This Sunday will bring yet another Super Bowl to the USA – and to much of the rest of the world as well. I have no real problem with the Super Bowl. Some years I even watch it. (But, now living in Canada, even though we get to see the game, we miss what to me is the most interesting part of the whole thing – the ads! I find them quite interesting from a feminist-informed sociological standpoint. If I want to catch them I normally have to find them online a day or two later. So, if I remember to do so, I will probably try to see them on the computer.)
Last year at this time I wrote a blog entry entitled “It’s just a game, right? Thoughts on the Super (?) Bowl.” (You can find it here: http://billsprofeministblog.blogspot.com/2011/02/its-just-game-right-th…) In that post I expressed admiration for the sport of football, but I also looked at the fact that both of the teams in the game that year had been the subject of serious allegations of the brutal rape of women. And I looked at what researchers have actually found on the link between Super Bowl Sunday and domestic violence. (It turns out that we actually do see a small increase in domestic violence calls on Super Bowl Sunday, but the uptick is smaller than the increase that occurs at Christmas or over Memorial Day weekend.)
I also reported that some commentators had expressed concern about the large numbers of women who are typically trafficked into the host city to meet the demand from male sports fans for bought sex. Unfortunately, similar trafficking tends to occur around any major sports event or political convention. And even people who support adult, consensual prostitution – which I don’t – still tend to acknowledge that the sexual trafficking of women and girls (and boys, too, for that matter) is a very, very bad thing.
It’s also about what we don’t do as well. In last year’s post I also wrote that another gripe I have with the Super Bowl is that, in addition to the bad things some of us men will do, there are a hell of lot of things that many of us will not do during the game – things we actually should be doing. I recounted a story about accompanying a female friend and her young daughter to a US emergency room for medical treatment on Super Bowl Sunday. As expected, the ER was full of sick and injured kids. But what I did not expect was to see approximately 20 moms there but only one other man. As someone who is interested in how (and even if) men involve themselves in childcare, I asked a nurse if the numbers were always so skewed. Were the parents who tended to accompany their kids to the ER always 90% female?
“No,” the nurse replied. “Normally it’s pretty close to 50-50. But today is the Super Bowl. And it’s always like this when the Super Bowl is on.”
What else we don’t do. This year, as I began to reflect on that story of men’s absence from the ER on Super Bowl Sunday, I also began to think about what other things we are not doing as we focus all of our attention on this mega-corporate game. And I began to think about how society might be very, very different if we simply allocated our attention (and our resources) differently.
About how the world might look if we could only all remember that football is just a game.
And if we valued women’s lives as much as we do men’s hobbies.
Men on the gridiron, or a safe place for women and kids for the night? The salaries for the New England Patriots players this year added up to $53,131,000. These guys got fifty-three million dollars before even beginning to collect their play-off and Super Bowl bonuses. Just to play in the regular season.
In contrast, each and every night in the United States, hundreds of battered women and their children are turned away from domestic violence shelters due to lack of space. Nationwide, 29% of all requests for shelter are denied (Source: U.S. Conference of Mayors). And one study in New York City found that almost 60% of women seeking shelter were turned away. And just what does it cost to shelter one woman or child for one night in a domestic violence shelter? About 45 dollars. (Source: http://www.trivalleyhaven.org/public/docs/TVHAnnualReportWeb.pdf)
So let’s do some math. If the money that was spent this season on the player salaries for the New England Patriots had been spent on shelters instead, it would have provided nearly 1.2 million bed nights for women and children fleeing violence. While that resource by itself would not end the scourge of domestic violence, it would sure have an impact! But it all comes down to our priorities: what is more important? The lives of battered women and their children, or having a winning professional football team?
Being able to watch good football, or rescuing kids from sexual slavery? The New York Giants (who are the Patriots’ Super Bowl opponent this year) had a team payroll of $61,232,500. The New York players got over sixty-one million dollars to play ball! Again, this was before their post-season bonuses. And this figure is just for the players. It does not include the money paid to coaches, trainers, front office people, and the owners.
It is difficult for me to even begin to get my head around a figure like sixty-one million dollars. But one figure I can understand is one hundred dollars. And, according to the charity World Vision, that is exactly what it costs to provide the sort of ongoing support needed to rescue and care for just one of the more than 2 million children who are sexually exploited worldwide in the global commercial sex trade. (Source http://donate.worldvision.org/OA_HTML/1xxwv2ibeCCtpItmDspRte.jsp?sectio…)
So what if we took that 61.2 million dollars spent this season on player salaries by the New York Giants and spent it instead on rescuing and rehabilitating the youngest victims of the international sex trade? Just how many kids could we help?
