Wrong-headed feminism

If suicide bombing is unintended feminism of the worst kind, the latest Martha Burk campaign is just a terrible waste of time. The Chair of the National Council of Women's Organizations who made headlines with her -- immensely worthy -- campaign to open up Augusta to women has new cause. Actually, make that a pet peeve. The problem: a new NHL ad.


The spot opens with a quote from Chinese military philosopher Sun Tzu: "A clever warrior is one who not only wins, but excels at winning with ease." A bare-chested player sits on a wooden bench in the glow of a candlelit room with a backbeat of drums and rattling sabers. He is approached by a woman in a bra and gauzy robe, who touches his shoulders, asks "Ready?" and helps him put on his shoulder pads and jersey.
She says "It's time," and he heads to the ice to the cheers of a man and young boy in the stands. The ad ends with "My NHL, coming 10.05." [LINK via Feministing]
Burk's critique seems to consist of two points: one, "The woman is a sexual ornament"; two, "It's appealing to adult men while trying to masquerade as something for kids." All of which is "deeply offensive" to her as a woman and a mother etc. etc. .

I personally find Burk's outrage inexplicable. The average MTV video objectifies women in more "offensive" ways than this ad, where you see the woman's (not particularly naked) body in brief flashes. (You can view the ad on NHL.com. Look under 'Today's Best')

Besides, her position is eerily reminiscent of the 'family values' crowd -- the 'concerned parents' who were furious at Desperate Housewife Nicolette Sheridan for dropping her towel for the sake of cross-promotional publicity on Monday Night Football last year. That incident -- which drew a FCC inquiry -- was seen by many progressives as one more alarming sign of the religious right's ascendance.

Finding a way to challenge the objectification of women without falling prey to sexual puritanism is a complex and daunting task -- one that sex-positive feminists continue to grapple with. But this kind of self-defeating rabblerousing makes me feel tired, if only because by now we really should know better.
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