Despite increasing female viewership, Super Bowl commercials lack presence of women

Early February marked Super Bowl LII, one of the most watched events in the entire country. 

The 2016 Super Bowl attracted 190 million social media interactions along with 111.3 million viewers, according to AOL. That translates to nearly 1 in 3 Americans.

Although the Super Bowl has been known to entice a characteristically masculine viewership, that is simply not the case anymore. In current years, nearly half the viewers have been women. Fifty-four million women watched the Super Bowl in 2017, which equated to 49 percent of the total audience, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Due to its impressive number of female viewers, one would expect the Super Bowl to feature commercials that align with those viewers. Unfortunately, the representation of women in the commercials for the 2018 game was underwhelming. This signified a retrograde response to the increasing prevalence of feminism and female empowerment in our society.

It can be assumed that fitting women into Super Bowl commercials this year was a tricky task for companies. In the wake of the “#MeToo” movement, rejection of sexism and sexual harassment, advertisers had to grapple with the way they would choose to portray women in their commercials. The characteristically sexist, degrading representations of females in commercials would be hastily criticized. As a result, Super Bowl commercials seem to have opted out of depicting women altogether.

Since the sexist nature of advertisements was not criticized in years past, this encouraged the release of misogynistic ads. For example, in 2015 Carl’s Jr. promoted the chain’s all-natural burger in their Super Bowl commercial. The demeaning ad featured a woman walking through a farmer’s market seemingly naked, as cleverly placed fruits and vegetables covered her body parts. 

Moreover, in 2017 Mr. Clean ran a Super Bowl commercial aimed at appealing to women by reimaging Mr. Clean as a sex symbol. Ultimately, the ad communicated that it is not typical for a man to clean, and if he does, he should be rewarded. The problematic tagline claims, “You gotta love a man who cleans.”

Super Bowl commercials have been notorious for their sexist punch lines and portrayals; however, the 2018 audience saw a different side of the ads. This year, there may not have been commercials degrading women, but that is only because there were a scarce number of commercials that featured women at all. 

Portraying women as strong, equal individuals to men was not the Super Bowl’s priority. This is a disappointing fact in today’s foreword-moving society.

“Advertisers may also be avoiding accusations that they’re not portraying women in quite the right light this year by taking the easier route of just casting men,” according to AOL. This distressing idea proves true based on the representation of each gender in the Super Bowl commercials. 

In the game’s ads, the few women prominently featured were Tiffany Haddish, Missy Elliot, Cindy Crawford, Rebel Wilson and Cardi B, according to AOL and the San Diego Union-Tribune. The extensive list of men in the Super Bowl commercials included: Morgan Freeman, Matt Damon, Peter Dinklage, Bill Hader, Chris Pratt, Keanu Reeves and Steven Tyler of Aerosmith, among many more, as reported by the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Unfortunately, when it comes to advertising, companies either portray women in a sexist lights or they don’t portray them at all. 

This disappointing reality challenges our society’s necessary advancement toward gender equality. Next year, it is imperative that the Super Bowl airs commercials that align with the feminist ideals its audience demands.