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Super Bowl commercials 2017: Audi’s ‘Daughter’ ad is proudly feminist at the perfect time

An ad advocating for equal pay shouldn’t be radical, but it’s easy to see why it is.

It can’t be ignored that this is an advertisement for a car company which has a vested interest in appealing to not only fathers, but also women and girls who will grow to be women who will want to drive cars. It’s a commercial that will air during the most watched event in the United States, the Super Bowl, and thus will have a grand audience of these demographics to connect to. It’s first and foremost, an effort to sell a product.

With that being said, Audi’s ad for the Super Bowl is one of the best yet for this year and in recent memory.

“Do I tell her that despite her education, her drive, her skills, her intelligence, she will automatically be valued as less than every man she ever meets?”

There’s the immediate issue of such a statement, about equality, but especially one on the value of a woman, coming from a male perspective, even if it’s from her father. The viewpoint is understandable because this is a problem for everyone. It’s something that any man aware of societal structures and inequality is faced with — father, brother, supposed ally, or sensible human being. It’s a battle that is and should be fought on several fronts. But still, it is one of those topics in which the mother’s, sister’s, or child’s voice is usually much stronger.

That being said, what a wonderful effort. To show such an ad in the middle of the crown jewel of the NFL, a game that is the epitome of hyper-masculinity, America’s game, is a radical act.

To do so a few weeks removed from the Women’s March — what began as an organized march in Washington D.C. the day after the inauguration of Donald Trump, and quickly became a worldwide protest and phenomenon — is inspirational.

That it’s also being done by Audi, a car company not usually associated with femininity, makes it more surprising. There have been ads of this nature in the Super Bowl before. There was Dove’s “#RealStrength” ad in 2015 and Always’ “Like a Girl” in the same year, but it’s easy for detractors to dismiss the other ads as nothing more than “woman products.” This though, like Apple’s “1984,” proposes that this inequality is an issue for everyone.

It is even more wonderful when placed side by side with contrasting efforts like KFC’s “difficult daughter” commercial from last Christmas. A video that postures itself as edgy and absurd when it does nothing more than play out the same dangerous tropes that helps the marginalization of women and girls in a society where they are more than half of the population. It’s impossible not to feel the disdain for girls in what is supposedly a promotion for chicken:

Audi has taken the brave stance of questioning why such a silly idea, that a woman is not equal to a man, exists in our society. It asks why such contempt and degradation should be commonplace. Though it centers around equality in the workplace, the voiceover clearly confronts a dehumanization that, like many other forms of discrimination and oppression, is based on factors that neither the victims nor the perpetrators had any control over. It’s gone to suggest that such prejudices, like the ones in the KFC video, and the unequal structures that they keep in place, are ridiculous in nature.

It is a political ad, in the sense that human and workplace life as well as the times in which we currently live, are inescapably political. Budweiser, for example, has also decided to make a political statement in their own commercial.

Audi’s attempt is apt for a time when a protest that totaled an estimated 2 million people, a political demonstration that mirrored the numbers of anti-Vietnam War protests, asserted simply that women’s rights are human rights. Not too different from what this ad suggests, that a girl or woman is as human as any boy or man and should not be valued as lesser for this intrinsic reason.

It’s also a rebuttal to the treatment of women in the sporting landscape. There’s a general anxiety in the ad, one that is shown in the father’s face after the boys surrounding his daughter make intimidating gestures to her before the race; a feeling that grows larger with every struggle that she encounters in the race. The idea that she doesn’t belong there. Or that she’s out of her league. It’s a suggestion that is pervasive in reality. In all levels of the pyramid, the condescending attitude still exists that women do not belong in the sporting world. That it is a thing for men. On one end, there’s the endless harassment and abuse that occurs with female employees in sports, and on the other, there’s the diminishing of their talents and achievements in relation to men.

All send the same message: you don’t belong here.

That she wins the race is beside the point; her participation in the first place is the critical venture. Inclusivity should not be judged by success, but by the ability to fail without somehow being a representation and admonishment of the entire group. That’s the progress that is championed. That’s the equality that should become the norm.

The criticisms for the ad so far have all sounded the same as any criticism for anyone who shines light on any inequality. That’s it’s political propaganda, which is obvious. That highlighting the issue itself is divisive. That there is no issue at all or that the ones responsible for the inequality are the victims and they should work harder rather than blaming the world for their position. And that such statements like this are going to make the ones who benefit from an unequal reality feel bad or ashamed for something they didn’t create. Criticisms that can be summed up as cowardice, in wanting to preserve the status quo rather than deal with the uncomfortable truth and work towards a better world.

Audi’s ad is symbolism, though the statement of intent and support seem to be more than just mere words. They are actively working toward achieving the goal of gender equality in the workplace. It’s neither perfect nor complete, but the mission to do so is commendable. The company also had to be aware of the type of fervent reaction that would come with such a commercial, and that often the hateful drowns out the positive.

It’s been called everything from nonsense to provocative, but that fervor is telling. To damn something that asks for gender equality as provocative is more an indictment of the society than the video. To be angry that a video simply questions the general attitude toward women in the world and insinuates that they should not be reduced because of gender, is embarrassing and shows why such statements are needed. This ad shouldn’t be radical, but it’s clear to see why it is so.