Men everywhere are seemingly up in arms and angered by Sarah Silverman’s appearance in a T-Mobile ad on Super Bowl Sunday. The ad, which features Silverman and Chelsea Handler trying to prove who gets the better cell reception in various subterannean levels of their mansions, was hilarious, witty and over-the-top. That is exactly what people expect of Super Bowl ads. But Silverman had the audacity to say “Sorry, it’s a boy” in her “underground delivery room” and that just will not do.
Twitter, that 24-hour spin-cycle of everyone’s outrage and grammatically imperfect quips, lit up with men expressing their dislike of Silverman’s throwaway misandry. One Twitter user wrote, “well done t-mobile for sponsoring misandry and marginalizing males.” The general feeling among men on Twitter was that they had been discriminated against unfairly because of their sex and that this was wrong and unacceptable. Cue women everywhere laughing hysterically.
Stories on places like Salon and Refinery 26 have already been posted about why Sarah Silverman’s ad was not sexist and they do a pretty good job of explaining what should be a simple concept. To boil it all down to one sentence: people who enjoy the majority of power in a society cannot be discriminated against. The fact is that men enjoy the majority of power in today’s society because of the system of patriarchy that exists. For proof that patriarchy exists, compare a man’s paycheck and a woman’s paycheck for the same job. Statistics tell us accurately that women get paid only 77 percent of what men do for the same type of work. That is a function of patriarchy, which favors men over women simply because they are men.
So, no, guys, Sarah Silverman was not being sexist. She was engaging in parody and satire, two of the most time-honored comedic traditions. The fact is, Silverman’s “Sorry, it’s a boy” joke works because women everywhere have been hearing that message for centuries. Girl children have historically been less valuable than male children. Just look at when women could own property in their own right. It has only been since the 1800s that women were allowed to own property in their own names or even to inherit various forms of property. Girls and women were not just less desirable, there were often literally less valuable from a monetary standpoint. “Sorry, it’s a girl” could often spell disaster for families if there were no male children to inherit, own the family property and take care of his female relatives.
And now men are crying because Silverman turned the joke on them. Somehow one joke poking fun at men is reason enough for Silverman to be punched in the face (as one Twitter user noted in his tweet). The response to this supposed “reverse sexism” is anger, hurt and a need for (sometimes violent) retaliation. Men are finally getting a taste of what it is like to feel the effects of being a lesser valued member of society and, surprisingly, they do not like it. Welcome to how women feel every day all over the world.
Sarah Silverman’s turn on the T-Mobile ad which has so angered men on Twitter is part of a trend of “ironic misandry,” which has taken hold of the feminist movement online. As a writer on Slate explains it, “young feminists have taken to deploying the claim of “misandry” like a parlor game, competing to push the idea of a vast, anti-man conspiracy to its most gleefully absurd limits.” Absurdity is indeed the name of the game with this trend. Sayings like “I bathe in male tears” have ended up on things like mugs and t-shirts. The point that ironic misandry makes is not that feminists hate men, but to show how that claim itself is absurd.
Silverman’s T-Mobile ad is part of the same thinking that created ironic misandry. Using absurdity and irony to show the effects of discrimination on women is not only funny, but thought provoking. Men who are angry because they were apparently insulted by that ad might do well to consider how women feel when the same is done to them in everyday, non-comedic situations. The fact that these men have not done that points the favored position they still have in the patriarchal system which governs society. Instead of learning how someone else feels, they can be angry about it and assume they will be taken seriously. Meanwhile, women who are angry about being discriminated against are told they are “misandrists,” “feminazis” and asking for “special rights” when they simply want equality with men.
Sarah Silverman’s Super Bowl Sunday ad for T-Mobile was funny and extremely smart, despite all the ridiculous outcries of male anger. In one sentence, she attacked the system of patriarchy that keeps her and countless other women in a subordinate position to men. Men’s reactions say more about their position in the patriarchy than about Silverman’s joke.
Opinion by Lydia Bradbury