Amnesty ad campaign
Posted on February 25, 2009
When I read Heather Harvey’s article on CiF yesterday about Amnesty’s latest attempt to raise awareness about sexual violence being used as a weapon of war, I really wanted to be able to endorse the campaign.
But then I clicked on the link to the Rape is Cheaper than Bullets ad that’s going to be appearing across the London underground network over the next few weeks.
And I’m sorry, while I fully support the work that Amnesty does, in this instance I have to say, this ad is a massive fail.
What exactly is the message here?
Cara over at the Curvature says that her first question on seeing the ad was, and still is:
“so what, we should make bullets cheaper?”
She goes on to say:
“It makes me sad, because I’m usually a fan of Amnesty International, and I’m glad that they’re attempting to bring attention to this issue. I just wish that they were doing it in a way that, well, made a bit more sense.”
My thoughts exactly.
It shouldn’t need CiF articles and Amnesty press releases to explain to people what this is all about, but I’ll be honest here, if I hadn’t read up on it I wouldn’t have the faintest idea what this ad campaign was trying to say.
Depressingly, I suspect the same is true for a lot of people, many of whom won’t even bother trying to find out.
And that’s what worries me.
I did a google search to see if this was being discussed anywhere else on the net: the results confirmed my worst fears.
These are from a body-building forum (and no, I’m not linking to it, but it’s not hard to find):
“Pic of a sign i saw on the London underground, I think it makes a valid point of advertising raping someone over shooting them, next time i have those two options, I’ll know which way to go in order to save money.”
“its not actually cheaper… A bullet is about what, 30 cents? Chasing someone down a back alley, raping them then running away takes ~20 minutes. Even for minimum wage of $6/hour that’s $2 worth of lost earnings when simply shooting them is only 40 cents (1 minute to shoot and run away + 30 cents for bullet)”
“oh yah if you want to add in some other costs. cost of gun? time to go buy bullets? time to put gas in car to go buy bullets? cost of car to go to ammo store? if you walk to store that takes time, value of time. not to mention you can’t put a price on the satisfaction of raping someone (if your in to that) rape is way cheaper.”
“But officer, the sign on the subway owned by the government told me to do it.”
“Not to brag, but I can afford to rape AND shoot…”
Meanwhile over at CommonDreams.Org some men are having a discussion as to which is worse, rape or death:
“Are you insane? Rape is absolutely horrible. But I’d take rape over death.”
“I just thought of a great new ad campaign.
‘Have you been raped?
It’s better than living.'”
Al Fox’s comment on Brand Republic sums it up for me:
“Lots of unstable, dangerous individuals travel on the tube – and lots of women alone. Seems to me that this ad will put rape in the minds of said unstable individuals – who are looking across the tube at lone women. That’s what advertising does. And not everyone thinks in the “right way”. Has anyone stopped to think this one through?”
Heather Harvey says that the ad is “meant to be provocative,” which it is, but not necessarily in the way Amnesty intended. She also says:
“if it’s offensive then that is nothing compared to what hundreds of thousands of women and girls are suffering in conflict zones around the world.”
I have to ask, what about the offence to the thousands of other women and girls who have suffered rape and sexual assault and who are likely to be triggered by these ads? Or who have to sit on the tube and listen as dickheads like the ones on the body-building forum weigh up the pros and cons of raping or shooting someone.
As I’ve said, Amnesty does great work, and I fully support their aim to bring rape as a weapon of war to public attention.
But not when they do it like this.
Addendum 27 Feb 2009
This is the image Amnesty are going to be using in newspapers as part of the same campaign:
I saw this ad today on the tube and thought WTF? I was particularly pissed off with the wording about rape ‘decimating whole communities’. It’s true that in the DRC a typical tactic is to force, for example a man to rape his female relatives and then shoot him, but it’s the women who are left to cope. And if I thought texting anywhere would stop rape, then believe me I’d text the most expensive premium rate phone line in history.
But it won’t. As Lara pointed out the other day when I wrote about the DRC, the situation in the Congo is largely to do with natural resources, and the international community needs to sort it our properly, not just ignore it to get cheap mobile phones.
Admittedly, the full impact of the ad did not immediately hit me. Perhaps because I automatically viewed any campaign to raise awareness about rape as a positive thing. However, reading those comments from a body-building forum, then most definitely Amnesty should withdraw this ad immediately.
