The XX Factor

Our First Feminist Super Bowl

A San Francisco 49ers fan at the Super Bowl on Feb. 2, 2014, in East Rutherford, N.J. A few (thousand) more Super Bowls like this, and we’ll be even.

Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Here were the memorably shirtless (and thoroughly waxed) people at last night’s Super Bowl: David Beckham in the H&M ad and various members of the Red Hot Chili Peppers at the halftime show. Go Daddy, which in the past has gone the striptease route, decided to objectify hairless beefy men instead and let its spokeswoman, NASCAR champ Danica Patrick, run around in a fake weightlifter body. (And they were all making their way to a female-owned tanning salon.) The Bruno Mars show, which was by many accounts the highlight of an otherwise suspense-free spectacle, had a distinctly old-world, big-band vibe, men in thin ties and shiny shoes and no cleavage or bare legs in sight. In his Ad Report Card, Seth Stevenson calls the Super Bowl marketing discourse “buttoned up” and “reserved,” but maybe it’s more than that. Maybe it’s secretly subversive. Maybe the Super Bowl is sending us a girl-power message!

After all, there was the snarky daughter in the Volkswagen ad. (Although, oops, they forgot about the female engineers!) The female service member saying hi from Afghanistan. And of course the GoldieBlox ad, which includes the disturbing lyrics “Pink, pink, pink/ We want to think”—but we don’t have to hash out that whole GoldieBlox controversy all over again. Let’s just for the moment give them credit for suggesting that there might someday be female engineers sprouting angel wings in that Volkswagen plant. And surely I’m reading too much into it, but isn’t one message you can take away from the Chevy Silverado commercial that the cowboys are a dying breed because only the cattle are doing the breeding?

Extinct cowboys. Broncos with no buck left in them. Hairless men. Female entrepreneurs. The evidence is all there. Keep it up, NFL. Ten thousand more Super Bowls and we’ll be even.

Correction, Feb. 3, 2014: This post originally misspelled GoldieBlox.