Super Bowl 44 — over. I am a huge Colts fan, but even I can’t be unhappy with the Saints victory. Who could begrudge New Orleans anything? I am delighted for every Saints fan everywhere. I wish I could feel as good about the Super Bowl ads, but I don’t. Oh, there were some funny bits and some classic moments, but as they unfolded I found myself appalled. An inordinate number of ads were incredibly sexist and even hostile to women (except for those by women who objectify and denigrate…). I found myself offended more often than entertained. The “men are pigs, women are ignorant” message wore thin fast. I felt a time warp — cast back fifty years to a time when men could be insensitive jerks and think it was cool. Have we decided that women are somehow okay targets again?
I know. I am idealistic. I want to believe that we are an evolved and kind people, but the evidence is sketchy at best. I still encounter Christians (United Methodists, in fact…) who question if “women” (as if this is some sub-species) should be pastors. The question leaves me speechless. Are we complete idiots? Have we never functioned in the real world? Have we no mothers, wives, sisters, or brains? Have we never had any relationships of any worth or value in our lives with females? Are we irrational, primitive, pre-modern, ignorants who live in total bigotry and prejudice? No. We’re intelligent human beings who respect and revere both males and females as created in the image of God. We are not stupid.
But, then what explains the insensitive, violent, aggressive, antagonistic, misogynistic, hateful and ugly messages about women that pass for humor in marketing and media? How have we devolved so far, so fast? I am a guy, after all, and I found a large number of Super Bowl ads offensive and indefensible. I can’t be too far off, since my wife found them offensive as well, and she is a woman!
I hate when the dominant culture is unenlightened and offensive — I hate it all the more when my church follows suit. I lament with the wonderful, spiritual, competent, and gifted women clergy in my denomination who are still finding it hard to be accepted as leaders in our church. I listen to denominational leaders crow about how far we have come, then talk to women in the system who are suffering under the burden of 19th century sexism and oppression. Are we kidding ourselves? We still mistreat women in leadership almost daily.
Look at our largest churches. How many are led by women? I actually had a well-known large-church pastor tell me it was because “women don’t want the responsibility.” Yikes. Our system doesn’t recognize or reward women the same way it does men. We come up with a hundred and one (lame) excuses, but the one reason is that we simply haven’t gotten to the point where justice and fairness guide our life together. We pay lip-service to what we know we should be (articulated values) but are light-years away from that goal (lived values). We revere and honor woman while treating them as second-class — the great American way.
I can’t quite fathom the irreverent, disrespectful, and offensive messages about women in this year’s batch of Super Bowl ads, but I fear it reflects a deeper disregard that we refuse to admit and acknowledge. In the church, this may call for some major repentance — unless we’re really not sorry. I just can’t imagine that we would be so stupid as to rob ouselves of the amazing leadership of women in a system that needs the whole people of God to be successful.