feminism with ease
February 1, 2009 § 15 Comments
If you didn’t catch it a few hours ago, check out this Superbowl ad for Bridgestone Tires.
Really? Really?! I’m not sure what to say. Contact Bridgestone using this form.
Oh my. I didn’t watch the superbowl because I don’t like football, so I hadn’t seen this ad. This is horrifying, mostly because of the terrible portrayal of women and the use of violence, but also because potato heads have always freaked me out.
While I do admit that this is a sexist commercial, I would not forget the intended humor as well as the target audience for football games (drunk men, NOT feminists, even beautiful ones such as yourself Momo). In addition, it is simply a fact that men care more about their cars than women do, it is just a part of our culture. Now, whether or not that is a sexist culture is another issue, but in this ad, I see a tire company attempting to make a prudent advertising decision to boost sales amongst its most common customers. This ad is shameless and sexist, but also economically effective. It then appears that it is not Bridgestone Tires that is sexist, but rather the culture that Bridgestone has to pander to in order to sells its products.
Advertisements are almost never political statements or motivated by social agendas, but rather economically-focused. In an unforgiving economic climate such as ours today, companies must try anything to catch the attention of prospective and known customers to boost sales. Other examples are the new home of the New York Mets “Citi Field” and the sponsoring of the Superbowl by Bank of America. Both of these banks are way in the red and find themselves the beneficiaries of millions of government bailout dollars. And yet, they MUST advertise to boost consumption, any way they possibly can. In this ad, Bridgestone is simply trying to stay afloat by attracting their best customers.
However, as stated earlier, this then shifts the blame of the sexist nature of the ad from the company to our general “car culture” (see, and you thought this was going to be anti-feminist). The fact that Bridgestone’s best customers are the pigs that get amusement from this ad suggests a problem with the pigs, not the ad. I long for a day when the best way to sell products is not with scantily-clad females or sexist insinuations, but with smart, opinionated debate which incorporates both men and women. Unfortunately, our culture just isn’t there yet. Instead, sex and sexism sells tires to the market. There must be something wrong with market.
One last note: the mouth falls off after Mr. Potato Head stops abruptly, not after any “violence” occurs, as was intimated by Silvia’s last post.
The problem with your argument is that it takes the focus off of Bridgestone. Granted, our culture is fucked up when it comes to sexism in ads – that’s not news. But that doesn’t mean that corporations should be encouraging this kind of stereotyping. It’s not too much to ask Bridgestone to think of a way to sell tires that isn’t offensive to half the population.
But see, you cannot think that YOU, personally, are part of the population. This is what you fail to grasp: Bridgestone’s market is one of late 20s to middle 60s WHITE MEN. Bridgestone is facing falling stock prices, a desaturated market, a movement against flashy cars with nice wheels, and the impending destruction of the automobile industry itself. Bridgestone needs to stay relevant and profitable, it’s not getting any bailout money. Our unemployment rate is up over 7% nationwide and 1 in every 10 jobs in this country is related to the automobile industry (or at least it used to be). For the sake of employees keeping their jobs, Bridgestone needs to cater to ITS audience, which doesn’t include the “half of the population” you claim they alienate. This is the same problem with the other post about family planning aid as well: when economic destruction is impending, you surrender SOME social agenda (you don’t see President Obama going after “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and you didn’t see Clinton go after gay marriage when he took office during a recession less severe than this). Bridgestone needs capital, FAST. This is how they’ve got to do it, and frankly, they don’t care if you, or Silvia, or Katie, or Ruth, or I am offended, because we weren’t buying Bridgestone tires in the first place.
The REAL PROBLEM IS LARGER. It is in our culture and our markets. It is the fact that this ad is profitable, not that Bridgestone is trying to make a profit. Sexists, by definition, are motivated, consciously or subconsciously, by an inherent belief that women are worth less or less intelligent or less deserving than men. Bridgestone is motivated by a search for profit when profit is sparse. Had this ad been aired during the 1997 Superbowl, at the height of the surplus, then this would have been sexist because there would have been no other motivation than sexism. Desperate times call for these desperate measures. GM is desperate (see Employee Pricing, then Employee Pricing PLUS, then Employee Pricing PLUS PLUS), Ford is desperate, Bridgestone is desperate, the entire automobile industry is desperate!
I agree, mirandanyc. Bridgstone might be making a smart move in terms of advertising, but reinforcing terrible ideas about gender roles and intimacy is inexcusable. It effectively perpetuates the class of pigs that you discussed, Ryan. There need to be pushes from all sides- commercial, political, popular- if sexism and all of the other horrific ‘isms’ are to be eradicated.
