From SNL to the Super Bowl, a Good Weekend for Girl Power

From SNL to the Super Bowl, a Good Weekend for Girl Power February 6, 2017

It’s been a rough season for the ladies. Ever since the release of those tapes–the ones that should have been the end of him but, somehow, weren’t–I’ve been going around with this sick feeling all the time, and I’m not the only one. It’s all made worse by the whirlwind first 2 weeks of this debacle of a Presidency; and the long line of white men parading into the White House to fill all the major Cabinet and advisory positions. Oh, and that image of all those white guys, surrounding the now-President as he signed that EO about women’s health… This new regime of overt misogyny has got me down. It’s got us all down.

We needed a good weekend. Not just a sweatpants, wine and chocolate, Netflix kind of weekend… A Smashing the Bullshit Patriarchy kind of weekend. And in a dozen small ways, I feel like we got one.

First, a White House staffer was quoted as saying that the President “Likes the women who work for him to dress like women.” And the ladies of Twitter fired back with a “Oh HELL no he didn’t,” with accompanying photos of how to #DressLikeAWoman. It is a glorious thread, including police officers, fighter pilots, scientists, and protesters. Oh, and Supreme Court Judges, naturally.

Then let’s hop over to SNL where Melissa McCarthy channeled the blustering evasiveness of Sean Spicer–with a spooky accuracy that registered as equal parts truth-telling and farce:

It wasn’t just funny. It was a revelation. It was a primer in how to reduce the villain to a punchline. And if the villain is a privileged dude and the comedienne is a strong woman–all the more powerful.

Once SNL is over, it’s Sunday morning before you know it which, this week, meant Super Bowl Sunday. Not usually a strong bastion of feminism, but this year there were some pleasant surprises.

Can we just start with the Skyler Sisters singing America the Beautiful? Holy moly. My husband has the biggest crush on them, and I totally get it (and, as always, admire his taste). Those tight harmonies; those strong voices; and the way they managed to “Crown thy good with brotherhood and sisterhood” without totally wrecking the time signature… It was just sublime, from beginning to end. For those of us who have been feeling bleak about our country, it was a much-needed dose of patriotism; one that did not reduce our national identity to “America First! Suck it, global community!” Refreshing, to say the least.

Also, say what you will about Lady Gaga’s outrageous costuming (or, I guess, lack thereof) but girlfriend can SANG. She has some major chops and she brought it last night. Add a cadre of bad-ass dancers surrounding her and it was a much-needed dose of girl power. Not to mention arts-power. Plus, it was joyful. America has not shared much joy lately, and we needed that.

Ok, let’s get to the commercials.

My Monday-after-Super Bowl blog post is typically a lament of the ads, and how they often provide a snapshot of everything that is wrong with America; including blatant sexism and objectification of women. (Um, Hardee’s cheeseburger girl, anyone?) But this year, that was not the case. In fact, most of the advertisers went above and beyond to convey messages of inclusion, diversity, belonging, and a general follow-your-dream kind of umph that, ultimately, projects the very BEST of American values.

Air BnB, 84 Lumber, and Budweiser were among the many who went for a strong message of multi-culturalism. There was predictable blow-back from those who saw the messaging as a dig at the current administration–with irate cries of liberal indoctrination and calls for product boycotts all around. As many more reasoned voices have pointed out though, these commercials really just drew attention to the unique diversity of America. But if, at some not-so-subtle level, this was corporate America’s way of giving the finger to DJT…then so be it. (I mean, “4 years of bad hair?” That was overt. And hilarious.)

Anyway, with the theme of the night being distinctly inclusive and anti-xenophobic, we saw a couple of overtly-feminist messages.

First, there was Audi... Their ad went viral before it even aired, thanks to some smart pre-game promo. The clip features a dad who is watching his daughter’s soap box derby, while reflecting on what he should tell her about her worth. As she races rings around the boys, they segue to a sharp PSA about equal pay. Boom.

And then enter: Mr. Clean.

Admittedly, my first reaction was OH SURE PUT A WOMAN IN THE CLEANING PRODUCT COMMERCIAL BECAUSE THAT’S OBVIOUSLY ALL WE CARE ABOUT. But my feminist rage subsided when the new and digitized-sexy Mr. Clean dissolved into the regular guy husband… Who was cleaning the house. The wife was clearly turned on by this. Which was funny, and in a far more appropriate way than the cringe-worthy phone sex bit that landed T-Mobile an epic fail for the night. (What even was that?) Anyway, I will happily invite Mr. Clean to the the-girl-power party after that ending.

On the whole, it was a good weekend. But here’s what I also know: it’s 2017, and equal pay is still considered a controversial “Political issue.” Meanwhile, there are fewer women in the White House right now than there have been at any given time since the Reagan years. And the Super Bowl is still one of the largest venues of the year for sex trafficking of women and girls. So while it might have been a heartening weekend, we’ve got work to do.

Many would look at these flashes of hope and say they are “just” social media trends; just late-night sketch comedy; just a commercial. But put it all together, and it adds up to a great wall of resistance–one that can touch every area of culture and commerce if we throw enough weight behind it.

So while others are busy making misogyny great again, we will be making patriarchy the punchline; and leaving it in the dust as we speed off in our super fast cars.

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