Life and Style

A debate over feminist Super Bowl ads: helpful or harmful

Serena Williams, along with other prominent celebrities, starred in commercials during the Super Bowl that caused a lot of debate in the feminist movement. 

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“But if I waited to be invited in, I never would have stood out.”

Running parallel with her rising career in tennis, Serena Williams has also emerged as an empowering feminist. Her latest display of this took form in a Super Bowl Commercial. 

Bumble, an app most popular for its online dating function that only allows women to make the first move, produced a commercial that emphasized Williams’ constant ambition. 

A feminist super bowl

The theme of feminism did not fall short during the anticipated Super Bowl LIII commercials. The “We Believe: The Best Men Can Be” Gillette commercial that was released about two weeks prior to the game could be seen as a foreshadow for what the tone would be for the game.

This spot featured men facing classic misogynistic issues of the past and working to be better. The response to Gillette’s move was controversy on both sides. 

So that poses the question of, why do companies take this stance? Why would a shaving supplies company take such a risk? What is the motive? It spurs the debate of whether the feminist Super Bowl ads were hurting or harming the feminist movement as a whole. 

Feminism, is a multifaceted movement that has been essentially reduced to a trend. You can buy it. You can wear it. It’s cool. So why wouldn’t brands try to hop on the bandwagon of this marketable feminism? Well, that seems to be exactly what happened this past Sunday. 

Brands that hopped on the femme bandwagon

Toyota released a commercial about Antoinette “Toni” Harris, a woman who has been a trailblazer in the female football community. Toyota attempts to compare Harris’ movement to break from the stereotypes, to the originality of their new 2019 hybrid which they claim, “will shatter perceptions.” 

Pampers released a commercial with John Legend changing his baby’s diaper. In the background, there are a bunch of men holding babies and at the end of the spot, the words “Love the Change,” appear. There is a play on words, referring to changing babies’ diapers and changing the way we think of homemakers. 

A common argument is that commercials like these shouldn’t have aired at all and also involves the general argument that feminism cannot survive within capitalism. As consumers, it’s important to think a bit deeper about the images that are put in front of us. 

It’s crucial to recognize that some brands are working to use trends, like this watered-down form of feminism, to make money, instead of to create change. Marketable feminism can move further away from the work-in-progress that is the core feminist movement.

These things should be questioned and consumers should hold these brands who take social movements and use them for profit accountable for doing more than just making money.  

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