Why Sarah Silverman’s Super Bowl Ad is a Telling Moment for Feminism

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This past Sunday, “the lord’s prayer read and the anthem sang,” America celebrated our god-given right to have sports. A robot lion was ridden by a pop star, a “pig skin” was fought over, geographic allegiances were tested and some form of chili was consumed by reportedly 55% of Americans. All routine events in Super Bowl history. What was not expected was for Sarah Silverman to make a feminist jab right in the middle of one of the Superbowl’s equally beloved, million dollar commercials. Now the internet spews forth anti-feminist hatred, from women and men, only to prove how necessary Silverman’s joke really was.

The T-mobile ad in question featured Silverman, and fellow comedian Chelsea Handler, having a hyperbolic battle of cell phone reception. In one scene Silverman calls from her underground delivery room, offhandedly deadpanning, “Sorry, it’s a boy,” as she hands off a baby to a new mom. And apparently that was going just too far, too far indeed.

If we’ve learned anything in the 21st century thus far, it should be Newton’s Third Law of the internet, which is that for every action made to promote something like equality, there will be a scary, backwards reaction from a lot of people with Twitter. For that reason, reading a bunch of grown men tweeting things like “well done t-mobile for sponsoring misandry and marginalizing males,” and “‘Sorry it’s a boy’ this is why people punch you in the face in movies, @SarahKSilverman #SuperBowl,” is scary, but pretty normcore at the same time. What is actually very terrifying however is the amount of women who disagree with the ad, and have banded together to defend the male sex.

It only took a few keystrokes to end up cow-eyed, glazing over in fear at the accounts and hashtags dedicated to “women against feminism,” putting down SJW feminists (“social justice warrior” feminists) or something having to do with “drinking male tears” that I really can’t get to the bottom of. Conservative talk radio host Dana Loesch tweeted, “We have #likeagirl and #sorryitsaboy. Can we stop trying to destroy our boys’s self esteem now? Jerks.” What the gun-wielding, grammatically irreverent personality is also referring to here is the Always commercial that aired during the game as well. The ad attempts to reclaim the antiquated insult of doing something “like a girl,” and instead make it a positive mantra. Apparently Loesch equates promoting self esteem in our girls as destroying the same in our boys.

I could go on in perpetuity about all of the antifeminist assholes I found on Twitter today, but I’d rather not give their ignorance a bigger platform. Instead it’s more important to discuss the reactions in support of the ad. I can admit that even my feminist ears perked up during the commercial. I looked at my boyfriend and said, “That was a really big fucking deal.” And as evidenced by all of the Twitter nonsense, it absolutely was. People allowed to speak in more than 140 characters have rightfully taken to the internet to defend the ad, but they’re using the defense that it was just a joke, “a great little Easter egg of playful misandry.” We’re never going to get anywhere with feminism if we use the same defense made by sexist men to defend what is actually a profound statement for our culture.

It’s not happenstance that a household name of a celebrity would be willing to make a pointed feminist joke in a commercial for a corporate giant, airing during the biggest advertisement event of the year. Silverman wasn’t self promoting, amplifying her brand, just making a joke or trying to one up Handler, she was using the fortuitous platform she was given to make a real point. Luckily she did it in a funny way, that should be able to be swallowed by everyone, feminist or not. But instead, a quip that highlights America’s huge issues with gender, can only be discussed as either not a big deal or preposterously offensive. Why can’t it be both funny and important instead?

Last time I checked, it was taking a whole lot of treading just to keep our feminist heads afloat in today’s murky sexist waters polluted with legislation that threatens to take away corporal agency, the wage gap, the campus rape epidemic and just general cat calling, “go ahead and smile, honey” trash. Now we can’t even have a commercial with a wink of feminism without having to defend it, albeit if the defense is counterintuitive. The conversation surrounding America’s engrained misogyny has reached a point where it no longer just pertains to feminists, but is participated in by celebrities, men, even children. we need to defend all of that support as important until one day it’s not even questioned. In the mean time, I, on behalf of all vaginas, sincerely apologize to any of America’s boys’s whose self esteem was damaged by the Super Bowl ad. I encourage you to pick yourself up, wipe away your tears and grow some fucking balls, the kind of balls it takes to be a woman in this world.

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