Superbowl commercial sexism: #NotBuyingIt

Superbowl 46 was yesterday, and the Giants won, and someone has really small hands, and that’s pretty much where my football expertise ends. But I did watch a number of the commercials, because – and this is a sign that American capitalism is alive and well and not at any risk of being overcome by President Obama’s Kenyan socialism – the ads are almost as big a deal as the game itself.

If you were on Twitter during the game, you might have noticed the hashtag #NotBuyingIt, which was started by Miss Representation and designed to critique the depiction of women in these very expensive, very widely-viewed ads. As Maya noted at MoJo, “women make up about half of the Super Bowl’s audience and they’re more likely than men to tune in for the ads, rather than the game.” Yet, Superbowl advertisers have no problem insulting women in their ads, and they “do an especially good job of missing the point by acting as though dudes are the only ones watching.”

So, what was on offer last night from Madison Avenue, that bastion of feminism and fairness? Here’s a taste.

This ad from Kia sends a pretty clear message that men and women are totally different species with totally different dreamworlds. A woman dreams of riding across a meadow on the back of a white horse with a handsome fairytale princess under a rainbow sky. But a man dreams of driving a race car while Adriana Lima and thousands of hot bikini-clad women cheer him and Motley Crue plays and something about a giant sandwich and a boxing match.

And these two worlds are so separate and different that a Kia is the only thing that can bring them together.

Speaking of dreams, this GoDaddy commercial, in which the domain name company promised us that using its cloud technology would be like coding in the middle of a pornographic dream, was one of the biggest fumbles of the night, according to Hulu. We’ve come to expect nothing more than this garbage from GoDaddy.

And while I’m sure Danica Patrick is grateful for the endorsement deal, there is something revolting about a corporate sponsor taking a woman who has made it in a highly male-dominated and masculine field, car racing, and putting her back in a woman’s rightful place: in a skimpy costume under the male gaze.

And speaking of fairness and equality, H & M wants you to know that crushingly unrealistic beauty standards aren’t just for women and girls anymore! Now men can hate their bodies just as much as women do! Hurrah for equality!

New York, NY

Chloe Angyal is a journalist and scholar of popular culture from Sydney, Australia. She joined the Feministing team in 2009. Her writing about politics and popular culture has been published in The Atlantic, The Guardian, New York magazine, Reuters, The LA Times and many other outlets in the US, Australia, UK, and France. She makes regular appearances on radio and television in the US and Australia. She has an AB in Sociology from Princeton University and a PhD in Arts and Media from the University of New South Wales. Her academic work focuses on Hollywood romantic comedies; her doctoral thesis was about how the genre depicts gender, sex, and power, and grew out of a series she wrote for Feministing, the Feministing Rom Com Review. Chloe is a Senior Facilitator at The OpEd Project and a Senior Advisor to The Harry Potter Alliance. You can read more of her writing at

Chloe Angyal is a journalist and scholar of popular culture from Sydney, Australia.

Read more about Chloe

Join the Conversation

  • Abigail

    The John Stamos Oikos yogurt ad really made my skin crawl! In the commercial he is seated at a table with a woman, teasing her with spoonfuls of yogurt before eating them himself. She grows frustrated and headbutts him and he falls to the ground and is out of the frame for the rest of the ad as she smugly eats the yogurt.

    Since when is it okay to depict domestic violence as normal and even “cute” in order to sell yogurt?

  • Samantha

    Adriana Lima is really on a roll. She also appeared in another commercial during the Superbowl for Teleflora in which she seems to be preparing for a date after getting a bouquet of flowers. While she is getting into her little black dress, of course the camera pays special attention to her zipping the dress zipper across her bare back and rolling her stockings onto her pointed toes and up her smooth legs. At the end, she explains Valentine’s Day routine is simple–“Give, and you shall receive.” It obviously suggests that all it takes to get a woman in bed are flowers. Once again, sex becomes not an act of passion, not an outlet to express our most intimate feelings for one another, but a commodity.

    • James

      Couldn’t have worded it better myself. The commercials were so disappointing this year.

  • Jenny

    If Danica Patrick thought that godaddy was “putting her back in a woman’s rightful place: in a skimpy costume under the male gaze” she could have told godaddy she is quitting her job and then that would take care of that problem.

  • Andrew

    I was listening to the Karel show on KGO radio after the SB and heard about this ranking on ranking the Godaddy commercials the worst of the bunch.

    Good thing the public is disgusted with the GoDaddy sexism. However, the Oikos ad with the fighting couple was ranked #10. Lima’s Telefora #38. The Godaddy ads #53 and #56 (there were 56 ranked in all.)

  • esquared

    Agreed. The ads reinforced harmful stereotypes for women and men. They also either glorified or made light of violence. Glad to see the campaign by against Go Daddy and glad to see male feminists speaking out –