Superbowl Homophobia

7 Feb

I didn’t get a chance to watch too many of the commercial’s during yesterday’s Superbowl XLV, but one that I did catch that upset me was this Sealy Posturepedic Mattress ad:

[To the remixed tune of Barbara Streisand’s “Just a Little Lovin’ (Early in the Mornin’)”] “It’s better on springs. Whatever you do in bed, Sealy supports it.

Isms take on many forms; overt discrimination and violence are one manifestation, but so is absence. For example, we learn that women are worth less than men because fewer than 25% of op-eds are written by women, 24% of people interviewed in the news are women, and only 16% of news stories focus on women [1]. This lack of presence of women in the media teaches us that men are smarter, stronger, and worth more. In this same vein, sexism may take the form of absence of images of men in a variety of roles. One of these roles is as gay partners.

To be fair, it’s a clever promotion. It combines the world’s greatest marketing tool (sex, of course) with the coyness of never explicitly naming or showing it (well, aside from the musical reference). Furthermore, it sends the message, “Yes! We know that you have sex, and we support you!” Sadly, through its lack of images, it also sends a covert message about gay, interracial, and elderly relationships: all are wrong. While the ad is not blatantly homophobic, racist, or ageist, nor does it work to dispel the prejudiced messages that we constantly breathe in.

Through this ad, Sealy has aligned itself with Tatum’s (1997) notion of “smog in the air” [2]. The “smog” is the cultural racism, sexism, heterosexism, ageism, etc. that we are constantly breathing in. Invisible, it surrounds us. And simply by living and breathing, each of us is poisoned by it. Only by turning on our air purifiers can each of us combat this smog and its effects. Until each person turns on their purifier, they will be subjected to the poisoned air. To truly purify our world, those forces of socialization – media, schools, parents, etc. – and the individuals who control them, must act as filters and begin to send a new message.

I challenge Sealy to retract its advertisement, and with it its closed-mindedness and exclusionary perspective. By issuing a new commercial featuring couples of all genders, ethnicities, and ages, Sealy will position itself as a true supporter of the beautiful diversity of human relationships, rather than just those relationships that contribute to its bottom line.

===

[1] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s-6xsRG9PWA

[2] Tatum, B.D. (1997). ‘Why are all the black kids sitting together in the cafeteria?’ and other conversations about race. Basic Books.

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