Last month, an ad depicting a husband gifting his wife an exercise bike pissed off a lot of people. And as if there isn’t enough senseless outrage over innocuous things today, allow us to explain what a waste of time it is to be upset over this 30-second Peloton commercial.
In the ideal, storybook-like world occupied by a seemingly well-to-do young family celebrating Christmas morning, a husband, who only appears in the commercial “The Gift That Gives Back” for about five seconds, has been deemed by many on social media to be the face of patriarchy and sexism because he surprised his spouse with a $2,000 gift — which, by the way, I doubt most hubbies do unless wifey has dropped a few hints like breadcrumbs around the house.
Said wifey follows her exercise journey in a video journal, and after a year’s worth of working out with the bike, thanks her husband for the gift. She is, say many “social justice warriors,” abused and repressed by her husband. This is all a narrative made up by viewers who, I can only assume, have other, underlying issues with men or gifts or healthy lifestyles or holiday cheer or just New Year’s resolutions.
The fact is, there is no sexism, misogyny or any other measure of woman-shaming in this ad. It’s been taken way out of context, and the actors in the commercial are suffering real consequences from this hyper sensitivity and misplaced rage, and the company’s stock dropped 14% in just three days.
Sean Hunter, known these days as the “Peloton Husband” is a teacher and actor, according to Time, and has said he feels his image and career are ruined. “My image is being associated with sexism, with the patriarchy, with abuse, for example,” he told Time. “That’s not who I am.”
If my husband dropped $2,245 on an exercise bike for me, I’d be more upset over our credit card debt than harboring any feelings of being body shamed.
The wife, played by Monica Ruiz, has since appeared in a "sequel" to the Peloton commercial, an ad for Ryan Reynolds' Aviation Gin, playing a psychologically disturbed and perhaps alcoholic bar patron with two friends who say "you're safe now."
A lot of people have complained that the Peloton wife was “already fit” and wonder why she needed the exercise bike to begin with. The thing is, there isn’t any one woman who could have been in this ad who wouldn’t have offended somebody. If she were a slightly overweight or obese woman, then the argument would be completely based on fat-shaming. I can see it now: “This husband is horrible and should accept his wife’s body for what it is! #freethemombod!” (Oh, yeah, they’re supposed to be parents. There’s a kid in the commercial for about half a second.) Who would these people be OK with? A yellow Simpsons'-style cartoon dog family? Is that where we have to go now?
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A healthy lifestyle doesn’t always equal losing weight, and losing weight doesn’t always equal a healthy lifestyle. Maybe this woman’s got high cholesterol and needs extra cardio, maybe she enjoys biking but doesn’t live in a bicycle-friendly area of town, or maybe she’s too busy with her kid. I mean, come on, she’s a mom. But this is a 30-second commercial, not Scenes From a Marriage. The husband has only four words in the commercial, “OK, you ready? Now,” prompting his wife to open her eyes to see the bike. He didn’t say, “OK, now. You’re fat!” or “OK, now. Lose weight!” Hell, maybe he’s doing push-ups on the floor nearby but is out of the camera’s range.
The biggest problem right now is that the “most hated husband in America” isn’t even real. According to the National Statistics Domestic Violence Fact Sheet, 1 in 4 women suffer from actual domestic abuse. So, if you’re anti-Peloton Husband, I suggest focusing that outrage somewhere it will actually matter. Locate local and national organizations that aim to help victims of domestic violence and donate money or volunteer your time.
And, please, before I get feedback from readers criticizing my stance on what is and isn't sexism, misogyny and body-shaming on television or in commercials, I'd like to say this: There is no objectification, cat-calling or crude remarks made in this commercial. In fact, the husband in this ad seems to make his wife very happy.
But maybe it’s easier to fire off tweets or Facebook posts about a commercial following a typical, loving, fictional family than to take any tangible stand against body shaming and abuse on women? Either way, this is our last hot take on The Family Peloton — whatever you gift your loved ones this holiday season, prepare for somebody to get pissed off about it.