The Subversive Way Special K's New Marketing Campaign Hurts Women

A homecoming queen in a football uniform with a helmet on her knee.

Special K often celebrates female athletes by putting their images on cereal boxes, but its latest marketing campaign highlighting homecoming queen football players doesn’t deserve celebration.

Some players responded with tweets of their own.

While I don’t want to take away from the athletic ability, hard work, and beauty of these young women, I simply cannot celebrate girls playing football. Not only do I refuse to celebrate it, I outright condemn it.

First of all, why in the name of “equality” do women insist on invading man spaces? There is a camaraderie among boys that is necessary for their development as men, and this is fostered in all-boy sports. It’s a kind of initiation into manhood — something that must be done by men in a male-only environment. Injecting females into the mix dilutes the experience, robbing boys of training in masculinity and male bonding that they desperately need.

Instead of tearing down the walls between boys and girls, we need to encourage boys to build more tree houses with signs like “No Girls Allowed” on the door. They need it to develop, grow, and discover what it means to be a man, but as a society we’re taking this from them. It’s not fair to them, and the girls don’t need to take over their space. They have their own tree houses (and their own sports).

Second, I find it ironic that in a time when we’re hearing a lot about domestic violence (especially by football players), sexual harassment, and sexual assault, we have no problem training and encouraging boys to plow down girls on a football field. It’s insane. If people are so concerned about “toxic masculinity,” then why are they injecting poison into masculine spheres at such a young age?

But it’s a sport, some might say. Just a game — no big deal. Such a response ignores the power of sports in developing our character and our psychology, which is something companies like Special K recognize by celebrating sports to begin with.

Sports can have a positive impact on personal development, but this is only when the sport isn’t being perverted into something it’s not meant to be. When you put a girl on a football field, you are training boys to go against their natural (and good) instincts not to hit girls. Part of growing as a man is to learn how to properly treat women, to protect, respect, honor, and cherish them. Not to beat the crap out of them in sports or anywhere else.

Does this mean women are fragile flowers, weak, and unable to participate in athletics? Does it even mean that girls can’t perform as well as boys in some instances? No and no. The issue isn’t questioning a woman’s ability, but recognizing the need to put girls in healthy environments where they (and boys) can thrive.

Having said this, there is a physical component to consider. The fact is female bones are weaker than boys’ bones, and a girl playing football is at greater risk of getting hurt than a boy. Military studies of women in combat prove this natural disparity. It is because of this natural weakness of women (and their function to bear children) that men instinctively seek to protect them — and I think we all would like more men protecting women than hurting them.

Boys playing football against boys — or any other sport for that matter — is natural and good. We want young men to wrestle, tussle, get a bloody nose once in a while, and learn how to be strong so they can grow up to be the protectors women need them to be. This makes them feel valued and significant. It bolsters their self-esteem and their happiness.

Boys playing football against girls is a corruption. It puts girls at risk, reprograms the basic instincts of both boys and girls, and undermines the relationship between the sexes. We are not gender neutral. Masculinity complements femininity. We are equal in value but not the same.

When you line up a girl opposite a boy, you are doing both a disservice. You are telling the boy that this girl is just as strong as he is and that she can take a beating. You are telling the girl that she can physically stand toe to toe with a man and overcome.

You are teaching the boy that women don’t need men to protect them — or worse that they can be just as aggressive with women as with men. And you are teaching the girl that she doesn’t need a man. That she’s strong all on her own, if not stronger than a man, and that she doesn’t need a damn thing from him.

This rips apart the fabric of our society as men and women no longer complement each other but compete against each other. Instead of benefiting from each other’s strengths and supporting each other in our weaknesses, we are fostering a hyper-individualistic mindset that says, “I don’t need you!”

The fact is, this is a lie. We do need one another. We need men to be strong men who protect women. And we need women who will let them instead of trying to compete with them (and failing as the true differences in strength reveal themselves over time).

Am I being too serious about a game? No. Sports are a training ground. In high school, a girl might be able to physically compete with some boys because they’re not fully developed in their manhood yet. This only furthers the delusion that she’s the same as a man. She’s not. Teaching her that she is while she and boys are still in the developmental stages of life is to teach her a lie.

It also strips young men of something precious and valuable — an understanding that women are to be prized and treated with gentleness. In sports, women can be strong, but they need to exercise that strength with each other, not with men.

I admire female athletes. I was one. They’re talented, skilled, strong, and beautiful. But when they step out of the feminine sphere where those qualities shine and move into the realm of men, women are robbed of their true glory and men are robbed of their space to develop their masculinity and of their innate sense to value a woman as a woman.