    PrettyAmiable February 8, 2010 at 2:52 pm |

    PS, Thanks to Kate and Jill for pointing this out. A friend of mine and I are presenting on Dockers for one of our classes on Wednesday and we did some research briefly about where they are today which involved a trip to their website where they have a male intoning, “I WEAR THE PANTS.”

    O rly? Even the Dockers for women? What a shitty, inconsistent message.

    But, thank you, because while hulu’s methodology might be suspect (I for instance voted without identifying myself in anyway and don’t really know what happened to my vote), it’s definitely neat to know that more men thought the ad was lacking. Why, of course, remains to be seen. It wasn’t fleshed out in the comments.

  11. benvolio
    benvolio February 8, 2010 at 3:10 pm |

    Now, I love me some Betty White, and I loved watching her so gamely playing football. But goddamn if the point of that is that without snickers, a manly man is an old woman.

  12. Kat
    Kat February 8, 2010 at 3:29 pm |

    I was pretty disappointed in the ads this year. Sigh.

    After all the hype, the Tim Tebow ad I found to be really odd… he tackles his mother? What’s up with that? Very odd indeed.

  13. Andy
    Andy February 8, 2010 at 3:33 pm |

    I’m torn on both the Sneakers and Dove commercials. The snickers one because even though it featured Betty White, at the end it was more implied that you’re going to play like an old person if you’re hungry. Not necessarily a poor woman. However, I still cringe that its suddenly okay at the end because they included an older man to compliment the older woman (“See its not sexist!”).

    Dove can kind of be interpreted as rejecting the “This is how guy’s live” idea at the end.

    But Dodge and FloTV can expect me to never patronize them.

  14. Noble Savage
    Noble Savage February 8, 2010 at 3:51 pm |

    I’m with Steph, I found the Doritos commercial inappropriate and sexist along with the others. What, a grown woman needs her 4-year-old son to ‘protect’ her and the child feels he is in charge of her love life because he’s the ‘man of the house’ (since she’s a single mom and incapable of good judgment, after all)? I didn’t find that cute at all, it was creepy.

  15. Comrade Kevin
    Comrade Kevin February 8, 2010 at 4:52 pm |

    I dislike the messages on a pretty basic level. I don’t like it when Madison Avenue tries to lecture or chide me on not being whatever kind of masculinity it thinks I need to be. If I were a woman and was exposed to this sort of thinking in a strictly feminine construct, I’d be just as offended.

  16. thetroubleis
    thetroubleis February 8, 2010 at 6:00 pm |


    What I liked best about the Google commercial is that the gender of the one searching never came up. It could have easily been a woman, so I found it a bit funny that you jumped to it being a man.

  17. Lauren O
    Lauren O February 8, 2010 at 6:33 pm |

    The best part of all this was that as soon as the Superbowl had ended, the Yahoo front page had a story about how the ads were all making fun of men with a headline that was something like, “Men Take a Beating In Superbowl Ads” (paraphrasing from memory).

  18. quartzpebble
    quartzpebble February 8, 2010 at 6:54 pm |

    @thetroubleis “Mignon” is the masculine form of that adjective; “mignonne” is the feminine. So someone saying “tu es tres mignon” is addressing someone male.

  19. Henry
    Henry February 8, 2010 at 8:25 pm |

    I can see it in a way. The whole idea of “you will live a life oppressed by estrogenical tyranny without our products because you are pathetic” is insulting to everyone, men and women.

    Christ, if you don’t want to go shopping with your girlfriend or quietly submit to things you don’t like in your relationship, then just don’t do it. Don’t get all passive-aggressive about it like some weak punk.

  20. sophonisba
    sophonisba February 8, 2010 at 8:35 pm |

    What I liked best about the Google commercial is that the gender of the one searching never came up.

    No, it did; the english-speaking protagonist googled “tu es tres mignon,” not “mignonne.” It’s explicitly a man who meets and marries a woman.

    However, it is still a very cute non-sexist ad, and they wouldn’t have to change a thing besides the grammatical genders to make it about two women, two men, or a woman meeting a man, which is pretty noteworthy and nice.

