Own Goal German TV Blasted for Sexist Football Ad
Women's sports are often touted as a means of female empowerment, so a number of viewers who tuned in to the start of the Women's Euro 2013 soccer tournament on Thursday night were shocked to see an ad for the event that was steeped in gender stereotypes.
Germany tied the Netherlands on Thursday night in the opening match of the Women's European Football Championship tournament. But rather than focusing on the result, many German viewers were expressing their outrage over a "sexist" television spot used to advertise the event on German public broadcaster ZDF.
The 22-second clip shows a woman dressed in a crisp national team uniform as she kicks a muddy soccer ball. But the player, who is shown only from the neck down, is not aiming for a goal. Instead, she takes a perfect shot right into an open washing machine. She then sets the cycle and perches on top of the counter in a spotless laundry room, crossing her legs and twiddling her thumbs as the suds bubble. A woman's voice concludes: "Ballsauber in Schweden." The play on the German near-homophones "sauber" (clean) and "zauber" (magic), suggests that instead of working magic with the ball in Sweden, the women on the pitch will be doing cleaning work instead.
The spot, which tapped into obvious gender stereotypes, sparked a hail of angry Tweets and Facebook posts, with users describing it as sexist, embarrassing, disrespectful and clichéd. Up-and-coming young feminist Anne Wizorek tweeted that the spot was "apparently straight out of 1979, complete with a washing machine."
There was also a litany of criticism to be found in a number of German dailies on Friday morning. Tabloid Bild said that ZDF deserved a "red card" for the ad, running an editorial suggesting that the broadcaster ought to have thrown it in the trash.
Star national player Fatmire Bajramaj also criticized the clip. "The spot is not a good idea," the 25-year-old midfielder told the paper. "One would rather prefer that it was about football and not washing machines."
Women's magazine EMMA, founded by respected German feminist Alice Schwarzer, wrote: "It strongly calls to mind the times when the women players were fobbed off with a coffee service as a prize for a European Championship victory."
Conservative daily Die Welt called it "spectacularly bad," while Berlin daily Der Tagesspiegel said the ad was an "embarrassing own goal" for ZDF.
Exaggerated Political Correctness?
On its early "Morgenmagazin" show Friday morning, the broadcaster addressed the criticism, calling in social media manager Michael Umlandt, who acknowledged that people were "not speaking very positively about it."
He highlighted a few choice tweets, including one from viewer @yscherf, who wrote: "Dear ZDF, you can take your sexist gender role clichés and shove them."
On Facebook, viewer Frieda Himbeere wrote: "Football has absolutely nothing to do with laundry, and if this was about men's football, no one would think to create such a tongue-in-cheek commercial."
"Harsh," responded the presenter, acknowledging the "flood of reactions."
But Peter Frey, ZDF's chief editor, was unmoved by the criticism. "I don't think we need to exaggerate when it comes to political correctness," he said on the show. "A spot should stand out and pique interest. In this case, it really worked. It catches the eye, and for me that's the end of the matter."
Still, it would appear that the broadcaster is taking the criticism to heart -- to a certain extent at least. A spokesman told Bild that while they wouldn't take it off air completely, they were considering a possible alteration. "We thought there would be a reaction, but this time we underestimated it," Alexander Stock told the paper. "When it comes to these clichés, there is more sensitivity in Germany than in other countries."
The ad, he continued, was not intended to be misogynistic.