Why on earth couldn’t they have led with the tag that is on their site:
‘It is now more dangerous to be a woman than to be a soldier in modern conflict’
It is thought-provoking in itself.
Also, it is not as if rape is rare in the UK, so I agree with the comment that it could potentially lead to more rapes due to the campaign on public transport. As these would-be rapists from the body building forum illustrate, rapists are all around us.
I also think the phallic looking bullet (it’s not a normal shape, but is deliberately extended) is just in piss poor taste.
I guess the ad strikes me differently. Is it a condemnation of men through phallus-invoking imagery? I guess making that leap means men have already lost in the association.
No, I take it to mean the lives of women are worth less than that of armament, yet constantly exposed to the risk of rape, especially in anarchic and or violent areas. From what I can discern from the text below the bullet, they refer to how women in these areas are deliberately targeted by fighting groups through a campaign of terror.
Surely we agree this is a serious issue, and surely we agree that in order to get attention focused on the issue, a ad campaign that grabs one’s attention and makes one think is appropriate.
By that measure, given the attention, it seems to be garnering that attention.
I saw advertisement on underground train today and first reaction was just who is committing rape? Advertisement doesn’t say only that rape affects communities. Ah so does this mean communities are raped because last I heard it was not communities but women and female children who were and are being raped by men. Far better to focus on naming gender of perpetrators than continuing to hide it by claiming ‘communities are affected.’
Far better strapline would be the one Stormy mentioned – It is now more dangerous to be a woman than to be a soldier in modern conflict.’ Puts the issue firmly where it belongs – first not last.
“It is now more dangerous to be a woman than to be a soldier in modern conflict” is a far better strapline, although you would then get annoying pedants like me wondering what was meant by “dangerous”, how it was quantified, and so on. Although the men Cath quotes are obviously idiots, I don’t think the question of whether being raped is as dangerous as being shot dead is an automatic no-brainer.
I think the ad is pretty poor because, at first glance, I’m not sure what I’m supposed to do about it, especially given that I probably disagree with many of the things perpetrated within a particular conflict, and possibly even the conflict itself. Does anyone have a link to the text in the ad, because – looking online earlier – I couldn’t actually find a large-enough image to read. Which is pretty piss-poor in itself, although perhaps just of me.
I’m curious about the bodybuilding forum quotes. Not that it matters, as they appear fairly damning, but it would be nice to see them in context. I know Cath doesn’t want to post a link, but could there at least be a name? I’ve googled both the direct quotes and also just the Amnesty ad in relation to bodybuilding forums and I can’t find them anywhere.
Here you go:
Cheers for that – bunch of idiots. I’m not defending the expressed views by saying I think they’re reacting in a ‘wtf?’ way to the ‘headline’ of the ad, but it certainly reiterates what you were saying about the meaning not being clear.
The link in that thread leads to the proposed follow-up advert. In my opinion, that’s even worse.
Jeez, that’s atrocious. I’m checking with Amnesty now as to whether that’s real or a hoax.
Well at least on that one the meaning is clear…
Overall, the ads will not have the desired outcome. Reminds me of the ones they did a few years ago against FGM where they depicted women’s genitals as roses.
Doh! So what do we do to stop rape according to Amnesty? Apart from texting them where they will just try to extract money from you?
Maybe it will be one of their ‘letter writing’ campaigns.
“Dear members of the rebel forces in the DRC.
Will you kindly stop raping and torturing women and children
If this was a campaign to put pressure on the international community to sort the situation out, I’d be right on board. But I joined amnesty international once and all they did was send you a mazagine. I just don’t see the point of this, really.
It’s like the NSPCC. They want us all to give them loads of money and go round wearing badges saying ‘child abuse must stop’, but they’ve actually cut their on the ground staff, and when I rang their helpline because I was concerned about the welfare of a child, they didn’t seem at all arsed. Charities like this just seem to be self perpetuating fund raising machines, indulging in empty gesture politics.
*and if you thought reading that was bad, be glad you’re not a chugger being treated to the spoken word version*
Speaking of the NSPCC campaigns, the main two or three ads that keep getting shown are primarily of boys, with one ad that has a girl (being abused by her mother). Very out of balance I thought, so I checked an Ad website and found that the NSPCC had made many more, including ones that featured girls’ sexual abuse. So, I don’t know who decided to run the ‘NSPCC supports boyz’ campaign, or maybe those are the ones that raise the most money – when boys are in danger, not girls. Anyway, check out the lack of girls next time you see an NSPCC ad.
