Let’s Have Fun With Sexism!

7 Feb

The Super Bowl on Sunday brought a lot of things into question– most notably, my loyalty to the Patriots after that fumbled pass, the humanity of Madonna (no 50 year old human can move like that!), and the public relations strategy of the website hosting company GoDaddy.com.

Okay, okay, we all expected some sexist Super Bowl ads. This is the one time of the year that giant corporations seem to think it’s okay to alienate half of the general population. From BestBuy commercials implying that the only technology inventors are white men to Fiat blurring the line between car and woman, this year’s commercials really were gems. But what shocked me about the GoDaddy commercial: Their horrible response to the public backlash.

From a brief glance at the fury on Twitter Monday morning, I saw that public response was overwhelmingly negative. In fact, a quick survey of the GoDaddy mentions show a ratio of roughly 13 negative tweets to every 1 supportive post. The angry tweeters threaten to move their accounts elsewhere, sarcastically thank GoDaddy for making them feel objectified, and question the company’s ethics.

The tweets that challenged GoDaddy’s Super Bowl ad choice quickly gained popularity. Two of the three trending GoDaddy tweets Monday morning slammed the company for their sexist commercials:

“@RepresentPledge: Again, @godaddy, please hire a new creative team. We’re still #notbuyingit #superbowl.”

“@EugeneCho: Dear @GoDaddy: Your objectification and exploitation of women disgust[sic] me. #HopeAnElephantStompsAllOverYourServers”*

Well, I can’t say I feel sorry for GoDaddy. Their advertising agency should have learned from the now classic Crispin example— shock value might work to bring consumers to your site initially, but it lowers overall brand satisfaction and retention rates.

Furthermore, their ad strategy just doesn’t make sense. What demographic, besides the dazed 16 year old boys featured in their ad, would be interested in “seeing more” of the uncomfortably-close-to-pornography commercial? Who exactly are they trying to reach? The posts on Twitter show that dads and husbands are pretty equally offended by GoDaddy’s demeaning tactics.

A closer look at their Twitter management shows that they’re not really sure. In what appears to be a company coordinated response to the backlash, the official line seems to be “We just like to have fun.”

Besides sounding like a drunken frat guy’s excuse for coming onto his sister’s friend, GoDaddy’s preferred response has failed for two reasons. First of all, it feeds into the stereotype of the angry feminist. You know, that totally true idea that feminists don’t like to have fun, call every joke “inappropriate,” and prefer political correctness over all forms of entertainment. Because respecting other people’s humanity is so boring.

The thing is, no one is buying that stereotype anymore. Men and women know they can call someone out for being a jerk without sounding like an uptight fun-sucker. And the consumers responding to GoDaddy aren’t self-defined feminists– they’re just people who feel offended and alienated by the brand’s message. They’re reaching out to GoDaddy– and what does GoDaddy do? Insults them.

GoDaddy basically told unhappy customers:

 You were offended, insulted, and feel unimportant? Well that’s because you don’t know how to have fun! It’s not that we don’t get you– you don’t get us! Or really, humor in general. Fun-sucker! 

The second reason GoDaddy’s response failed is because it didn’t speak to the actual problem of the consumer. Good public relations means listening to your audience and responding to their needs. GoDaddy’s consumers said they felt insulted and undervalued. Instead of apologizing or recognizing the validity of their position, GoDaddy responded “We value our customers 100%”

Well, when the GoDaddy advertisements send a different message, can anyone blame customers for feeling lied to?


*The only positive trending tweet was sponsored by GoDaddy. I won’t bother quoting that here.

5 Responses to “Let’s Have Fun With Sexism!”

  1. esquaredg February 8, 2012 at 1:50 am #

    I love how you’ve combined feminism and advertising and social networking! You are the kind of person companies will need to hire when they screw up like GoDaddy!

  2. Wisdom February 8, 2012 at 3:14 am #

    I’m 40.

    I will love anything with just ONE of either Jillian Michaels or Danica Patrick. As a man, my primary interest in either woman- both being one of the hottest women in history- is seeing them nude, or the next big thing.

    The ad they did was not inappropriate, nor objectifying. It wasn’t particularly “fun”/”funny”, and should have had THEM being body painted, as they are the celebrities. So juvenile humor, sure. Not offensive, unless you’re a prudish conservative.