Think of this:
If a Southern company ran a terribly racist ad, would you be okay with that? Maybe that’s the audience that company expects to serve, but it’s still morally wrong.
I don’t wish to suggest that all Southerners are white bigots, just as a side note. It was just a useful example, I know it’s a generalization.
I agree with Miranda. Also, I saw the ad again yesterday on a completely different channel and during a completely different television show. So the argument that the ad is aimed towards a specific part of the population doesn’t hold up. Besides, it isn’t just drunk men that watch the superbowl, nor is it just men that buy tires.
I agree that advertisements are almost always economically-focused, but like Miranda said, that is not an excuse for the stereotypes to be propagated. Maybe a tire company like Bridgestone would be more successful if it pushed the boundaries and addressed more than just one half of the population, especially if the ad is going to air on other channels and other programs.
I have watched this advertisement several times and it is ambiguous at best as to whether any violence is used. Every time I’ve watched it, it looks like the male potato head hits the female one, but maybe I’m reading too much into it. Furthermore, it doesn’t matter wether or not he actually hits her, just the fact that her mouth falls off and rolls down a cliff suggests the silencing of women by force. Whether you think the ad is violent or not, this is a sexist ad and it shouldn’t be used no matter who is watching.
Carrying Silvia’s logic about intended audiences a little further:
A few years ago, when Janet Jackson’s boob was exposed during the Superbowl halftime, people from all over the political/social spectrum flipped a shit. Why? “Because of the children.” Because children shouldn’t be taught that breasts are primetime material. And so instead we teach our kids that violence against women is primetime material. Peronally, I would rather see (or have my kids see) breasts than anti-woman advertisements. Kids can see fucked up ads but not a woman’s secondary sex organs?
“But see, you cannot think that YOU, personally, are part of the population.”
Really? I can’t?
“The REAL PROBLEM IS LARGER. It is in our culture and our markets.”
You’re absolutely right. So companies should take responsibility and stop making sexist ads so that the larger culture can change.
“Bridgestone is motivated by a search for profit when profit is sparse. Had this ad been aired during the 1997 Superbowl, at the height of the surplus, then this would have been sexist because there would have been no other motivation than sexism.”
A sexist ad is a sexist ad is a sexist ad. Just because Bridgestone is out to make a profit doesn’t mean their ad isn’t offensive. I don’t care the motives; this ad upsets me. Zoe’s right – “If a Southern company ran a terribly racist ad, would you be okay with that? Maybe that’s the audience that company expects to serve, but it’s still morally wrong.”
This has obviously taken way too much of my time, but let me just add that had the ad carried lines such as: “the best tires to run women over with” or “the tires that make your woman shut up” or even “Bridgestone Tires: Getting you to your mistress fast, so you don’t have to be,” then this would be a real problem. I just don’t think this crosses the line into BLATANTLY and offensively sexist, there is an element of humor (which might be deprecating to SOME, but humor often is). This ad doesn’t call for violence, verbal or physical. This is not at all the same as a racist ad because such and ad would be too offensive. This ad simply wasn’t as offensive as some have made it out to be, and had it been, for example, a Jewish person picking up a penny or a dumb man doing something stupid, then it would have been equally as funny. At the heart of feminism is a desire to be equal, not better. It is important to keep a level head and a sense of humor.
PLEASE SPARE MY LIFE WHEN YOU FILLET ME AND REMEMBER THAT A GANG OF FIVE STRONG, INTELLIGENT WOMEN CAN DESTROY A SINGLE MAN.
We don’t like to fillet – us feminists prefer roasting over a spit. I still don’t agree with you, since this ad reinforces harmful stereotypes about women, but if you want to let this be then I’m fine with that.
I have to agree with Ryan here to some extent. While I see a stereotype here, I think the ad is more making fun of a stereotypical marriage. Why? Because it’s an American thing used for the purpose of advertising during an event that is the essence of today’s American culture (however sad it may be that a football game now sums up our culture). If you wanted to attack an ad from this years game, I would go with this (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kR5xbvSDLn4). That one is clearly offensive, while i think the Bridgestone ad is merely trying to get a few from Super Bowl watchers and sell some tires.
P.S. To Silvia’s point about this being aired on a different channel, it premiered during the Super Bowl when it obviously got the most viewers, and therefore when it was trying to reach it’s desired demographic.
But if it uses sexist stereotypes (the man’s fantasy is his wife’s mouth falling off, for crying out loud – we almost never see this dynamic in reverse), then IT’S STILL SEXIST.
I definitely did not read this entire thread, but I think it is REALLY important for those of us who are not 20 to 60 year old white men to point out the sexism in ads like this to anyone who will listen. even if they are part of our culture. actually, especially if they are part of our culture.
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