It’s Friday. AKA rambleday. It has been a long week.
The dagger one seems clearer in message.
However, I do get sick of looking at phallic objects and representations.
The dagger one is rubbish because it resembles something a child (of either sex) would draw on the inside cover of a textbook. It will be even more of a ‘wtf!?’ than the headline of the previous ad.
As for the NSPCC advert gender bias: I’d never noticed because, when I watch them, all I see are children. I don’t care what sex they are – just as I don’t with adult victims – because it’s irrelevant, and I’d imagine most people feel the same. In the same way, I hadn’t noticed what race the children were either.
I think they’re *trying* to say rape is just as harmful as being shot or stabbed…but…they are doing it WRONG. It is just so tasteless. And not a little triggering?
Oh dear dawg I was being facetious, but yes they do want us to write to the president of the DRC. Because that is really going to work……….
So who wants to jump all over the “I’ve never noticed the gender bias…” comment?
I know, it’s very Feminism-101, but…
I really don’t have the strength.
Regardless of whether it’s Feminism 101, why would anyone want to “jump on” what I said? If you disagreed, why not just explain your position? I’m not an enemy to be vanquished. I’m honestly interested in what people think, and totally prepared to change my mind. I genuinely don’t understand why you think (effectively) implying people are idiots for not agreeing with you is going to do anything to persuade them or change anything.
It’s true that I’ve never noticed or thought about a gender bias in NSPCC ads, because – to me – it’s utterly irrelevant what sex an abused child is. Or, indeed, what race, religious denomination, and so on, they happen to be. If I gave money, I’d expect it to be used to help abused children irrespective of those things.
Are you saying that some (or even most) people would be prepared to donate more for an abused child of a particular sex? To me, they’re simply victims – and children, at that – and I don’t care what sex they are. Do you care more for abused children of a particular sex, or it just that you suspect others do? I genuinely don’t understand.
Yeah stormy, I too noticed the disproportionate amount of male children in the adverts.
Gawd, I do get sucked in.
Are you saying that some (or even most) people would be prepared to donate more for an abused child of a particular sex?
Yes. As well as sexual abuse of boys is regarded as “more serious” by the population in general. CSA of girls is far more common than for boys.
I’m honestly interested in what people think, and totally prepared to change my mind.
Your track record to date does not bear that out. You come across as a typical MRA troll, posing as a humanist, and just itching to “prove those silly women wrong” at every opportunity. Hence, I have taken a personal dislike to you in particular. When you can show that you can respectfully disagree with anyone here, then perhaps you will be shown the same courtesy. Until then … *crickets*
Thanks for the reply. I’m not posing as a humanist: I approach people as individuals, regardless of gender, sexuality, race or any other arbitrary characteristic, just as everyone I know does. The impression I got from the other thread was that it was impossible to respectfully disagree with you, because you take any disagreement as disrespectful, especially if it comes from someone you perceive to be male. The accusation about ‘proving silly women wrong’ is self-defensive: I neither knew nor cared what sex you are. The only person that matters to is you. Because I’m male – and yes, I admit, I am male – I was labelled a misogynist (which I equate with ‘racist’ and ‘homophobe’, words you don’t throw at people without reason) even though I agreed with 95% of what you said, but disagreed with hate crime prosecution and your misuse of stats. That was it.
Anyway – let’s leave all that, if we can.
The NSPCC thing: I do want to understand where you’re coming from. I suppose I don’t get why anyone would care what sex an abused child was. Do you, seriously? If a thousand children were being abused, I don’t care whether one or one thousand of them are boys. The point is, they’re victims, and, even more importantly, they’re children.
Are you saying the general population does care? I’m genuinely asking – does it make any difference to you, whatsoever, or do you assume it does to other people?
Damagedoor – males, including boy children are more valued than are females. This is a horrific global phenomenon. Think femicide, where female infants are left to perish (die of starvation or hypothermia) or if they are lucky maybe have their backs (spinal column) broken or maybe just selective sex abortion. This desire for the male born in India, china, Indonesia is actually causing severe gender disproportionate.
This is reflected global north style by using male children via the NSPCC to garner sympathy.
Girl children do not generate the same sort of sympathy levels.
This is a recognizable phenomena damagedoor and if you want to learn anything by visiting a feminist site then STFU & Listen before engaging your male privilege – okay?
