Culture Jam Assignment – Michelle Chan

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This is an advertisement for emergency contraception called Plan B One-Step. I chose this particular advert for three reasons. 

(1) “Unprotected sex” – I challenge that we problematize the words “unprotected sex”. “Unprotected sex” implies that one did not do enough to ‘protect’ oneself from the possibility of becoming unintendedly pregnant. To take this a step further, a woman (which I am using to mean a biological female who is at risk of being pregnant) who has “unprotected sex” can be blamed implicitly  for potentially being pregnant because she was irresponsible or had not planned accordingly. This is problematic as there are multiple reasons an individual may need emergency birth control such as sexual assault or birth control failure. For example, one cannot plan to be assaulted with “unprotected sex” and thus I challenge the term. 

(2) The image – Aside from the text, the image in this advert is one of an African American woman. I acknowledge that this may be only one image of several the company generated rather than solely featuring racialized-colored people. The important intersections of race and sexuality need to be considered. In the United States, where drug advertisements are permitted we need to acknowledge the historical and present-day contextual simulacra of African American women. Images of African American women have at times been signified as poor, licentious, and irresponsible. These signifiers reinforce the “unprotected sex” implications  of irresponsibility briefly touched on above. 

(3) “Plan B” – The concept of “Plan B” has traditionally been thought of as a back-up plan. Again, this reinforces the implications of “unprotected sex” unpreparedness and irresponsibility. I challenge “Plan B” as a woman who does not plan accordingly and thus needs a back-up plan. This medication is a form of birth control which some people may use as their sole form of fertility control rather than a back-up plan. Some people may have planned to use “Plan B” primarily and are thus taking some sort of control over their fertility rather than being irresponsible or unprepared.  

Jamming the three points above:

(1) “Unprotected sex” is changed to “condomless intercourse”. Condomless intercourse does not suggest the same implications as “unprotected sex”. Unlike “unprotected sex”, condomless intercourse does not lay implicit blame to any persons involved. Condomless intercourse is a term borrowed from the HIV+ population who are actively attempting to expand their families. Condomless intercourse is a term used, literally, for condomless intercourse. There are no similar implications to blame, planning, or responsibility relative to “unprotected sex”. 

(2) The image of the African American woman has been exchanged with the silhouette of a woman. I understand that this is not entirely inclusive, as trans-individuals are not included to expand the ideas of unintended pregnancy. However, for the purposes of this particular advertisement geared toward biological females at risk of being pregnant, I utilized the silhouette of a woman. This vague silhouette in grey-beige moves away from racialized simulacra of an individual who may need emergency contraception. The silhouette allows one to think of themselves potentially needing emergency contraception regardless of their genetic racialized make-up. 

(3) “Plan B” was changed to “on-demand contraception”. I had initially changed it to “emergency contraception” but felt that such terms were too medicalized and jargoned. Additionally, after further reflection, the implications of “emergency” may also imply that one did not plan accordingly or do things ‘properly’ and inadvertently reinforce the problematic “unprotected sex” term. Therefore, “on-demand” (although not the best choice of words, but I could not think of anything else at this time) was utilized. However, “on-demand” closely matches the concept of using this particular medication as one may need or want to. The words “birth control” were initially used instead of contraception as this is a synonym for contraception. However, the “control” part of birth control can inadvertently imply a woman is not taking responsibility if she is not in “control” of her fertility. Again, drawing on the example of sexual assault, if a woman was in “control” she would not have had “unprotected sex” laying implicit blame on her once again. Thus, I ended up using the word medical jargon word contraception without the same implications of control.