However, what I find truly objectionable about RL’s post is its total disregard for facts. I gather that the Super Bowl is not a a big deal in far Left feminist circles and I don’t have a problem with that. It’s not a big deal with most of my female relatives either and I can assure you they are not far Left feminists. Nonetheless, I think if you’re going to write about a topic and especially if you’re going to draw sweeping conclusions about it, you should at least get your facts straight. Yet RL quotes approvingly the following from Jaclyn Friedman, writing for The Nation and NPR:
The ad becomes even more disturbing when we consider who it’s trying to reach. Assuming that Focus on the Family operates with the same mindset as most Super Bowl advertisers (and there’s really no evidence to suggest otherwise), it’s also safe to assume that men are one of the primary targets of this spot.
Um, no. As this article makes clear, ads targeted at women are nothing new during the Super Bowl:
So what does the increase in viewers translate to? For advertisers, the answer is more commercials geared toward a female audience.
A study by Venables Bell and Partners, an independent ad agency in San Francisco, found that, in general, women look forward more to the commercials than the game [snip]
Dove used the 2006 Super Bowl as a means to launch its highly successful "Dove Self Esteem Fund" with its "Little Girls" commercial, which discussed everyday insecurities of young girls and promoted a campaign to re-empower them. [snip]
last year Budweiser, Pedigree, Pepsi ( PEP - news - people ) and Cheetos also took a special interest in their female demographic with feel-good commercials. [snip]
... while men are more likely to discuss their favorite play after the game, women are more likely to discuss their favorite ads.
They are also more likely than men to purchase a product they see advertised during the game (and share it on Facebook with their friends), which hasn't been lost on the female-friendly advertisers planning commercials for this year's Super Bowl.
There is no reason to believe that the Tebow Super Bowl ad is targeted at men. (It took a second reading, but I did notice that Friedman covered herself by saying, “men are one of the primary targets of this spot.” I’m not always on top on the latest demographic information but based on my understanding of the makeup of our society, that would seem to leave women as the other primary target of the ad. (Sadly, my tolerance for idiocy is very low today.))
RL goes on to quote further from Friedman:
So now what we’ve got is an ad telling men that it’s wrong for women to abort their potential children, lest those children not get the chance to grow up to be famous quarterbacks who paint Scripture references into their eyeblack. In light of new research revealing that about a third of women who report partner violence also report that their partners try to pressure them into pregnancy and motherhood (as do 15 percent of women who had never reported relationship violence), this male-targeted argument is particularly chilling.
Um, no. Neither Friedman nor RL provide a link to the “new research” but given the date and the results, I assume the study being referenced is this one. First of all, based on the Abstract (I do not have access to the entire text), it is most emphatically not the case that “15 percent of women who had never reported relationship violence” report that “their partners try to pressure them into pregnancy and motherhood”. Rather 15 percent of all the women surveyed reported that.
Second, the number that leaps out at me is this: 53% of the young women “said they had experienced physical or sexual violence from an intimate partner.” I simply refuse to believe that these young women are a representative sample. There is no way more than half the women in this country are physically assaulted by their husbands, boyfriends, lovers, or significant others. Whatever is going on with these extremely unfortunate young women, their circumstances tell us nothing about “pregnancy coercion” or “birth control sabotage” in the population as a whole.
Let’s do some math. Of the 53% who experienced violence in their relationships, 35% reported “reproductive control”; that is, either “pregnancy coercion” or “birth control sabotage”. So of the 1,278 women in the study, 677 of them (53%) experienced violence. Of these, 237 (35%) reported reproductive control. If those 237 were the only women in the survey who reported reproductive control, then 18.4% of the total sample (237/1287) would have reported reproductive control. In fact, the abstract tells us that 19% of the entire sample reported experiencing pregnancy coercion and 15% reported birth control sabotage. It appears that the women who experienced violence in their relationships were, in fact, the only women who reported reproductive control. This numerical conclusion is born out by the final sentence of the “Results” section:
In analyses stratified by partner violence exposure, associations of reproductive control with unintended pregnancy persisted only among women with a history of partner violence.
In other words, only those women with violent partners became unintentionally pregnant as a result of “reproductive control”.** To me that means incidents of reproductive control fall well outside the norm of society. Normal men do not assault their romantic or sexual partners and women whose partners do not assault them do not become unintentionally pregnant as a result of their partners’ coercion and sabotage. To believe that watching a Super Bowl ad will somehow make a perfectly normal man decide to beat his woman to keep her pregnant (and probably barefoot) requires a leap of (bad) faith far beyond what anyone who actually knows a fair number of men would be willing to make.
Given RL’s concept of The Patriarchy, her disdain for the Super Bowl is understandable. I sympathize to some extent with her concerns about the extent to which football in general and the Super Bowl in particular represent women as sexual objects. However, to use a bogus representation of an interesting but not generalizable study to argue that presenting a mother glad she carried her child to term will cause men across this country to force their wives and girlfriends to become “baby machines” is way out of line.
And, finally, I would like to point out that - as far as I know - nobody actually knows what the ad looks like anyhow.
* This is the same old naming problem. I don’t consider organizations like NARAL and NOW to be truly feminist organizations. Neither do I consider them to represent the views of all - or even most - women. So what do we call them? Sally Jenkins has some wonderful suggestions in her very highly recommended piece on the Tebow ad:
The National Organization for Women Who Only Think Like Us;
The National Organization of Fewer and Fewer Women All The Time;
and my favorite:
Dwindling Organizations of Ladies in Lockstep (DOLL)
** Apparently one of the questions asked of the young women was:
Has someone you were dating or going out with ever told you not to use any birth control?
If this is truly how the question was worded - with no qualifiers about “other than in the heat of the moment” - and replying “Yes” to it was considered proof of “pregnancy coercion” I believe the entire study should be taken with a very large grain of salt.