Culture Jam – UBC fighting for oppression

Original Ad

In September 2018 the University of British Columbia launched a national campaign to show that they were committed to tackling the “world’s most difficult problems” (Alden). One of the problems they highlighted was equality, particularly advocating for gender equality in work and educational spaces. The advertisement that they used for this is a picture of Dr. Toni Schmader, a professor of Social Psychology who studies gender dynamics in STEM fields, standing confidently in front of a pride flag with the phrase “we will never stop fighting for equality” projected on her body. The advertisement is meant to sell UBC as a diverse and inclusive institution that is devoted to equality. The pride flag implies the University is welcoming and supportive of those in the LGBTQ2IA+ community, and the fact that Dr. Schmader is a woman is meant to suggest that they are leading the way in fighting for gender equality. The problem with this advertisement is that it does not accurately reflect UBC’s actions and thus creates a false image of the University. Over the last few years, UBC has allowed several extreme right-wing conservatives to speak on campus who are racist, anti-immigrant, fascist, and openly campaign against British Colombia’s SOGI initiative aimed at creating safe and inclusive spaces in schools for students of all sexual orientations and gender identities. By allowing individuals with these ideologies to speak at UBC, the university shows that its commitment to equality is simply a marketing campaign. The advertisement also shows that UBC’s idea of equality is limited to gender and sexuality which indicates a lack of intersectionality and nuance in their approach. The fact that the person that they used as the face of equality is a white woman, when they are plenty of women of colour professors studying equality, suggests that their understanding of equality is not about dismantling oppressive systems. Instead, it is about giving some women the chance to achieve the same power and privilege as white men. Moreover, the advertisement ignores the fact that access to elite universities like UBC is limited to those with privilege, thus UBC can never truly fight for equality as they are complicit in perpetuating inequalities.

Jammed Ad

My Jamming Philosophy was to create an image that more accurately reflects UBC’s actions and approaches to equality. I decided to leave the image as a picture of a white woman with the pride flag in the background as I think it speaks to UBC’s surface-level understanding of equality, which truly embodies white feminism and it’s propensity to use pinkwashing as a marketing strategy. However, I changed the projected text to read “we’ll never stop inviting and welcoming fascist bigots” in order to demonstrate that UBC’s commitment is not to equality, but rather to creating safe and inclusive spaces for hatred and discrimination to thrive.  Underneath the advertisement’s slogan, “The potential is yours”, I added, “if you are white, cisgendered, wealthy & male”. The advertisement’s slogan is an extension of UBC’s moto “Tuum Est” meaning “It is yours”. The addition of the statement “if you are white, cisgendered, wealthy & male” shows how UBC as an institution is only an easily navigable space filled with opportunity, where “The potential is yours”, if you meet certain identity markers. Thus, the institution itself is not a space grounded in the fight for equality as the advertisement previously implied. Additionally, underneath Dr. Toni Schmader’s title I added the sentence “committed to equal opportunity domination” (Arruzza, Cinzia, et al). This reveals how UBC’s so-called commitment to equality is not about dismantling unequal systems, but rather seeks to give some women, white women, the ability to reach the same level of power as white cis-gendered heterosexual men through oppressing and marginalizing everyone else. I added “If you are white, cisgendered, wealthy & male” and “committed to equal opportunity domination” as part of the fine-print in the advertisement because it is the section that typically reveals the hidden realities of what is being sold. In this case, both statements reveal UBC’s fake and flawed commitment to equality.


Works Cited

Alden, Charlotte. “UBC Launches National Branding Campaign Following Negative Press Attention in Recent Years.” The Ubyssey. September 30th 2018. Web. 18 Oct. 2019.

Arruzza, Cinzia, et al. Feminism for the 99 Percent: A Manifesto. Verso, 2019.