It takes approximately three minutes of listening to my interests to know that I am not interested in sports. I grew up wanting to be in the NBA, then realized in the 9th grade that I was not good at basketball. In acknowledgement of this, I cut basketball from my life like a clean breakup. Not only did I stop playing basketball, I stopped talking about it, watching it, or expressing any sort of joy in it. I just needed some time, you know?
In recent years I have come to remember what makes watching and playing sports such a bonding experience. My sister is on a mission to see the Texas Rangers play in every ballpark across America, and the two of us have traveled to Seattle, Chicago, and Baltimore on this quest. My sister loves baseball so much that it is hard for me not to love it merely through sibling osmosis. I also enjoy attending the occasional Mavs game.
Despite my slight renewal of appreciation for sports, I do not care nor pay attention to who wins what, who plays what, whose balls were not inflated, etc. I have a passion for writing, watching movies, and seeing and performing music. My long list of hobbies does not leave room for others.
And yet, every year, without fail, I find myself watching the Super Bowl. For many years I watched for the commercials. They were my leg into any conversation the following day. When people asked me if I watched the Super Bowl, I could carry on a long enough conversation about which commercials were funny or lame, and then my social well-being for the day would be locked. If I didn’t watch the Super Bowl, the day after would be a day of missing out on conversations and being judged, so I never missed it.
This year, however, I have made the conscious decision to miss the Super Bowl. Although watching it keeps me socially alive for a day or so, the images that flash across the screen throughout the game keep me spiritually dead for an indeterminable amount of time.
I know this is something I do not blog about often, but I resolved to be braver in what I write this year.
Here’s the thing about the Super Bowl: it’s not about the game. The winner of the game is not the Seahawks or the Patriots; the winner is the company that sells you a product.
Companies pay millions and millions of dollars every year in order to convince you that this beer is better than that beer, this chip is better than chip, and this person is better than you—unless of course you buy what they buy.
Unfortunately, we live in a society where the biggest selling point is sex. Businesses know that the number one way to make Super Bowl viewers—who mostly comprise of men—to buy a product is to put sex on the screen to hold their attention. It has worked for years, and it will continue to work for many years more.
In just a few minutes, your television will be saturated with a near-naked Kate Upton trying to get you to play Game of War, Katy Perry performing her music with her trademark brand of sexualized candy costumes, and a countless number of other women dressed down to sell deodorant, beer, website names, ad absurdum.
Maybe you are unaffected by it. Maybe you are able to see these commercials, think nothing of them, and move on with your life. Maybe you are immune to the influences of advertising. Maybe society has convinced you that feminism equates to allowing male CEOs, producers, and directors to tell women to wear less. Maybe you don’t make the connection between Super Bowl ads and the fact that sex trafficking gains more attention in the city hosting the Super Bowl.
As for me, I am not unaffected, immune, nor persuaded.
Recently I have been convicted—by church, movies, and friends—that our society’s obsession with sex has normalized lust. It’s not my place to say what you should believe, but I personally believe that sex means a lot more than the way it is portrayed by media. In spite of this belief, I have lived in opposition to it. I have personally struggled with lust since I hit puberty, and—after 10+ years of allowing society to influence me—I am drawing a line tonight.
I have been a slave to culture for too long, and the only thing watching the Super Bowl will do for me is pushing me steeper into my bondage. Yesterday I mindlessly agreed to a Super Bowl party at my apartment; today I mindfully decided to leave my apartment for the next five hours.
Tomorrow when I arrive at school, my students will try to start conversations with me about the Super Bowl. Instead of riffing on commercials for a few minutes, I will tell them that I did not watch the game. When they inevitably ask why, I will be tempted to downplay and say something evasive like, “You know me. Not a sports guy.” Instead, I will look them in the eye and say, “Because the Super Bowl is one of a multitude of ways that society perpetuates sexist and/or sexual images that cause males to devalue females and females to devalue themselves.”
Some of my students will give me that look they give me when I have said something that crosses their line of how deep they want to go in a conversation. Hopefully, however, a few of them—both male and female—will chew on what I say. Hopefully they will ask me a few more questions, so that we can have a real conversation about media’s portrayal of males vs. females, whose voices are being heard and whose voices are being silenced, and how we are all being wired to think about one another.
I don’t want to make you feel bad if you watch the Super Bowl tonight. I am not writing to shame you. Rather, this post is for the boy who (much like me) needs some conviction about how he responds to what he sees tonight. This post is for the countless number of girls who will hear boys around them talk about Katy Perry and other women in ways that make them feel insecure in themselves. This post is for the ones who don’t want to be told by society what to think about sex as if it is the truth just because it is widely accepted.
I am certainly no saint in these matters. I listen to music that too often perpetuates sexist stereotyping of women. I watch movies that blur the line between plot and pornography. I have clicked on the wrong websites. It’s easy to remove myself from an event for something I have no interest in, like a sports game; it will be harder for me to remove myself from the movies and music that I love.
I have a long way to go to rid my life of media’s influences. At least tonight I can know I’ve taken a step in the right direction.