  21. Tom Foolery
    Tom Foolery February 8, 2010 at 9:10 pm |

    It’s explicitly a man who meets and marries a woman.

    OR it’s a woman who meets and marries a woman with bad grammar.

  22. thetroubleis
    thetroubleis February 8, 2010 at 9:32 pm |

    Sorry. I apologize for not speaking French.

  23. thetroubleis
    thetroubleis February 8, 2010 at 9:32 pm |

    Err, that came out snarkier than I meant it to.

  24. Gillian
    Gillian February 8, 2010 at 9:43 pm |

    I agree that I found the Doritos commercial with the little boy also rather disturbing and creepy, though at least it was a break from the misogyny.

    The one little tiny thing that made me love the Google ad even more is that when the searcher types “how to impress a French girl,” the search results came back as “how to impress a French woman.” Maybe that was random and I am reading into it too much, but when a 24 year old professional such as myself still gets referred to as a “girl,” I have to take time to appreciate the little things.

    Has anyone seen and loved the similar Google commercial using the story of Batman? It is nerdy and hilarious.

  25. harlemjd
    harlemjd February 8, 2010 at 10:44 pm |

    Serious, car dudes? Your wife is enforcing when you show up to work? and how long the work meetings are?

  26. Nicole
    Nicole February 8, 2010 at 10:49 pm |

    I’ve seen the Google Batman ad! The whole “searches telling a story” thing is a very cute campaign, direct but inventive. And other than being heteronormative, the sweet romantic tone of the ad was a welcome break from the other ones.

    I’m also surprised the gross Bridgestone “tires or your life/wife” ad wasn’t mentioned here: That one really made me shudder. I do think the worst one was the Dodge ad, though.

  27. Bagelsan
    Bagelsan February 8, 2010 at 11:17 pm |

    Dodge was by far the worst. The other ones I rolled by eyes and was like “this is fucking weak” but that one had me not wanting to break eye contact or make sudden movements. I forget where I saw it, but someone mentioned that Dodge was basically selling men the truck they will eventually drive to a gym to go on a woman-hating shooting spree and I couldn’t agree more. If your first thought in the morning is uncontrollable rage against your wife or girlfriend that is seriously disturbing.

  28. Meg
    Meg February 8, 2010 at 11:24 pm |

    “OR it’s a woman who meets and marries a woman with bad grammar.”

    But they got married in Paris. Isn’t gay marriage illegal in France atm?

  29. silencewillnotprotectyou
    silencewillnotprotectyou February 8, 2010 at 11:44 pm |

    come on, now. that’s a bit much. are you going to tackle everyone who disagrees with you and says what they believe? you are free to disagree with whatever you choose, but be civil about it at least.

    and yes, on a whole the ads were terrible. in year’s past there’s been at least one or two that make me laugh… but not this year. and i really don’t understand this recent strong wave of telling men what it is that makes them men… and it’s always things that have absolutely nothing to do with being a man. burgers! steak! trucks! immaturity! yes! ugh.

  30. etiquette bitch
    etiquette bitch February 9, 2010 at 9:12 am |

    Well said, thanks! What’s interesting, too, is that women make 80% of all purchasing decisions — not men. Too bad these brainless, sexist advertisers don’t get this.

  31. snobographer
    snobographer February 9, 2010 at 11:36 am |

    etiquette bitch – women are also like 40-50 percent of the Superbowl viewing audience, so the assumption that all the commercials (except the anti-abortion propaganda piece and the heart health PSA) should be aimed at men is pretty stupid too. You think maybe some time this century advertisers can finally retire the assumption that men are the only people who buy cars and tires? Please?

    There was a blog post on Time magazine’s site written by a male media critic that snarked on the sexism in the commercials, which I found encouraging. Not to dole out cookies, but it was a refreshing change to see a male media critic in a mainstream publication call out misogynist advertising for what it is rather than go off on the usual old tirade about shrill, hysterical feminists.

