German automaker Audi chose to get political in its Super Bowl ad, advocating equal pay for women.
The spot featured a young girl competing against her male counterparts in a downhill soapbox car derby, with her father’s voice-over: “What do I tell my daughter? Do I tell her that her grandpa’s worth more than her grandma? That her dad is worth more than her mom? 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?”
The girl crosses the finish line first, and then jumps into an Audi with her father, with her dad saying: “Or maybe I’ll be able to tell her something different.”
As a career woman, I didn’t find the ad encouraging, uplifting or hopeful — I found it downright demeaning and condescending.
Not to mention factually incorrect.
I flatly reject the notion that despite my education, drive, skills and intelligence, I’m automatically valued less than every man I meet, simply because it’s not true. I’ll never perceive myself as a victim, or believe there’s a certain ceiling on my success because of my gender.
The women warriors of the suffragette, the feminist movement in the 1960s and then trailblazers’ like Mary Tyler Moore in the 1970s, fought hard for my sense of equality, and they won. The Equal Pay Act was passed in 1963 — there is equal pay for equal work. The cultural norms of being a women, and having a career, have also evolved.
Growing up in the 1980s, attending high school in the 1990s and graduating college in 2002, I never for once felt held back or constrained because of my gender. And there was never any dispute that I was going to have a career.
So what should you tell your daughter in 2016?
Tell her the sky is the limit — that she can be whomever she wants to be, and do whatever she wants to do, so long as she works hard and never gives up. Tell her if she chooses to be a stay-at-home mom — to nurture our next generation — that’s an honorable and heroic pursuit. So, too, is pursuing a career. Tell her to be aggressive in getting what she wants, and never to be discouraged when she hears no.
Tell her to remember, the cream will always rise to the top, even if there’s setbacks along the way. Tell her she’s stronger than she knows, and that the testing of that strength produces perseverance.
Urge her to go to school and get an education, so that she never has to be financially dependent on a man. But if and when she chooses to marry, that there’s nothing wrong with a little give and take in a relationship.
That, depending on her season of life, she or her husband may become the primary financial provider, and that’s OK. That shared dreams and personal compromise are necessary for any successful marriage.
Those are just some of the messages you can tell your little girls.
But please, don’t tell her she’s a victim, and that she needs Audi to become her advocate.
That sets the feminist movement back more than 50 years — before my very liberated time.