The company’s hockey widow ad is much ado about nothing
Guzzo Cinemas’ “hockey widow” ad campaign has caused a stir lately, with many calling it sexist. At the heart of the accusation is the claim that the photo ad—which promotes a movie discount for women on evenings that the Montreal Canadiens play—implies that women do not watch hockey.
But really, it doesn’t at all.
The backlash for Guzzo Cinemas is a classic case of reading too much into what is actually a pretty straightforward message.
“Are you a hockey widow?” reads the photo ad. “You know… Left alone to regret wasted evenings while he watches the game?”
In fairness, for the ad’s detractors, the interpretation of the ad’s message was likely impacted by its visuals.
The picture accompanying the ad features a man glued to his TV during a hockey game. Next to him, his neglected girlfriend looks very much like she is being held hostage from puck drop until the final buzzer. The bottom of the ad shows the same woman, happily eating popcorn at a Guzzo movie theatre with her girlfriends.
Nevertheless, it strikes me as odd that an ad filled with clear, probing questions would be interpreted as a definitive statement on gender roles.
Merely asking those questions suggests an openness to the idea that there are indeed women who do love hockey, yet Guzzo Cinemas was accused of narrow-mindedness.
Imagine that this wording was used, for example: “Are you a woman? Left alone to regret wasted evenings while he watches the game?”
Not only is this fictional ad too broad to truly resonate with a prospective customer, it implies that no woman watches hockey and is certainly deserving of the backlash that the “hockey widows” campaign has received.
Clearly, the target market for Guzzo Cinemas’ promotion is much narrower than just women—it is women who do not love hockey and have significant others who do. I strongly doubt that anyone can deny the existence of such a group.
Sensitivity towards the portrayal of women in media is not only understandable, it is needed. But how can such a blatant misunderstanding arise? How can an advertising campaign so specific be seen as a sexist generalization of women?
But mainly, this kind of rush to judgment is due to the importance we tend to give to the images and messages shown on media platforms. It is the fear of the media’s power to influence others and legitimize certain norms, beliefs and values. It is the fear that if a message or image is in a movie, commercial or television show, some will conclude that not only must it be true, it must be the only truth.
Members of groups that have historically been stereotyped can be weary of how they are portrayed regardless of how harmless the portrayal is. Add the reality of the social responsibility of businesses and, in this case, Guzzo Cinemas’ margin of error was ever so small.
“Are you a hockey widow?”
It is a question that gives options to women in the audience. It does not pigeonhole them into a certain identity. We are all entitled to our opinions. However, I question the act of reading into something that simply isn’t there.