Revolution #192, February 14, 2010

The Toxic Message Behind the Tebow Super Bowl Ad

Super Bowl ads are notorious for degrading women who are routinely displayed nearly naked as objects for the gratification of men to sell beer, cars, and even more fundamentally this society’s view of the role of women.

Super Bowl XLIV featured an ad that degraded and subjugated women from a different—though fundamentally not so different angle. CBS broke with their policy against “advocacy” ads during the Super Bowl (they refused to run an ad from a gay-tolerant church in a previous Super Bowl), to run 30-second ads from Focus on the Family featuring college football star Tim Tebow and his mother, Pam Tebow. The ads themselves didn’t specifically mention abortion, and only alluded to Pam Tebow’s “difficult time” in pregnancy, but sent viewers to the Focus on the Family website for a viciously anti-abortion message.

There, in a much longer video, Pam Tebow tells the story of being with her husband—a Christian missionary in the Philippines—and being told by a doctor that she needed an abortion “to save my life.” Instead of even considering the doctor’s advice—Pam Tebow says “we didn’t need to think about this”—she testifies that she “just trusted god.” And “god” then personally watched over her pregnancy, and now her son has grown up to be a football star.

On one level, this is a criminally insane message that—to the extent it is listened to—will result in women ignoring scientific medical care, and dying unnecessarily. On an even worse level, the Tebow family message is that women should risk or give up their lives, “without thinking,” to serve their Biblically assigned role as child-bearers.

What’s the logic, and morality behind glorifying that?

Sunsara Taylor and Janai Garfinkel wrote in a piece submitted to NYU News, “There’s no inherent value in risking one’s life for a pregnancy.  Fetuses are not people.  They have the potential to become people, but until they are born, they are a subordinate part of a woman’s body. If she decides to terminate that pregnancy, for whatever reason, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. If a woman does have a child and it grows up to do great things, that doesn’t validate her any more than if it does terrible things that means she has failed.

“The only framework in which it makes sense to celebrate a woman for risking her life to have a child is if you are stuck in the Dark Ages.  You know, back in the day when a woman’s worth was reducible to the ‘quality’ of children she bore to her husband and master.”

In the Focus on the Family video, Pam Tebow speaks of studying Timothy in the Bible to get her through her pregnancy. As Sunsara Taylor and Janai Garfinkel point out, “Tim and Pam Tebow and Focus on the Family are…Biblical literalists. That means they believe it is a woman’s job to make babies and obey men. If you don’t believe us, read it in the Bible.  In 1 Timothy 2:13-16 ‘god’ explains the curse put on women for ‘deceiving’ Adam in the ‘Garden of Eden’ and how we can only be saved if we bear children.”

And, they add: “Women are not breeders. We are not lesser beings. We are not objects created for the sexual pleasure of men.  We are human beings, capable of participating fully and equally in every realm of human endeavor.  It is time that we be portrayed as such.”

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