Super Bowl Ads Focus Attention on Domestic Violence

by PA NOW Vice-President Michele Hamilton

The headline for Forbes online this week stated “Domestic Violence Dominates the Super Bowl”. My first thought was, “How do two ads constitute ‘dominating’ the Super Bowl in the mist of 500 other commercials that commodify women and relationships.” My second thought was “I wish that a thoughtful analysis of domestic violence towards women did dominate the Super Bowl or any other major public media event. I wish as a society we could use PSAs on violence against communities of color, LGBTQ communities, immigrant communities and people with disabilities”.

That said, for the first time in Super Bowl history, there are two ads centering on domestic violence. The first, by the No More campaign, uses the true story of a survivor who called 911 and pretended to order pizza in order to safely get police response when the perpetrator was still nearby. The purpose of the ad is increasing bystander awareness and intervention.

What has happened online is “discussion” reduced to which gender is “more violent” usually by a “men’s rights advocates”. At first, I thought this was a misunderstanding of the ad. Now I realize that this is a derailing conversation, meant to draw attention away from our community response and creating a supportive environment for survivor.

As feminists we need to be beware of the difference and not get caught up in conversations that veer away from demanding accountability and cultural change.

The second ad is from the activist group, Ultraviolet and targeted towards domestic violence within in the NFL. It is for me the more interesting commercial because it has created varied responses.

The ad features a women standing on a football team, who is run over by a fully padded football player. When I saw it, I originally wished the woman was more active because so many feminist organizations including local, state and national NOW chapters have been vocal on this issue. My co-worker felt the opposite; that this standing woman symbolized how women where standing firm on demanding action for Commissioner Goddell. Should we be addressing the NFL directly or instead demanding an end to patriarchy?

Whatever the general response to the ads are, it is a positive step that they are here and reintroducing domestic violence into public conversation. We can support both organizations, No More and Ultraviolet. We can expand to conversations beyond awareness to include political action, and intersectionality; tying everything to NOW’s six core issues. Finally, we can support Pennsylvania NOW by joining, renewing and partnering with a local chapter (or starting one).