The Most Powerful Commercial to Air on Sunday Is Already Here

There are many reasons to watch the big game. Maybe you’re a diehard football fan. Maybe you’re a casual football fan. Maybe one of the teams playing is from your hometown so you want to cheer them on. Maybe you just want to go to a party and eat your weight in delicious bean dip while everyone else talks sacks and touchdowns.

But if you’re like me, you watch for the commercials. There’s no doubt that, from a creative standpoint, advertisers are at the top of their game, giving us 30 and 60-second spots that are often more entertaining than the championship itself. But what I’ll confess I don’t enjoy is what else, beyond just creativity, is on heavy display during the commercials: sex appeal, as exhibited by scantily-clad women.

It’s an understandable, if uncomfortable, reality because, hey, sex sells and advertisers’ main goal isn’t to entertain us but to sell us their products. More men than women watch the game — though that gender gap is shrinking — so the sexy ads play largely to the male gaze, relying on minimally-dressed women to provoke potential consumers. I suppose it’s also possible that marketers hope to draw in women who might be led to believe that they’ll be that much closer to looking like [insert supermodel name here] if only they’d purchase [insert product name here]. I’m skeptical of the latter — no matter how many Carl’s Jr. burgers I eat, I doubt I’ll ever be tempted to don a flesh-colored bikini and stroll through a farmer’s market with the confident nonchalance of Charlotte McKinney. (If Carl’s Jr. would like to send me a lifetime supply of burgers so that I might test my theory, however, I won’t say no.)

I note all this to show exactly why it is so wonderful and refreshing that this year’s broadcast includes not only the usual crop of one-strong-wind-gust-away-from-porn commercials, but also a 60-second version of last summer’s popular #LikeAGirl video, from sanitary pad-maker Always. The original 3-minute video asked prepubescent girls as well as young adults to show what it meant to do things “like a girl,” such as run or throw.

The prepubescent girls responded by running in place as quickly as they could, throwing with fast, aggressive arms, etc. But the young adults, which included males and females, adhered to the unfortunate “like a girl” stereotype — their movements were weak, tentative, comical.

The deservedly acclaimed video exposed the stereotype for what it is — ridiculous — and sent a clear signal that it’s time to end it.

“We can change the meaning of words. That’s what we are taking a stand on, and our message, which we hope will inspire girls, women, boys, is that we can make the everyday ‘like a girl’ to mean amazing things,” Fama Francisco, vice president of Global Always, told CNN.

Online, the video has been watched more than 80 million times, according to CNN, but come Sunday, it could reach some 100 million people. That includes lots of men and boys who might have otherwise missed this viral hit. As the video’s director, Lauren Greenfield, told CNN, “it puts the message broadly into the mainstream.”

I’m thrilled that men are going to see this landmark sexism-fighting ad, but I’m especially happy that women and girls who watch the game will find something empowering flashing on their TV screens in between all the lingerie and bikinis (and, oh yeah, football plays). To be clear, I’m not knocking sex appeal, but we need to show our young women that having sexy, alluring bodies is far less important than having strong, capable bodies — not to mention strong, capable minds.

When we take steps to do that, everyone wins. Game on!

Video and image courtesy of YouTube

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