This question comes two days after the most watched television event in U.S. history–Superbowl XLIV–watched by 106 million Americans. It also comes on the day of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue reveal, which features model Brooklyn Decker, best known for being the wife of Tennis champ Andy Roddick.
It’s no secret that sponsors associate football with a specific segment of the American population–white, beer-chugging frat boys–the same audience that is the target of Judd Apatow movies and other frat boy comedies (The Hangover). In all likelihood, commercials aired during the Superbowl XLIV are targeted to this group.
Not surprisingly, many of the commercials featured scantily clad white females dressed as sexual fantasies (milk maid) or wearing nothing (Megan Fox’s Motorola Ad). Vanessa Richmond’s piece: “Half-Naked Hot Chicks and Beer: The Sexist Guyland of Super Bowl Commercial” criticized Superbowl Ads for being sexist.
However, blogger Macon D. of stuffwhitepeopledo, while crediting the author for recognizing the sexism of the Ads, also criticized her for ignoring the blatant racism of them. Richmond failed to mention that almost all the females were white, and particularly, blond.
There’s a conflict in criticizing these Ads, sexually and racially. It’s easy to recognize that the Ads are sexist and therefore formulate the solution to tone down or erase the sexism, but if the argument is that the Ads are racist, then what is the solution? Is the solution to incorporate non-white women into the sexist Ads? Is it a matter of which is worse–racism or sexism?
I don’t think so. It’s a matter of degradation versus shunning. The question I really want to ask: is it better to be degraded than ignored? I don’t think the answer is simple. The answer boils down to the ‘lesser of two evils’ conundrum. No one wants to be degraded, but to be ignored may very well be considered worse.
This might explain why non-white actors may take roles that are stereotypical or degrading rather than shun Hollywood altogether. Everyone wants to feel as if they’re worth something to someone, at the end of the day. The argument that ignoring black and non-white babes is a form of ‘tacit respect’ doesn’t work.
Dignity and self-respect for some may take a backseat in a culture that still promotes white chauvinist ideals of female beauty. These ideals, however sexist and racist, are set as standards by which everyone else is validated. Black women and non-white women who are not put on the pedestal white girls are will feel more undesired than they already do. Furthermore, the the glorification of white girls (I use ‘girls’ deliberately), may do more harm to them than good. It tramples the self-esteem of non-whites, true, but it also makes white females targets. Michael Kimmel, in his book ‘Guyland‘ pointed out that in the world of ‘guys‘ (white frat boys), girls are viewed as wild game, something to chase, conquer and humiliate through sexual subjugation, often rape. White women are more likely to be harassed in foreign countries than any other group of females, also. The sexualization of white girls is a double-edged sword on its own.
However, to get back to the Ads/SI. No one can force white frat boys to lust after non-white girls if they have no desire to do so, but that’s not even the point. The Ads have nothing to do with women (real women are detached from the disembodied bodies in the media),but they may not have anything to do with the men watching them either.
It’s a funny thought, but the media is a Frankenstein-type monster that has taken on a life of its own. It’s a machine that seemingly runs itself detached from humanity and the people whose values it claims to represent. Whether the group the Ads cater to only find skinny, white blonds under 30 attractive is not really known fact. The machine insists that they do, but it may be that the media no longer shows us what we want to see, but what it desires us to see and believe.
If the media tells us 6-foot tall, skinny, white blond girls are the epitome of beauty, whether we believe it or not, we will accept it. It’s a twisted form of manufactured consent.