Monday, February 8, 2010

The Morning After

I started watching the Super Bowl last night with a mix of excitement and trepidation. I had adopted the New Orleans Saints as my team for the evening, swept up in the "Who Dat" New Orleans spirit (supplemented by the feminist blogosphere's discovery of awesome new crush Scott Fujita, a linebacker for the Saints), and I anticipated a great game. I also nervously awaited the much discussed Focus on the Family ad, starring University of Florida star Tim Tebow.

I have been struggling with the Tebow controversy all week. On one hand, I am proud of the feminist movement for standing up, calling CBS on its hypocrisy, and forcing the general public to think about what Focus on the Family really stands for. Some really great responses were created, including this Planned Parenthood ad with Al Joyner and Sean James, and the Raging Grannies video. On the other hand, I feel that we lost control of the message. Feminists celebrate all choices, and I know we are happy that Pam Tebow made the best choice for her and her family. The problem is that when Pam Tebow, Sarah Palin, and others boast about "choosing life," they are dismissing the complicated decisions other women have had to make as selfish, frivolous, or downright sinful, and refusing to acknowledge that while the choice that they made was the best one for them, their experiences are not universal. I feel like this point was not made clear enough, and that the mainstream media focused instead on the "Feminists are mad! They love abortions!" angle.

Luckily, the ad was shown fairly early in the game.

It was simple, direct, and frankly, kind of boring. Abortion was not mentioned (if you go to Focus on the Family's website, you get a whole lot more of the nutty anti-choice stuff). It ended, and everyone I was sitting with had a collective "that was it?" moment. I couldn't help but worry that the feminist outrage had done more harm than good, giving Focus on the Family more bang for their advertising buck. A discussion with a few far-flung feminist activists (thank god for twitter and facebook) helped me sort out my thoughts.

Which brings me to my final point: Sure, this ad seemed innocuous. A lot about the anti-choice movement seems like that: crisis pregnancy centers, teenage protesters who only want to save babies, and purity balls. BUT that doesn't mean it isn't dangerous. It doesn't mean it isn't part of the larger movement that murdered Dr. Tiller and denies women of their right to access a legal and safe medical procedure. Last night, the Tebows went before 100 million viewers and represented an extremist anti-woman organization that actively fights against the rights of women, people of color, and LGBT individuals. I believe FotF would love to see the US look like a patriarchal Christian theocracy, like Gilead of The Handmaid's Tale. The playful tackling and teasing of the ad covers the real intentions of FotF. We could have let the ad run without a fuss, but we made some noise and people paid attention to the real message behind the ad. That's a good thing, and I am proud of our movement for taking a stand.

EDIT: I almost forgot the other awesome outcome of the Tebow ad--donations to groups like the National Network of Abortion Funds (NNAF) went through the roof thanks to the protest! FotF may have spent 3 million dollars on an ad, but NNAF is MAKING money that will go directly to helping women in need. Consider donating to NNAF today.

No comments: