Super Bowl XLVII: A Step Forward for Feminism?

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I saw this year’s Super Bowl as very progressive in terms of feminism.  However, I wouldn’t go so far as to say that it was a huge step forward.  While it had some great aspects, there are still some underlying antifeminist tones that need to be addressed if the game is truly going to make significant progress in becoming more inclusive.

I don’t know about you, but I am still obsessing over Beyonce’s halftime performance at Super Bowl XLVII.  She was as fierce as ever.  One of my favorite things about Beyonce as a performer has always been that she relies on her talents above all else when she is on stage.  Enough men fantasize about her and objectify her body that she could just stand up there in a revealing outfit, barely singing, and that would be enough to boost her record sales.  However, she moves her body in ways that rival Shakira while simultaneously hitting high notes that I sometimes swear are even better than Mariah Carey’s, and this is why she is an incredible performer.  She makes sure she is most known for the talents she possesses, which is Girl Power at its finest.

As if watching her perform wouldn’t be enough to have me and millions of other fans talking about nothing else for days, Beyonce invited fellow Destiny’s Child stars Michelle Williams and Kelly Rowland to sing with her.  The sight of not one but three strong, talented, fierce women on that stage made me appreciate just how far women have come in popular culture.  Each of these three women has been criticized at some point by society for qualities such as being “too ambitious,” “mean,” “bitchy,” and “not good enough.”  Combine that with the fact that Alicia Keys rocked the National Anthem and Jennifer Hudson beautifully belted out America the Beautiful, both women who have been criticized in the past for being “overweight,” and there’s no doubt that these women were the true stars of the game.

Based on these rockstar performances featuring independent ladies, it appears from the outside that the Super Bowl has become a feminist-friendly event.  However, a dark side to the spectacle has recently come to light.  There’s a good chance that you’ve come into contact this week with an article that has been making its rounds on the internet: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/03/super-bowl-sex-trafficking_n_2607871.html.  Apparently, the Super Bowl is the single largest sex trafficking event in the United States.  Sadly, this statistic isn’t surprising, as the Super Bowl does provide the ideal environment for this heinous crime to occur–with such a large number of men travelling to the same area all at once, the demand for prostitution rises.  What is surprising is that this statistic isn’t more well-known.  I think people tend to believe that sex trafficking is a crime that affects countries in the global south, not the United States of America.  It does happen here, though, and more often than one would care to believe.  (The UN offers very informative statistics on sex trafficking here: http://www.unglobalcompact.org/docs/issues_doc/labour/Forced_labour/HUMAN_TRAFFICKING_-_THE_FACTS_-_final.pdf).

When talking about the dark side of the Super Bowl, let’s not forget about the ever-popular Super Bowl advertisements.  Some of those weren’t exactly pro-feminism, either.  I was definitely offended by the Go Daddy commercial with the stereotypical hot blonde making out with the overweight nerd.  I see absolutely nothing wrong with that pair, yet the ad suggested that the image was unimaginable.  Why is that such a difficult pair to imagine, though?  The entire focus of the commercial was that Go Daddy is both sexy and smart, and thus a sexy woman kissing a smart man represented that.  But why can’t women be both hot and nerdy?  Why could the woman only be portrayed as sexy?

On the surface, this year’s Super Bowl was a good one for women, but it obviously could have been better.  We still have a ways to go as a society to make America’s favorite game more inclusive and accepting of all.

Post written by:
Lindsey Spanner, Student Outreach Coordinator

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About Ohio U Women's Center

The Ohio University Women’s Center serves and responds to the needs of OU women students, faculty, and staff, as well as members of the community. Founded in 2007, the center is dedicated to creating an inclusive and welcoming campus climate for all members of the community through programs, resources, referrals, advocacy, and education. Located in Baker University Center 403.
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