Super Bowl 50's Commercials Featured Men Doing Most Of The Talking, Just Like Everywhere Else In The Media
I only watch the Super Bowl for the commercials, and maybe the half-time performance if it's Beyonce. I don't understand the rules of football, and I'm from Cleveland, so there's a good chance that I will die before my team makes it to a championship game. But this year's commercials were notably snooze-worthy, and I may have just realized why: According to a new study, men did most of the talking in the Super Bowl 50 commercials. I knew there had to be a reason why Instagrams of baby goats were holding my attention better than a giant flatscreen.
Motto, a TIME website aimed at Millennial women, analyzed the 55 commercials that aired during the Super Bowl 50 and found that 64 percent of them did not feature women in speaking roles. A quarter of the commercials didn't even feature women at all, and of the commercials that did, 44 percent lacked representation from women of color. Sure, this year's Boys Club can be attributed to the fact that 50 out of the 55 commercials were helmed by male directors, but it's not like this is a one-time problem. There's a gendered division of speech throughout the media, and it's been there for a while now. Even though women make up about 51 percent of the United States' population. But yeah, no, I get it.
According to their annual study focused on female representation in the media, the Women's Media Center (WMC) found that major opinion columns in newspapers featured only 38 female bylines out of 143 surveyed journalists. Men were used as expert sources 3.4 times more than women in The New York Times' front page articles. During the 2012 presidential election, 71.68 percent of stories were covered by men; in 2014, WMC found that on cable television, 78 percent of foreign policy analysts and reporters were men. TBS' new late-night weekly show, Full Frontal, featuring The Daily Show 's Samantha Bee, is the first late-night talk show from a major network to feature a female host in... uh, a really long time.
Oh, and you know how everyone keeps complaining that presidential candidate Hillary Clinton talks too loudly ? When fellow candidate Bernie Sanders literally has one volume, and it's yelling?
And it's not just in the news and broadcast media; women's voices are even underrepresented in Disney Princess movies, particularly during what is considered Disney's "Renaissance," a period which ran from 1989 to 1999. A study by the Washington Post found that men speak 71 percent of the time in The Beauty and the Beast, 76 percent of the time in Pocahontas, and a whopping 90 percent in Aladdin. I mean, I realize that Aladdin's title character is a dude, but still.
Positive representation in the media is incredibly important. I cannot stress that enough. When I taught playwriting to a group of 11-year-old girls during the summer of 2015, half of whom were either ESL or international students, I watched as they portrayed every single popular girl as blonde-haired and blue-eyed. I watched as first generation students kids used "white" and "American" interchangeably, because they had never seen themselves as part of the narrative, and I watched as these girls, most of whom read at high school level or better, who could decipher Shakespeare better than most college first years, bought into limiting female stereotypes time and time again. Because that is what our media shows them.
If that's what our media is showing them — and us — about what "being a woman" in the United States is, then what happens when the media teaches us that "woman" equals "silent?" And what happens when that's the same lesson we keep seeing repeated over and over and over again?
Women not talking very much during Super Bowl commercials may seem trivial — but it isn't. This phenomenon is part of a significantly larger problem, one which silences women and erases their narratives over and over and over again.
It's not just a commercial. It's so much more than that. We are so much more than that. And we cannot stay quiet about it — now, or ever.
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