Try the Tarrant Test for Sexist Super Bowl Ads!

Last year, the Ms. Blog reviewed the Top Five Sexist Super Bowl Ads after the big game. This year, you can be the judge and scorekeeper.

You’ve probably heard of the Bechdel Test for judging movies, which has become increasingly popular and well-known since it was put forth by cartoonist/graphic novelist Alison Bechdel in her comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For in 1985. Based on an AlterNet blog post yesterday by one of our favorite bloggers and feminist scholars, Shira Tarrant, we propose that the Tarrant Test become de rigueur on Super Bowl Sunday.

Here’s what Tarrant proposed that viewers should do “between touchdowns and time-outs”:

1. Tally how many ads feature a woman in the lead, or women with dignified speaking roles that don’t mock or infantilize or hypersexualize.

2. Score feminist bonus points if an ad features more women than men— and the product is designed to be used by anyone.

3. Finally, count how many ads feature people of color, either with speaking roles or in crowd scenes.

As she points out,

“Even in 2014, it remains unremarkable to see a predominately pale-male lineup in an ad for a car, a beer or a snack–products all sorts of people buy. If we flip that script so the actors are primarily female, the message is that this product is exclusively for women, or women are used as the sex-appeal bait or, in the finest of hipster tradition, we’re supposed to understand that the gender-bending is … ironic.”

Again, Tarrant points out the truth that advertisers are missing: “Nearly 40 percent of our nation’s population is Latino, Asian, black, and indigenous,” yet advertisements fail to reflect that reality.

OK, What score did you come up with?

And are there other signs of feminist, anti-racist inclusion that we should be counting tomorrow? If you’re not a football fan, forget the game scoreboard and just score the ads. Maybe you can even bet the over-under for feminist conciousness!

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