NOTE: I apologize if you cannot read smaller print in these images. Please click the links below them to view them larger!
View larger image: http://imgur.com/IkgigoU
In this advertisement, women are warned of the potential consequences of a night of drinking. The message itself is well intentioned: drink responsibly to avoid potential dangers of alcohol consumption. However, upon deconstructing this message, one begins to see that the delivery has several implications that are problematic. While cautioning women about date rape is not in itself harmful, the phrasing in the advertisement places the blame for sexual violence against women on the victims themselves and behaviour associated with party culture that will ‘put them in a position to be raped’. This is clear victim blaming, defined as a “devaluing act” in which “victims of a crime are held responsible-in whole or in part-for the crimes against them” (CRCVC, 2009, p. 2). There remains a tendency to blame victims of sexual violence for several reasons. Firstly, a pervasive belief that we exist in a society where people get what they deserve, that good things happen to good people, and bad things will happen to bad people. This belief in a just world has consequences. For instance, when an individual is raped, others are quick to attribute the incident to anything but the rapist’s actions. The incident is often framed as a product of their own irresponsible behaviour, whether it be walking alone at night, dressing provocatively, or consuming alcohol.
Thus, potential sexual assault victims, especially women, are often fed messages by mass media that they must protect themselves against being raped. For instance, they are taught to travel in groups, not to show too much skin, not to drink too much. If they drink, they are encouraged to use services such as SafeWalk to ensure they are not attacked. In this image, “decisions like that leave them vulnerable” clearly shifts responsibility onto the victim- whose assault is a product of their own behaviour. The liability for a rapist’s crime is also placed on a victim’s friends, who must “help [their] friends stay in control,” or help their friend not get assaulted. Nowhere in this ad is their a call for the perpetrator to stay in control.
Larger image: http://imgur.com/NpuZEcK
Culture jamming aims to reveal the “methods of domination” (Nomai, 2008, p.5) of mass media messages, and I hope the altered image I have created reflects at large how the images we are bombarded with constantly in our modern society can dominate by promoting a certain narrative around a given social issue. In this case, the original advertisement promoted a dominant value that bad things only happen to those who deserve it.
In the jammed version of the image, I aimed to completely flip the message and shift all blame onto the perpetrators of sexual violence for the acts they commit. Rather than calling to action that individuals make sure their friends don’t leave themselves vulnerable to violence, the new advertisement frames the rape itself as the behaviour that must be condemned, not drinking alcohol.
Individuals are bombarded with victim-blaming discourse, and such messages that are disseminated into the public sphere via the mass media have enormous consequences. For instance, they can marginalize survivors and make it more difficult to come forward, for fear that they will be shamed for engaging in any behaviour that was ‘asking for it’. Moreover, self-blame becomes incredibly common in victims when the dominant narrative attributes states of victimhood to their own bad decisions. Such was the message in the original image. In the altered image, the words follow the same framework as the original, yet all blame language is eliminated from the written message. Instead, the crime is attributed to the rapist, and their own decisions. I hope the discourse employed by the original advertisement is made to look foolish by the new wording, as it seems obvious now that rapists are the ones making the bad decisions, not those who choose to drink. The image was also replaced with one of a man undoing his pants, to emphasize the perpetrator’s active and calculated role in committing rape, rather than focus on the victim in a compromising position. The new advertisement favours progressive change in how we all perceive the issue of rape within party culture.
Finally, with my culture jam I also want to comment on the notion that rapists are not these big, scary monsters jumping out of the bushes, but can be your own friends- regular people, people you know. By asking viewers to make sure their friends don’t commit acts of sexual violence, it forces them to stop and consider this potentially disturbing reality.
Culture Jamming: Ideological Struggle and the Possibilities for Social Change ; 2008; Nomai, Afsheen Joseph.
The Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime (CRCVC). Victim Blaming ; 2009
Rape Treatment Center, UCLA. Impact of Rape: Self-Blame and Shame.
Original advertisement retrieved from: http://www.templateof.com/post_print-ads-targeting-teens_245583/
Stock image for new advertisement retrieved from : https://thoughtcatalog.files.wordpress.com/2014/03/screen-shot-2014-03-15-at-2-57-50-pm.png