Apparently inspired by the reunion of Destiny’s Child at the Super Bowl, Sara Netanyahu showed up at the swearing in of the 19th Knesset in a form-fitting — well actually more like skin-tight — lace dress with a see-through top.
While we all love a first lady who can part with convention, it gets a little scary when the shift in style appears to be inspired by the Real Housewives of New Jersey.
In the United States we have had some great sartorially rebellious first-wives, namely Michelle Obama and Jackie O, both of whom redefined femininity for a generation. Jackie O did it with her A-line dresses, pill box hats and pastel suits. And Michelle Obama has inspired many women with her bright colors, strong arms, and mixing of couture with J. Crew. These first ladies achieved fashion icon status because of they way they come off as elegant and graceful while also appearing modern and relevant.
This year’s Grammy Awards were punctuated by some striking gender messages worth noting.
First was the appearance of Chris Brown, convicted woman-beater, greeted with the kinds of cheers usually reserved for returned astronauts or war heroes. The poster child for how to beat women and still be a rock star won a Grammy for Best R&B Album, and the cameras did not even bother hinting at Brown’s dark side by, say, cutting to Rihanna, his 2009 punching bag, and reminding the audience whom they were cheering. Even worse were some of the tweets of the evening: @_anniegregg tweeted, “He can beat me up all night if he wants,” as did dozens of others, like @carmnem who said, “I wish chris brown would punch me.” Pretty frightening stuff. So much awareness about issues of domestic violence.
Against this backdrop was the tribute to Whitney Houston, who died the day before the award ceremony. It is fascinating to me how her untimely death keeps being referred to as a story about how drugs can ruin one’s life. (New York Times, for example.) Yet the fact that she, like Rihanna, lived the life of an abused woman has emerged as a sort of secondary threat. While we don’t yet know how Whitney Houston actually died, the fact is, three women a day die at the hands of their intimate partners in the United States, according to NOW. Living with an abusive poses at least as many dangers to a woman’s health as substance abuse. It just seems odd to me that Houston’s death has become a kind of gender-neutral story about drugs rather than a story about a life completely ruined by a dangerous relationship.
According to tradition, football players wear a patch with the Roman numerals of the Super Bowl — this year is Super Bowl 46, or XLVI — on the left side of their chests. This year, the Patriots will be wearing it on the right side; the left is already occupied by a patch honoring Myra Hiatt Kraft, the wife of team owner Robert Kraft; she died of cancer at age 68 last July.
The daughter of one successful businessman, Jacob Hiatt, and the wife of another, Robert Kraft, Myra Kraft was a dedicated and inspired philanthropist. The Krafts were generous benefactors of Israeli institutions and of Brandeis University, her alma mater, but they also endowed a professorship of comparative religion at the College of the Holy Cross. From 1983 to 2011, Myra Hiatt Kraft served on the board of the Boston Boys and Girls Club and, in 1995, became the first woman to chair that board. She also ran the New England Patriots Charitable Foundation.
After Myra Kraft’s death, the Patriots dedicated the season to her memory. They have been wearing patches with her initials, MHK, over their hearts ever since. A piece on the Boston NPR affiliate WBUR, called Myra Kraft a “Jewish mother” to the team. Pats defensive lineman Vince Wilfork told WBUR that Myra befriended many of the players, asking about their families and making sure they were feeling okay. “We both enjoyed each other,” Wilfork said. “My friends were so different. Lot of guys want to talk about football, but with her it really wasn’t about football. She wanted to know how you are as a person.”
I have a confession to make that may or may not come as a surprise to my friends: I really do not care all that much about the Super Bowl. I would like to say that it’s because I’ve been living outside of the United States since 1993, although if I’m going to be honest, I didn’t care much about the game when I was living stateside either, nor in fact about the entire sport of football. I have a vague image of football season comfort, the kind of stay-inside warmth knowing that nothing important is going to happen out there in the world for an entire day because everyone is watching television. I often crave such moments of nothingness that are increasingly elusive in my life. But of course, for those people who actually care about the Super Bowl, I suppose my sentiment of “nothingness” is akin to blasphemy. As if I was putting down Yom Kippur or something.
Nevertheless, the Super Bowl was on my radar this year because of some intriguing and troubling gender issues that have come to the fore. For one thing, The New York Times reported with some wistfulness that this is the first time in 40 years that there were no cheerleaders at the game. It came as a bit of surprise to me that not all teams have cheerleaders (those who don’t get two points in my book, not that they are points that have any significance to football players).
I love the phrase that Sarah Seltzer uses in the previous post to give voice to the immature sexism found in some of this year’s Super Bowl ads: “women, ugh.” Maybe it’s more than just the ads — judging from a women’s half-time match up that competed with The Who for viewers, I’m beginning to think that, on some level, sexism colors the whole sport.
Sunday’s Super Bowl match up between the Indianapolis Colts and the New Orleans Saints was most watched event in television history. But on that same day another football game was being played … by 14 women … in lingerie.
This year, the coveted commercial time during the (exciting and inspiring) Superbowl was filled with ads that made women, and male viewers, uncomfortable with their implied or overt misogyny. Twitter feeds and blog comments were filled with viewers marvelling at the unceasing, unvaried tone of the ads. While beer ads are traditionally less than friendly to the fairer sex, something about the parade of she-hating spots following the controversial anti-abortion Tim Tebow ad from Focus on the Family — an ad that ended up being “meh” — really ticked people off.
There are too many posts around the Web about this to count, but here are a few that demonstrate the way the night went: Jezebel’s Hortense compiled the first grouping of sexist ads. Gotcha media made a YouTube video putting all the violent acts from the ads together. Irin at Jezebel rounded up the media’s astonished reaction to this parade of sexism (to various degrees).