By now anyone interested in sports knows about the upcoming Tim Tebow ad set to appear during the Superbowl. Feminists and other activist groups have critiqued the ad for providing unsafe and misleading information to women about their reproductive health (see here, here and here for more on that). But this is more than just an anti-choice ad: it’s the manifestation of a hegemonic system that creates male sports stars who in turn seem perfectly natural choices to sell any product or in this case, speak on any issue from the biggest mediated platform in American sports.
Tebow is a known social conservative, but just as importantly for this message, a star football player. There’s a reason Focus on the Family isn’t simply airing an ad with James Dobson discussing abortion. Rather, it’s because he is a football star that Tebow is the star of the ad. And it is because of his exploits on the football field, combined with a media system that privileges “power” men’s sports, that Tebow is a recognizable star in the first place.
And herein lies the problem for women: As long as sports – and especially football – are culturally understood as a space only appropriate for men, female athletes will simply never earn a comparable type of hero status, and therefore cannot enter the discourse to speak on political issues with the same kind of impact- even those central to women’s lives.