For the past couple of years, I have joined hundreds of women and men who have responded to sexist SuperBowl ads. In 2012, I analyzed Danica Patrick’s participation in GoDaddy’s ad and the implications of David Beckham’s come-hither looks. Afterwards, I joined The Representation Project’s letter-writing and twitter campaign, letting advertisers know that sexism is unacceptable, and will lose them business. At first, this effort felt like an uphill battle—advertisers seemed to think we were a nuisance that would soon go away. The 2013 SuperBowl was awash in sexist ads, and I analyzed them again—and shared the frustrated responses of others online, using The Representation Project’s #NotBuyingIt hashtag. This year, we were ready for the SuperBowl: The Representation Project created a #NotBuyingIt app that would allow viewers to tweet directly to advertisers during the game. And while there were some notable examples of sexism and racism in the ads, they were fewer, and less blatant. Some ads actually embraced diversity and empowered women. Woah, y’all. Woah. Now that is progress.
As The Representation Project put it in a letter to supporters, “Across the Internet, many affirmed the impact of #NotBuyingIt in changing the culture of Super Bowl commercials. In fact, Go Daddy shared they had read every one of the 7,500 #NotBuyingIt tweets sent to them during last year’s Super Bowl.” We’re having an impact. But there’s still a long way to go.
Elizabeth Plank called out Volkswagen’s sexist ad, and there were others. There are always others. Our media is driven by the objectification of women, and that isn’t going to stop anytime soon—it is too important to what Naomi Wolf terms the beauty myth, the social construction of beauty that keeps women focused on something besides our own progress. We are seeing cracks in the armor of this myth, but we are also seeing some re-fortification of it, both for women and men.
Still, I think it is important to take a moment and let this sink in: activism made a difference. It continues to make a difference.
When we raise our voices, together, we can be heard. We can create positive change. I’ve experienced this in my own life, and when I have days that feel as though change is too slow, I remember the experiences I’ve had that made a difference, both to me and someone else—and I look around at the larger impact we are all making.
Let’s keep this in mind as we move forward, dismantling the beauty myth one commercial, TV show, movie, magazine, or video at a time. If we refuse to buy the beauty myth—internally as well as externally—our media will change to reflect who we are, rather than the other way around.