Monday, February 08, 2010

There's sexist and then there's sexist.

"Book Reading Party" Bud Light Super Bowl Ad 2010 Commercia
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I didn't watch the Super Bowl so I didn't see the commercials but I began stumbling on a lot of sites where an intense conversation rant is taking place over the sexism in the Bud Lite commercial. Many of these are accompanied by the video of the ad so I got to see it. I confess that my first reaction to it was to crack up. Sure there is blatant sexist stereotyping going on here. But it is so over the top it is almost a spoof of itself. More the flavor of a sitcom written in the Jr High boy's locker room. The kind of thing that calls attention to crass behavior to mark it as crass. It leaves me wondering why Budweiser wishes to be typecast as a tasteless, low class beverage.

Compare that to the advocacy ad sponsored by Focus on the Family. The tone at first is touching, heart-string pulling with a woman talking as she gazes at a baby picture about how she still worries about her son who had a touch-and-go start in life and then Tim Tebow 'tackles' his Mom, knocking her off her feet which abruptly changes the mood to light-hearted and funny that quickly segues into touching again as mother and son face the camera cheek to cheek and the message: celebrate life appears on the screen along with the URL to Focus on the Family where the Tim Tebow story can be seen in full.

Which one of these is the most sexist in intent? Which the most dangerous for women?

I see a stark difference between them. The Bud Lite ad exploits our culture stereotypes while poking fun at them which actually works against implying that such behavior ought to be the norm. Which means we've come a long way from the 1950s era in terms of how women's and men's roles are depicted on TV and film.

The Focus on the Family ad though, is a subtle weapon in the hands of a declared patriarchal agenda that won't be content until women's roles are returned to the 1850s era. The ad presents a touching story of one family's triumph over adversity, one family's ultimate joy and sets it up as a tool in the service of enforcing a new dark age on women's autonomy.

I find it very telling that they chose the image of the son tackling his mother and knocking her to the ground. I believe it is a not so subtle (and yet probably un-conscious on their part) message from Focus on the Family as to their true intent.

Seen in that light it is not so funny; not so cute; and far from heart-warming.

I first became aware of the existence of this ad well before the day it aired. I received a number of requests in my in-box to protest it and call on CBS to pull it. But that goes against my sense of right as much as the religious right agenda does. It is more than just the free speech aspect too, though that is huge in itself. I would rather have it out there where everyone can see it in the full light so it can be examined and critiqued and become the subject of dialog and debate that engages everybody in a discussion of the implications. I do not hold with any stifling of another's voice. Not even when I disagree. Especially when I disagree.

5 tell me a story:

Anonymous,  2/09/2010 6:01 AM  

"The Focus on the Family ad though, is a subtle weapon in the hands of a declared patriarchal agenda that won't be content until women's roles are returned to the 1850s era."

Sheer paranoia. Amazingly, "The Handmaid's Tale" hasn't come to pass despite the best efforts of the proponents of the "patriarchal agenda."

It requires a great effort of interpretation and imagination to see another's world through their eyes. I know you can do it. You just need to try harder.


Joy Renee 2/09/2010 11:27 AM  


Just for the record--which by the way is clearly stated elsewhere on here--I grew up in their world. Thus it takes no effort of imagination seeing the world through their eyes.

I didn't say I believed they would get their way in the end, only that they wouldn't be content unless they did.

Anonymous,  2/09/2010 11:38 AM  

I'm sorry if you grew up in a family with a "patriarchal agenda" but your alarmism doesn't square with my experience of people who sympathize with the view expressed in the ad.

Being rightward in many respects, I react to posts like yours because I simply can't see anything that I resemble in your vision of the right.

Part of the problem, I think, is that people see questions as a matter of backward and forward on a continuum of enlightenment when in fact they may be questions that hinge on a philosophical principle.

For example, what year does the notion of moral equality belong to? 1863? 500 B.C.? Or is this simply a wrong way of thinking about such things?


Joy Renee 2/09/2010 2:52 PM  


Since I grew up in an extreme, almost cult like, fundamentalist group, you probably don't resemble what I experienced as reality for 30 some years.

I also tend to sympathize with the overt message in that ad--if I'd ever been in that mother's position I too would have chosen to risk my own life to bring my baby to term. But I find the idea of forcing another woman to do so as repugnant as the idea of being forced to abort.

That being said, what philosophical principle or notion of moral equality does I Samuel 15:3 belong to?

I'm not being flippant. It was an act of vivid imagination upon reading this chapter in my late thirties--the conjuring of an image in which a bronze age soldier in righteous obedience to his God impales an infant to its mother's breast--that catapulted me out of the worldview I grew up in.

Maybe you don't hold, like our group did (and Dobson does), that OT books have equal weight with the Gospels and that obedience to the God as defined by that verse trumps compassion or any other principle we can imagine with our evil little rebellious minds.

I still love Jesus but in order to remain sane I had to stop believing his Father and that god were one and the same.

Unless you wish to consider the possibility that God evolved on a continuum of enlightenment, then either God is a brutal tyrant with no love in him or that story was a man-produced triumphant justification for the genocide these tribes committed upon their neighbors.

Dobson, however, is on the record as believing the OT god (even that depicted in I Sam 15) is one and the same with the NT God of love. And that obedience to this god trumps compassion. And he uses his multi-million name mailing list as a tool in lobbying congress and raising funds to promote his worldview with the goal of enforcing it upon the nation.

This makes me wary of anything produced or promoted by FOTF but I would be first to defend their right to promote their views. Along with anyone else's right to counter, defend, or critique them.

You could be right there is an element of paranoia in my reaction to anything FOTF. But it is a paranoia rooted in personal experience.

I have no wish to proselytize you or anyone else to my views. I had my fill of that--three decades worth--and it makes me weary to contemplate.

Anonymous,  2/10/2010 7:33 AM  


Thanks for your thoughtful reply.

I guess it would have helped if I'd read your little bio. My immediate response is to reiterate that I know loads of people on the pro-life side who would consider your upbringing extreme and even horrifying.

I don't come out of the literal-minded, bible-obsessed tradition so the mentality you describe, while familiar to me as an observer, is quite foreign to my own world view.

My point about a continuum is that I don't see this issue as hinging on being attached to an earlier or later view of things but rather a principle, namely that snuffing out human life is ethically significant unlike, say, clipping a toenail or having your gall bladder out.

Speaking broadly, the view that the later is morally better than the earlier is a progressive one. It's not that change doesn't happen, but rather moral relations change in many respects without necessarily being better or worse. Human nature doesn't change, even if we can learn things from new situations and the gradual accumulation of knowledge. The fear of the (conservative) opposition is also a typical kind of progressive projection. I don't mean this harshly or disrespectfully, as it's an understandable error, thinking that others think as one does. But conservatives (again, speaking generally) don't want to remake the world the way progressives do.

To a certain extent, conservatives have become a little more like progressives in this regard, but it is a defensive action more than anything else. I'm not sympathetic to the entire FOTF view, but I share some of their attachment to tradition.

That said, I wouldn't want to live in a world dominated by fundamentalist Protestants any more than you do, but I don't see any danger of that. I read in the tone of the ad not stealth, as you seem to, but rather acknowledgment that this particular argument will only succeed on gentler grounds and with more modest aims.

Again, if I can respond in a similar vein to you, I react because I don't recognize myself or my philosophy when I see positions similar to mine being challenged. The point is that maybe conservatism isn't necessarily what people left of center so often think it is. Obviously there are extremes, but your folks are a long way off from mine and from me. If the philosophical balance were a little different, I would find myself more closely allied with many of my more progressive friends rather than the FOTF types.


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