Violence against breast cancer
24 January, 2007
DCist has picked up my objections to this ad, which has begun appearing on bus stands around DC. In response to some of the comments on that thread, here is a more coherent explanation of my objections, which began as a comment on the DCist thread but fits better as a blog post I think.
Not posted on DCist:
I first saw the ad from across the street. Squint and you’ll get an idea: a young female torso with a heckuva lot of violent words splashed across it. I didn’t see anything indicating what the ad was about until I had crossed the street. It got my attention, so I guess it’s a good ad. But it did so by making me think about violence towards women. Is that really what they want out of their ad campaign, do you think?
Now back to our regularly scheduled blog post:
As both a feminist and a photographer, this ad’s goals and its implementation could be a LOT more aligned than they are, and could be far more pro-female. The full text (as opposed to just the text that’s readable from a distance) tries to create a vibe of edgy aggression around the fight against breast cancer, and aims it at younger women. Well, here’s a suggestion: to create an edgy aggressive vibe that will engage young women, show a young woman doing something edgy and aggressive. Don’t use a woman’s body as a passively comely billboard for violent words.
Photography-wise, this idea — “let’s kick [abstract thing's] ass!” — is dynamic and full of visual potential. Are these words that come to your mind when looking at this image? Me either. There’s not even a whole lot of “maybe she’ll have sex with me” potential, since the boobs are so ill-defined (although great job of outlining the torso on both sides). I mean, think of what Monty Python did with the concept of an avenging horde of young women in “The Meaning of Life.” (I can’t find a picture, unfortunately. Go rent it.)
Did they intend to evoke the thought of violence against women? I think not, but so what? Remember this political ad out of the 2006 TN Senate campaign, which was accused of being racist? Reaganite — who, if you were unaware, is a black Republican and a political professional — had an interesting interpretation. “I can’t believe people think it’s intentional,” he said when it first came out. “The pressure on these guys [who make the ads] is so intense right now. I’d bet it just slipped through and it’s more that nobody had time to think over the implications.” That’s fine as far as it goes. But I suggested to him, and I suggest now, that it’s that very unawareness that makes these two ads inappropriate, and instances of -isms.