    Egotastic.com puts it best with their subtitle: “Because Men Think Differently”. Women don’t truly let it sink in that men are *actually* thinking about sex every few seconds. We imagine (almost) every woman nude, and fantasize about sex with (many) women we see. Always. Sex is life- even if you’re not getting any sex, it’s still the ultimate experience and focal point of our lives as humans.

    As to celebrities, men want to see them nude. Many WOMEN want to see them nude. The fact there us still no nudity on public TV in primarily is a sign of how prudish this nation is (and backwards- it’s great to show violent crime, drugs and other terrible aspects of life, but not a naked body! Gasp!)

    As a side note, I am male, but that does not disqualify me from the discussion. I also bring an A in my Honors Women’s Studies class I took at my alma mater- one of the best universities in the nation- as my badge of legitimacy to the discussion. (A class that would not have felt that commercial was offensive, with 32 women and 2 men.)

    • Jack D. February 8, 2012 at 5:23 am #


      Ha. What a name. But I’ll save my ad hominem attack for the end of this reply.

      I’m a guy too. And certainly we are not disqualified from the discussion, but we have to come to this issue recognizing that we have historically retained a privileged status over women–a fact we must be cognizant of in any such discussion.

      And while we certainly don’t share the same taste in women, we both find women sexually attractive, think about sex relatively frequently, etc. That said, I think we have two separate opinions as to the fundamental purpose of women.

      The biggest problem with ads like these is that they strip down what it means to be female to a very narrow set of biological parameters, declare that image to be ‘ideal,’ and then remove any identity or personal agency. In this very ad, GoDaddy is telling us what it means to be an attractive woman by establishing biology as the sole factor in the decision-making process (in 2/3 cases you have accepted the conditions put forward, and I doubt you’d reject the third, because she’s hot, right? And European. Definitely the ideal woman).

      Not only does the GoDaddy ad, or any similar ad, tell you who (and what) to be attracted to, but then they remove any personal agency from that individual, leaving women as objects for sexual gratification. I mean, come on. We don’t even have to see the woman as an individual! She is advertising space. Her body has be turned into a commodity–a space for advertising. The woman who is being painted can hardly even be seen as an individual. We just see a conglomeration of parts. And that’s how easy it is to then make the cognitive leap from women as individuals with purpose outside of sexual reproduction to women as things we have sex with.

      Take a moment and reverse the situation. How are men represented in advertising today? From the commercials posted here, as well as the ones, we get the whole gamut. We’re the innovators of tomorrow, we’re the Old Spice guy, we’re the guy drinking beer with his buddies. We are cognizant, productive individuals who can occupy any position in society, from slacker to model to president. How can you seriously watch that ad and not see the disparity in gender representation that exists in our society?

      And that’s an honest question. I haven’t taken any Women’s Studies courses, so if you have some greater knowledge, please share it here. I’m quite a ways from turning 40, so I’ll concede that I don’t know everything, and that someone older than I am might have a better grasp on the issue than I do.

      But I doubt it.

      Oh, and by the way, an ‘A’ in your Home Ec. class (or ANY class, for that matter) does not give you the right to speak on behalf of a group of individuals to which you do not belong, even if you do spend every few seconds thinking of how to screw them over (and I do mean that in every way possible).

    • Caitlin February 13, 2012 at 8:42 pm #

      I find it interesting that after taking a Women Studies class you think the GoDaddy ad isn’t objectifying. Turning a woman’s body into a sign by painting it is literally turning it into an object– a billboard, to be exact. In addition, zooming in on different parts of her body makes it impossible to see her as a whole person. She is not what is important, it is the itemized bits of her body that are important. According to most feminist theorists, and specifically according to Jean Killbourne, this is the textbook definition of “objectifying.”

      I agree that the United States is overly worried about nudity, especially compared to European countries; however, you imply that female celebrities are the only ones that should be naked. Why should nudity be limited to women? It’s probably telling that you think women, especially celebrities, should cater to what “men want”– after all, women exist to be objects of pleasure!


  1. Happy 1.1 Blogversary! « Sustained Enthusiasm - February 20, 2013

    […] I took the leap. My first post was about the Super Bowl and GoDaddy’s response to their horrific, sexist ads. I later followed up with a post outlining my reason for starting the […]

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