Editorial: Calm down; T-Mobile’s Superbowl commercial is not anti-male, sexist, or feminist

Silverman T-Mobile

I don’t do this on Pocketables very often, but allow me to jump on my political soapbox for a moment. Social media is abuzz with accusations that T-Mobile’s Super Bowl commercial with Sarah Silverman is sexist, because – gasp – Sarah Silverman says, “Sorry, it’s a boy” when delivering a baby in a place where apparently only T-Mobile WiFi calling is available.

Some comments on T-Mobile’s Facebook page include:

“Sorry it’s a boy?” If it were two guys playing the part of the women and said “Sorry it’s a girl,” Well you do the math.

Really sick of American boys and men being treated like crap by the media and Hollywood ….

I’m tired of seeing men being put down, portrayed as buffoons or idiots, getting hurt for laughs, etc. in commercials. Now even male babies are the butt of the punch line?

Great business move associating yourself with Silverman the nasty Femnazi.

Horrible commercial. That Sorry it’s a boy thing was the worst thing to say. Shame on your company. And anyone who thinks that’s funny or says it was taken out of context apparently wasn’t watching the same commercial. Feminism at it’s finest.

Sorry, it’s a boy?? WTF is that about? TMobile thinks sexism is funny?

Sorry it’s a boycott

And it’s much the same on Twitter.

People have simultaneously called this commercial “sexist” and “feminist,” even though by definition it cannot be both at once. (As noted feminist scholar bell hooks wrote many years ago, “Simply put, feminism is a movement to end sexism.”)

I don’t really see the commercial as sexist, because when we look at the definition of sexism, we see that it refers to “discrimination or devaluation based on a person’s sex or gender, as in restricted job opportunities, especially such discrimination directed against women,” or also, “ingrained and institutionalized prejudice against or hatred of women; misogyny.” You might make arguments about some underlying misandry (although I would probably disagree with you), but you can’t say that this commercial is sexist. Women are not being subjugated in this commercial.

But it’s not really feminist, either. While many people are quick to point out that feminism has become synonymous with man-hating in many parts of our popular culture, this simply isn’t the case – if you want proof, ask a feminist.

Instead, I think that the commercial is a largely harmless attempt at a little bit of humor and was never meant to be taken so seriously. To anyone who is seriously contending that men are being harmed by this commercial, give me a break. If we really want to talk about sexism at T-Mobile, why not take a look at CEO John Legere first, who settled three counts of sexual harassment at a previous company before joining T-Mobile? Do we know if Legere learned from his past mistakes? Is anybody asking questions about the climate surrounding sexual harassment at T-Mobile now that Legere has taken over?

And if we really want to talk about sexism in Super Bowl commercials, let’s look in the right places, like this Carl’s Jr. ad.

Additionally, we don’t even know if Silverman is apologizing for the fact that it’s a boy or for the fact that she’s on the phone during a live birth. As many times as I’ve watched this, it still seems ambiguous to me.

Don’t get me wrong – sexism is a problem, and I do believe that men, in addition to women, are harmed from sexist attitudes that still exist in our society and in our various institutions. Yes, the role of the father is sometimes valued less than the role of the mother in raising a child. Yes, men who suffer from mental illness oftentimes feel unable to seek help because of outdated notions of strength and toughness that are associated with masculinity. Yes, there is intense pressure on men to be aggressive and to display little sensitivity.

These are the real problems – so if you want to get upset about sexism, get upset about these negative results of sexism on men. And if you want to advocate for men, focus your energy on fixing this; don’t misplace your energy on calling out a harmless commercial for a wireless company that is definitely neither sexist nor feminist.

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John F

John was the editor-in-chief at Pocketables. His articles generally focus on all things Google, including Chrome and Android, although his love of new gadgets and technology doesn't stop there. His current arsenal includes the Nexus 6 by Motorola, the 2013 Nexus 7 by ASUS, the Nexus 9 by HTC, the LG G Watch, and the Chromebook Pixel, among others.