The Super Bowl, with its male posturing, scantily-clad cheerleaders, and rampant corporate sponsorships, has never been exactly a feminist’s dream come true. This year, however, there is one more reason to throw your remote at the screen and run for cover, and it comes in the form of Florida quarterback Tim Tebow. And his mother. And the Focus on the Family anti-choice commercial they’ll be starring in during the game.
A long-standing CBS policy against “issue ads” (both PETA and MoveOn.org commercial spots have been rejected in the past) is being relaxed this year in order to air the 30-second spot. Though no script or video has been made available, The Christian Post states that it will, “present the former Florida quarterback’s personal story and will also feature Tebow’s mother, who refused to have an abortion while she was pregnant with him despite having suffered from a life-threatening infection.” The theme of the spot will be “Celebrate Family, Celebrate Life.”
Let the head-desking commence.
Since we are (presumably) mostly pro-choice feminists here, I won’t go into the problems with framing a woman’s decision to risk her own life in order to give birth as “celebrating family,” or the ways in which it glorifies a woman’s ability to martyr herself for the benefit of others. Nor will I examine the decision on Focus on the Family’s part to spend 2.8 million dollars on this 30-second commercial when they are struggling financially, because Ms. has done an excellent job of that already. What stands out to me (in addition to those giant problems) are two things: That CBS is promoting an anti-choice agenda, and that the subtle messaging here is “don’t have an abortion because your kid might become famous.”
There is speculation that CBS is relaxing their “no issues” policy this year because the economy is in the toilet and major sponsors like GM and Pepsi have pulled their support. While this may be true, it doesn’t take a crackerjack detective to notice that CBS has rejected liberal-leaning issues-based ads (from PETA and MoveOn.org) on the grounds of said policy, yet they are willing to bend the rules for an ad with a conservative agenda. Looks like the Super Bowl is even more insidious than those beer ads would suggest (and CBS is guilty of assholery beyond just airing Two and a Half Men).
The other irksome thing here is that, without having seen the ad, I can only guess that its underlying message will be that if you choose to carry a fetus to term, even if it means you and the fetus may die, it’s worth it because your kid could grow up to be a famous athlete. Even if Ms. Tebow never says anything to that effect during the commercial, the messaging is there simply because she is appearing in a Super Bowl ad with her famous, successful son talking about how glad she is that she didn’t have an abortion.
This reminds me of that Nick Cannon song, “Can I Live?”. Does anyone remember that? Here’s the video in case you need a refresher:
With lyrics like Your friends will look at you funny but look at you mommy/ That’s a life inside you look at your tummy/ What is becoming ma I am Oprah bound/ You can tell he’s a star from the Ultrasound Mr. Mariah Carey’s message is pretty clear. Though Cannon claims to be “passing no judgment” it is obvious that he wants us to leave this video with the idea that an unplanned pregnancy could result in a guest appearance on Oprah if only the woman in question is willing to make the sacrifice.
Though Cannon’s and Tebow’s stories are different (as are the stories of all families) the messaging is similar: Make a potentially impossible sacrifice now and it might pay off later. Never mind if you are risking your health, your livelihood, or even your life, because 20 years from now you’ll be glad you did. It’s a woman’s own, very personal choice whether or not she has an abortion, and the possibility of future fame and recognition just doesn’t factor in. Women don’t need to hear about it from Tim Tebow and his mom, or from Nick Cannon, or from Focus on the Family. And they certainly don’t need to hear about it in a CBS-approved commercial during one of the most widely televised events of the year.
If you’re so inclined, complaints about this ad may be addressed to CBS Audience Services: firstname.lastname@example.org.