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.


2 Responses to “Violence against breast cancer”

  1. Mintyfresh Says:

    NPR’s All Things Considered had an episode called “Shouting Across the Divide” (which I actually posted to The List about). The main story was about a Muslim 4th grader being bullied, but the overarching theme of the show was about communication between different cultures/races. The shorter bit toward the end was a hysterical story from a guy who used to work in advertising about an ad campaign to sell soda to black youth. I highly recommend listening to the whole episode, but if you fast-forward to the last 15 minutes or so to find the second story, you’ll hear what I’m talking about. (Basically: lots of white ad execs trying to figure out if the message they’ve come up with is racist.)

  2. […] a load of this poster, photographed by DC blogger/photographer techne at a Washington DC bus hut. The poster features a faceless young woman’s body, its physique […]

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