CBS sells out ‘Supergirl’ in sexist ad: ‘The right outfit can save the day’

I was so excited when I heard “Supergirl” was coming to TV, and so incredibly bummed when I saw the full page ad in People dedicated to the protagonist’s clothing and appearance. The layout of the ad mimics an article with a “headline” promoting her “super style: the right outfit can save the day.” Apparently, like so many other female characters, Supergirl’s power is in her appearance.


CBS, would you ever advertise a new Superman show promoting his super style? Don’t you get that one of the reasons we’re so desperate for a Supergirl TV show is because we’re sick of narratives about girls and women where the focus is on what we look like?

On either side of Supergirl’s image, there are two columns of “interviews” with the show’s costume designers. Colleen Atwood is quoted: “I think when people feel good in their clothing, it helps to sell them as having presence, if not power.” Kiersten Ronning chimes in: “We are catching Kara and Supergirl at the beginning of her story, so as she learns more about herself and finds her strength, she will also mature in her fashion choices.” CBS, once again, I’ve got to ask: Are these the kinds of quotes you’d choose to promote a story about a male character?

It was such a good sign that to me that Supergirl was going to have her own show. Not part of an ensemble, she couldn’t be obliterated on derivative merchandise. Supergirl had a good chance of avoiding the sad fate of Princess Leia, Gamora, Black Widow, and so many other female characters who go missing from children’s clothing, toys, and posters. In kid world, the show or movie or book is only the beginning, it’s the posters on buses, the LEGO sets, the images on the diapers and the lunchboxes and sippy cups and T-shirts that make up the world we all live in. But now I see in this promotion, to quote Ms. Atwood, that CBS has already managed to begin the process of erasing Supergirl’s power and presence.


15 thoughts on “CBS sells out ‘Supergirl’ in sexist ad: ‘The right outfit can save the day’

  1. I wish that Kiersten Ronning – who clearly is a skilled woman – was standing a bit more like fictional Supergirl and less like a timid teen. Now that would be a powerful message for girls! A real woman standing proud about her work.

          • The stance of the woman in the cream dress and glasses is one of timidity and huge contrast to the main picture. Apologies if I am getting situation wrong (super hero films etc are not my thing – haven’t seen the film but am starting to twig)..

            it’s more how the image whoppingly illustrates how some women / girls end up standing in true life – as if in apology, or deference, or not feeling they can take up space or will be called ‘ballsy’ or ‘bossy’ if they stride about a bit.

  2. I’ve seen the Supergirl pilot episode and IMO was a bit disappointing, i expected more to it.Even Bionic Woman from 2007 was better (remember that?).Hopefully they will improve the show in the coming episodes -some tv shows had awful pilots but turned out to be decent ones.Still i don’t expect this show to be anywhere near as good as the Agent Carter tv show.Yes Peggy Carter has no superpowers but her show is much better.


    • But the again do you see Peggy Carter merchandise anywhere? I personally LOVE Peggy I am so disappointed that I can not find any of her outfits online

    • Hi moviereviews4life,

      It’s not an article, it’s an advertisement from CBS, a paid ad. It’s fine if she gives interviews for media outlets, she’s a costume designer! The sexism is that CBS chose to create an ad that focuses on Supergirl’s clothing and appearance.


  3. Have you seen the cover of the first season of Smallville, he is SHIRTLESS, fact of the matter is women do enjoy good fashion especially little girls and for some clothes do make them feel more powerful, just another article where there is sexism when there really isn’t stop whining

      • So women don’t like clothes? They don’t feel more powerful in certain outfits? You are lying to yourself if you can honestly tell me that more woman go shopping in a clothing store than men. I work in a mall and 90% of the time if a guy is in a clothing store he is with his wife, girlfriend, mother, sister or daughter. It’s not a bad thing just a fact. Have you never heard the term “Power Suit” before its a suit worn that makes the person feel more powerful, so yes clothes do have that effect. Also I’ve seen more cases in which men are sexualized to sell clothes, a TV show, even a film so stop. you are crying for whatever reason cause you have nothing better to do and are sensitive. This was an interview with the COSTUME DESIGNER of the series the whole interview was about the outfit for a reason. Now if the interview was about socks and suddenly it turned into ho big her breasts are you have a great reason to say something and I’d back you up but in this case you are being way too sensitive and need to chill out.

        • hi moviereviews for life,
          Why do you think women got the idea that shopping is so important? In our culture, there is a tremendous amount of focus placed on what women look like and that is sexist. You are describing a situation at the mall, not questioning why it is exists, what else might exist, how women and men are both limited by gender boxes. I created Reel Girl because, as the mother of 3 girls, I was shocked by how their world is saturated with sexism, that girls are one way and boys are another. There is no free choice for these kids b/c everything is marketed a certain way, where boys get to have adventures and build stuff and girls are told, before they even get out of the womb, what is most important about them is what they look like. THis gendered message is communicated in hundreds, thousands of ways, one of which is this Surpergirl ad, not article, ad paid for by CBS.


          • So in other words you want a world where men and women look alike then. Now I know what feminism is.

          • Hi Ray,

            No, I want a world with far more diversity and imagination expressed, where women and men are not put into 2 polarized boxes of opposites, but we see and experience a wide spectrum of diversity, where women and men are not the same old cookie cutter, endlessly repeated images and stories.


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