  32. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub February 9, 2010 at 12:35 pm |

    silencewillnotprotectyou–How is the original post uncivil? How are the comments, saying they find the ads disturbing, uncivil? They are only stating their opinions. And seriously, please just drop the tone arguments. Considering how often women get this kind of misogyny thrown at us, it shouldn’t be surprising if we’re not offering these marketers tea and crumpets.

  33. R. Dave
    R. Dave February 9, 2010 at 12:40 pm |

    Honest question about the blowback/backlash against redefining traditional masculinity. Is it really such a big deal? Again, I mean that as an honest question, not as trolling. I don’t even come close to the masculine stereotype underlying those ads, but I do identify with certain aspects of it and thus enjoy playing up the exaggerated caricature. And I see that, rather than any kind of misogyny, as the appeal of these ads.

    It’s similar to my self-identification as a geek. I enjoy traditionally geeky activities – video games, D&D, comic books, internet memes, etc. – but I really don’t come close to the stereotype of a “true” geek. Still, I enjoy ads and jokes that appeal to that aspect of my personality and highlight my identity as part of that sub-culture.

    Same deal with the SB ads.

  34. PrettyAmiable
    PrettyAmiable February 9, 2010 at 12:58 pm |

    Wait, why hasn’t this prick been banned yet? Can we get on this? He or she has actually been going post to post to berate those of us who have an opinion that is consistent with his or hers. We’re uncivil, we have nothing better to do with our time, etc. I’m done. Can we have a call (and a nomination for the Next Top Troll)?

  35. PrettyAmiable
    PrettyAmiable February 9, 2010 at 12:59 pm |


  36. Ginjoint
    Ginjoint February 9, 2010 at 1:07 pm |

    I agree with Angie and Nicole – that Bridgestone ad? I was sitting on my couch, but my jaw was on the floor. The implication of impending gang-rape was right there, no doubt about it. And hey! My car does need new tires. Guess which kind I won’t be buying.

  37. tinfoil hattie
    tinfoil hattie February 9, 2010 at 1:13 pm |

    Implicit to the ad’s very concept is the assumption that this man has agency in his decisions to love, to marry, and to have a family life.

    Yes. Another story about a man. A man with agency, which women don’t have in patriarchy. A presumably heterosexual man, because he’s a “mignon” looking for a French “girl.”

    Assumes men want to get married; assumes men are the pursuers; assumes men are heterosexual.

    Boring, trivial, cliched.

  38. Red Stapler
    Red Stapler February 10, 2010 at 12:09 am |

    @tinfoil hattie: Yes, but it was charming and romantic, and told a story, which can’t be said about most of the ads this year.

    There was an elegance to the storytelling that is missing in a lot of media today, let alone our advertising.

    That it’s from a male POV and heteronormative shouldn’t be ignored, but why discount what it did well?

  39. PTS
    PTS February 10, 2010 at 1:58 am |

    Is the Michael Hall/serial killer thing a joke? I certainly hope so.

  40. tinfoil hattie
    tinfoil hattie February 10, 2010 at 4:40 am |

    why discount what it did well?

    Because I disagree that it did something “well.” Hence the terms “boring, trivial, cliched.”

    As part of the other 51% of the population, I’m not all that influenced by some fictional dude finding some fictional “French girl” to marry.

  41. lauredhel
    lauredhel February 10, 2010 at 7:37 am |

    Dexter relies heavily on first-person voiceover, and it sounds to me (having watched some interviews as well) that Hall is in-character as Dexter in that commercial. (I found a youtube version here.) Which, yes, adds to the creep factor.

  42. P.T. Smith
    P.T. Smith February 10, 2010 at 8:37 am |

    “and it sounds to me (having watched some interviews as well) that Hall is in-character as Dexter in that commercial. ”

    Yeah, at first I was dismissive of the Dexter connection, but once I saw the ad, yeah, even if he isn’t “playing Dexter,” and the audience has no idea who or what Dexter is, he is using a very, very similiar tone, and there is a reason he uses that tone in Dexter. So, yeah, adding to the creep factor.

  43. FeministLookingGlass
    FeministLookingGlass February 11, 2010 at 7:17 pm |

    […] featured an onslaught of sexist commercials, apparently geared towards men who feel ‘emasculated’ […]

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