Over six hundred thousand.
That’s over one-quarter of all children who are sexually sold around the globe.
What the New York Giants players were paid in the last year to entertain us could free over half a million kids from sexual slavery.
Ads, or educating girls in Africa? This week NBC will charge an average of 3.5 million dollars for each 30 second slot of advertising. They plan to have 70 of these slots. They will raise 245 million dollars.
On the other hand, the average annual total cost for educating a girl in East Africa is $650 a year. In the USA it is $7,750. (Source: http://www.aidforafrica.org/girls/how-much-does-school-cost/). The amount of money that NBC will raise from advertising during those few hours on Sunday could pay the entire education costs for 31,410 girls in East Africa for 12 years of schooling.
So, should we be educating great numbers of girls in East Africa? Or should we just continue to lie around in our newly-purchased David Beckham Bodywear, eating our Doritos, and drinking our Coca Cola – just like this year’s ads will tell us to?
Want to have a real community impact? Process those damn rape kits! When the NFL tries to convince cities to host the Super Bowl, the League claims that the game will bring in 500 million dollars to the local community. Some economists question this assertion, however, and point out that much of the money that comes in to the host city just goes right back out again. (Many of the services used and resources consumed are provided by multinational corporations who instantly move their profits elsewhere. See http://college.holycross.edu/RePEc/hcx/Matheson_SuperBowl09.pdf.)
In the meantime, in an attempt to make U.S. streets and homes safer from repeat criminals, the justice system has been busily extracting DNA samples from convicts. This would seem to be an especially effective tool when trying to catch repeat rapists (who tend to leave their DNA behind). And hospitals have gotten very adept at collecting forensic evidence from rape survivors.
But it isn’t working very well. Why not? Because it is estimated that there are 500,000 unprocessed rape kits sitting on shelves in evidence rooms in police facilities. (Source: http://abcnews.go.com/WNT/video/half-million-rape-kits-tested-10705195.)
Los Angeles has at least 12,700 untested kits. Detroit has 12,000, and the state of Illinois has 8,000.
Goodness knows how many rape kits are sitting untested in your own community!
And it is not just the samples acquired from victims that are going untested. The samples acquired from criminals often go unanalyzed as well. It was this gap that allowed Robert Patton of Cleveland, Ohio to leave prison in 2001 after giving a DNA sample, and then go on to rape several women during the three years it took authorities to get around to processing and recording his DNA. (Source: http://www.importantlittlefacts.com/dna.)
And in some communities, the statute of limitations has actually run out before the rape kits and DNA samples can be processed! Then the rapists, even if found, cannot be prosecuted.
And just what does it cost to process a rape kit? About $1,500. So wouldn’t it be far better for communities throughout the USA if that $500 million that the NFL claims that each Super Bowl brings in (if only temporarily) were spent on processing the rape kits instead? For $500 million, we could process 333,333 rape kits and make a huge dent on nation’s shameful backlog of untested kits!
As it stands now, tens of thousands of women go through the incredibly invasive post-rape evidence-gathering process only to have the material gathered sit unopened in some police warehouse.
Real choices. So if you happen to catch the Super Bowl on Sunday (and, like I said, I sometimes do), please remember that as you watch the game that there are many far, far more important choices being made than whether or not the team on offense should go for it on fourth down, what kind of pass rush the defense should use in the red zone, and whether the coach should challenge the ref’s call and risk losing a timeout.
We could be giving 1.2 million battered women and children a safe place for the night.
And we could be helping 600,000 children who are trapped in sexual slavery.
And we could pay for the entire school education of 31,410 girls in East Africa.
And we could process over 300,000 rape kits that are just languishing there and preventing justice from ever being served.
And all that’s just from a portion of all of the money that has gone into Sunday’s game. Money that goes into the game each and every year.
Don’t ever let anyone tell you that we don’t have enough money to solve the world’s social problems. We do have enough. We just choose not to spend it that way.
Instead, we spend it on a lot of things that are not helpful.
We spend it on men’s hobbies rather than on women’s lives.
At the beginning of this blog I wrote that “I have no real problem with the Super Bowl.”
But now I think I have changed my mind about that.