Something else DD, that I’m not sure you are aware of. You don’t get to ask questions on a feminist site – that’s for you to find out. We are not your mother/ educator or your teacher.
The accusation about ‘proving silly women wrong’ is self-defensive
No, it is actually radfem shorthand for ‘frickin male barges onto feminist/radfeminist blog and expects all females to kowtow to his self-perceived sense of importance and knowledge’.
This is a radfem blog, not a libfem blog. Big difference. Humanist statements like “it doesn’t matter to me what sex the victims are” will float on a libfem blog, but not on a radfem one.
As feminists, we tend to notice patterns such as the vast majority of the violence in the world is perpetrated by males. Whilst they do turn that violence upon each other, they have no qualms in turning it onto easy targets such as women and children. This violence (either sexual or physical) or threat of violence is used against women to keep them subjugated, and also dependant on males for survival.
Sure, radfems would like a world free of violence for all peoples, however, it is not up to us to sort out men, it is up to men as a group to sort themselves out. That means you as a male, need to stop thinking of generic “people” an analyse the trend going on. By continuing the “tsk tsk, violence such a shame” attitude is useless and pointless, and does not address the root of the problem, the power imbalance. That is what Radical Feminism means, getting to the root of the problem. (That was just a basic introduction to radfeminism, there is more, but I am not going to spoonfeed you, nor hijack Cath’s blog.)
Yes, radfems have male allies. It is possible that a tiny percentage of males get on board and recognise that males as a group are THE problem, and that males should be addressing other males to stop the problem. Going onto a radfem blog and moaning “why do you hate menz?” just makes you an annoying troll, and you will be treated accordingly.
“Why do you hate menz?” is basically the subtext to your last paragraph. Although to be fair, you probably only think you have written “why do you favour girl children over boy children?” or “this is reverse sexism! that you favour girl children over boy children” etc etc.
It is now up to you whether you cross from troll to ally. Nor will it be a comfy journey for you when your eyes are opened, but it is possible.
Damagedoor, it isn’t a case of saying that when boy children are abused, this is any less terrible than when girl children are abused.
BUT: If you look at the NSPCC’s own website they have a section with statistics on abuse. And there are two sets I’m going to draw your attention to:
The first are child protection statistics for England and Wales. Note that more or less equal numbers of boys and girls are subject to child protection plans:
Click to access england_wdf49858.pdf
The second part of this requires another link, so I’ll post a separate comment, otherwise it will end up in spam.
Now look at this:
12,453 children calling ChildLine in 2005/2006 gave physical abuse as their main problem (of which 8,504 were girls and 3,949 were boys i.e. 2 girls to every 1 boy). 5,759 gave physical abuse as an additional problem in 2005/2006 (4,343 girls and1,416 boys). Therefore in 2005/2006 a total of 18,212 children calling ChildLine spoke about physical abuse in their call. This was 11% of all callers to ChildLine.#
Spot the anomaly?
Twice as many girls as boys report physical abuse (there are other statistics on the NSPCC website about sexual abuse worldwide which show a similar picture). Yet twice as many girls as boys are not being legally protected.
Child abuse is a crime with a strong gender bias.
Stormy and Polly –
Thank you for the polite replies, which have made things a little more clear for me. You’re right – my problem is that I don’t accept the radfem position, and so I shouldn’t post here. I’ll never be more responsible for someone’s crimes simply because they share my sex, just as I won’t be because they share my colour, religion or sexuality. This concept of grouping people is at the root of many things I despise: sexism, racism, homophobia; anything that judges people by a characteristic they have rather than their character.
So it’s probably best if I leave you to talk amongst yourselves.
Just quickly, Polly, thanks for the links, which are much appreciated. I agree there appears to be a discrepancy there, although the figures you quote are for phonecalls to the NSPCC rather than actual abuse. (It’s possible, for example, that boys are simply less likely to phone). However, looking through the executive summary of the quoted report, it does say girls are more likely to experience sexual abuse and serious physical abuse, boys more likely to experience intermediate abuse, and so on. It also says 49% of abusers are mothers and 40% fathers.
I suspect that’s a bit of a mess for sorting out, in terms of gender bias, or which groups are responsible, and am rather grateful I generally see the world in terms of ‘nice people’ and ‘assholes’.
All the best, anyway.
I think you’re confusing cause and effect there damagedoor.