What did we make of the Super Bowl? (and I'm not talking about the football)

What did we make of the Super Bowl? (and I'm not talking about the football)
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Super Bowl fever gripped America yesterday, and many other parts of the world, with more than 111 million people tuning in to watch the Patriots make the largest comeback in Super Bowl history beating the Falcons.

OK so don’t panic, that is the extent of the football talk.

There are two things, however, that have been on my mind this morning from the hoo hah that only happens on Super Bowl day.

Firstly, have you seen the Audi USA television advertisement that played during the Super Bowl? In the ad, a father watches his daughter in a downhill cart race and thinks about whether she is being judged based on her gender. At the core of the ad is whether she will be paid less than a man, despite her talents.

“What do I tell my daughter?” he asks (George Clooney voice over, nice touch). “Do I tell her that her grandpa’s worth more than her grandma? That her dad is worth more than her mom? Do I tell her that despite her education, her drive, her skills, her intelligence, she will automatically be valued as less than every man she ever meets? Or maybe, I’ll be able to tell her something different.”

The ad ends with a message on screen: “Audi of America is committed to equal pay for equal work.”

I watched the ad the week before it aired and I was all ‘fist pumping hands in the air’, and ‘hell yeah’s’ and sharing it all around. And there was also the thought, doing the work that I do in gender diversity and as a business strategist, of, ‘this is a risky and bold move for Audi, could backfire spectacularly.’

Well, that has played out in a pretty typical form and we could have written the script in advance.

The ad’s message, which drives right into the heart of the social fabric of America, was more disliked that loved. The YouTube video has been viewed more than 8 million times and has more dislikes (59,000+) than likes (49,000+). “Some of that [negative reaction] comes from a perception of a manufacturer and seller of products trying to grab an issue and align with it for their own gain,” says Julie Hennessy, a marketing professor at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management, as quoted in Forbes.

And it’s also the reality, in a world that is still run by the patriarchy and where gender norms are deeply entrenched for both men and women, that an ad shining the world’s biggest media spotlight on a specific issue of gender inequality was going to garner some fierce reactions. And it did. Just check out some of the comments on the video if you are feeling sturdy today (it gets pretty nasty, be warned).

As can also be expected, when a big brand stands up and points the finger at something, that finger is going to come back to them pretty quickly. The ad has drawn close attention to Audi’s less than stellar record on gender parity, where there is significant room for improvement.

From stats quoted in Forbes today – Audi has no women on its six-person executive team. Its supervisory board (the German equivalent to a U.S. board of directors) is only 16% women. That’s below the already-low average of 20% for female representation on corporate boards of Fortune 500 firms, and significantly lower than BMW’s 30%.

Now don’t get me wrong. I applaud the ad. I think it was brave and bold and pretty bad ass. It’s so far beyond time where corporations take a public stand on issues that matter for women, for leadership and for work (not to mention society, the environment, politics and humanity). We need to push back on gender stereotypes at all levels for all genders.

I hope this becomes part of the fabric of our collective conversation and consciousness about equality for everyone, and equity for women at work. I hope that Audi get their own house in order and walk their talk so they can be proud to stand behind such an ad in their full integrity. And I hope that we can come together, all genders, with empathy, kindness and compassion that fosters conversation and understanding, rather than the divisiveness that still sets us apart.

Hey, you may call me a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.

And then there was Lady Gaga….!

Well, if you want to see a woman completely SLAY it, watch the half time show. Gaga in all of her talent, glory and feminine freakin’ power, rocking it out and killing it. A sight to behold.

So after all that WOMAN, what is the commentary that is going viral on the net today? How fierce she is? How breathtaking her talent is? How much the crowd loved it?

No, it’s about her stomach. Her stomach people! I couldn’t be more dismayed or disgusted. And I’m not alone.

She has been trolled for daring to bare her stomach. For a tiny piece of skin that people are body shaming her for. Trolling her for. This woman who has won six Grammy awards and is a beacon of hope for people all over the world who don’t fit in, and for all of those who just love her music as well as for what she stands for.

But the people will not sit in silence. Because we have also seen people rising up to slam the trolls, with her fans coming out in fierce support of her, and women everywhere tweeting and posting how they feel better about their ‘normal stomachs’.

It was said best by Mia Freedman, hats off to you lady, nailed it.

“Oh FFS. Have people lost their minds? Have they forgotten what a human female stomach looks like? Gaga is tiny. TINY. You know what you see over the front of her sparkly knickers? SKIN. Her SKIN. The SKIN OF HER STOMACH. Confronting? It was CONFRONTING? Just when I think I cannot be more disgusted by the way women’s bodies are critiqued, ridiculed and disparaged, we go lower. STOP IT. This is so destructive for women and for girls. Because right now, 99.99% of us who have a stomach bigger than Gaga are thinking, “wow, if she’s copping it, what does that say about me?” For every idiot who used the word “flabby” or “fat” to describe Gaga during her killer Super Bowl performance? YOU are the problem. And you should be ashamed of yourselves.”

Preach. Sing it sista.

‘Nuff said.

Stay in your power fabulous women. You’ve got it handled. ALL OF IT.

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