In the three years since The Representation Project has taken on sexism in Superbowl ads, we’ve seen quite a bit of improvement. As Caroline Knorr points out over at Common Sense Media, most families don’t want sex—much less sexism—in the ads that they see with their kids during the big game, and advertisers are responding. They’re also responding to the tweets The Representation Project sends out every year via the #NotBuyingIt and #MediaWeLike campaigns: each year, we see a round of ads and a round of responses. This year, the discussion started early, as some ads were released pre-game. Among them was a very important public service announcement: NoMore.org’s reminder about the realities of intimate partner violence (IPV). So—what does all this say about our culture? Are we making headway against sexism as the foundation for our entertainment and economy? Yes—and no.
In 1985, lesbian cartoonist Alison Bechdel offered a tongue-in-cheek proposal for judging female representation in films. Her cartoon “Dykes to Watch Out for” presented this vision:
When news broke of the release of a video showing Ray Rice beating Janay Palmer unconscious, I was in the middle of writing a topic for a book about sexism. The topic was “How is Sexism Related to Masculinity?”, and it discusses, among other things, the role of male violence against women in a patriarchy.
In her book The End of Men, Hanna Rosin states that we no longer live in a patriarchy, and that the establishment of an American matriarchy is just a matter of time. Although Ms. Rosin does have some insights about the ways in which our culture is changing around gender, her definitions for both these terms are incorrect—which means that she misses the very clear signs that America is a thriving patriarchy.
The first time I read virulent online misogyny, I was angry, of course. But I also felt a very specific fear, one that included an unconscious undercurrent of shame: what might I have done to create such hatred in the eyes and hearts of men? This, my friends, is the lesson of Eve: our bodies are our selves, and our selves invoke the fear and loathing of men. The Men’s Rights Movement relies on this collective fear. Its proponents claim to be championing men, and indeed they do appeal to the frustrations and angers of men—the ones that patriarchy, via its neverending game of prove-yourself-as-a-man, engenders. Men’s Rights Activists (MRAs) claim not to hate women, while blaming them for the problems of a sexist society. They believe women should pay for these problems with our bodies and minds.