Puppies versus the sexualization of women

Jan 30, 2015


Colette Atkins

Colette Atkins serves as Assistant Provost at Mount Mercy University, fulfilling a key role in the academic affairs division. She provides administrative leadership and oversight for accelerated and online programs built for working professionals. Prior to joining Mount Mercy, Colette served as a sponsorship coordinator with the United States Air Force, as well as program coordinator for Thomas Edison State College & Rutgers University. She has teaching experience from Burlington Community College, Southern Illinois University, and Thomas Edison State College. Atkins holds a Bachelor in Business Administration from the University of North Dakota and a Master in Education from the University of Oklahoma. Colette is a native of Charles City, Iowa and lives in Marion with her husband and two children.

The Super Bowl is a mere two days away. There seems to be a definite split among the American population: the group who watches the Super Bowl for the touchdowns and fumbles and the group that perks up during the billion dollar advertisements. Most Iowans – or anyone who is a connoisseur of Super Bowl commercials – has heard of the internet web hosting company GoDaddy. The company, which has offices in Hiawatha, is notorious for its past Super Bowl ad buys featuring scantily clad women in a variety of compromising positions. [I refuse based on principle to link to the past ads, but a simple internet search will uncover them]. In the last week, the company previewed an ad that many individuals felt depicted the mistreatment of a puppy. In the end, GoDaddy chose to pull the upcoming Super Bowl spot after viewers decried the mistreatment of the animal. The GoDaddy fiasco has provided an excellent opportunity to highlight the mistreatment of animals, specifically puppy mills. Let me be clear: I am adamantly opposed to puppy mills. But I watched this outcry with a mixture of disgust and amazement. Why have GoDaddy’s previous commercials – and many other companies advertising products from beer to cars to vacations – not sparked the same outrage and discussion about the sexualization of young women? In fact, many of these types of past ads have made yearly Top 10 lists of the “Best Ads of the Year.” I can tell you I’ve never heard a public outcry about how these ads harm young girls’ self-image. Yet they surely do.

I am a strong supporter of our first amendment rights. But I am frustrated with GoDaddy’s history for propagating the sexualization of women – and showcasing it to the largest TV audiences each year. I am equally frustrated that the company suddenly pulled this year’s “puppy spot” but did not have the organizational wherewithal or conscience to question such sexist ads in the past.

We are a society that turns a blind eye to the constant and regular objectification of our young girls. These harmful messages – of which GoDaddy has added to the miasma – tell our girls that their personal value is connected with sexual appeal. Or that their bra size and dress size are more important than their IQ or the level of compassion they offer for other human beings. These harmful messages also tell young boys that girls are sex objects, giving them the false sense of expectations and a power dynamic over women. These images are telling our children that it’s okay to participate in risky sexual behaviors – which they’re not developed enough to understand. They do not get what it means to be a sexual being.

As a mother of two teenage children, I see firsthand how these images directly affect them and their friends. It’s disheartening to see the young girls take multiple “selfies” to find just the right one to post. Equally alarming is hearing the boys talk about the girls based on their “hot” selfie – rather than photos of them receiving a trophy for a soccer win or holding a positive report card.

I am hopeful the GoDaddy “puppy spot” kerfuffle will spark more conversation around the ever-increasing digital age we are in and how it can both positively and negatively affect our children – not just puppies! I am also hopeful this conversation will create a groundswell of consumers who tell the marketers that it is time to change the game.

As consumers, we must say: “We want something different!”

Take a look at the American Psychological Association (APA) latest report on the Sexualization of Girls.