Instructor: Christopher Shelley
October 19, 2018
Hi Everyone! The intent of this assignment is to analyze and critique the message of an advertisement. In my philosophy jam, I intend to subvert these messages and reveal the hidden truths behind the words and imagery in the original ad. My intention is to encourage critical thought of seemingly harmless advertisements such as the Vancouver Election for 2018.
My City. My Vote.
This advertisement portrays an Indigenous man with the words “my city. my vote.” The intention here is to show the viewer that Vancouver’s marginalized communities’ votes matter in this election. As an Indigenous person the implications of this ad resonate personally. Indigenous people could not vote without disenfranchisement beginning in 1960, just over 58 years ago (CBC). There are a myriad of issues with Indigenous representation throughout the City of Vancouver. Most acts of reconciliation are taken at face-value, especially after many broken promised to uphold Indigenous issues such as investigations into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW), social housing, and support programs for low-income and marginalized residents. This city does not belong to Indigenous people, and so my intention in my culture jam is to point out the tokenization of Indigenous peoples by institutions that pretend to care especially during elections.
The absence and erasure of the Indigenous woman are of note here. The male-centered representation speaks to the Benoit, et al. and Torchalla, et al. articles about women in the downtown eastside (DTES) that face challenges in gaining access to health services that serve all of their needs. Torchalla et al. says “the numerical superiority of men in the DTES has created a dominantly male street culture and gendered risk environments in which women experience a particular marginalization, exploitation, increased safety risks and gender-based violence.” This ad is no different by representing a male Indigenous man in a public advertisement to represent the marginalized groups of the DTES.
In a recent news article it was reported that a new West End high-rise has two separate entrances; one for those in the social housing units and those who are condo owners (The Globe and Mail). The dichotomy of the rich and poor is entrenched in this act. It is racist, stereotypical and dehumanizing for those in the social housing units. This ad is not about inclusivity, it is about Vancouver’s self-image as an all-inclusive, accessible and affordable city for all, when state-sanctioned (city planning and permits allowed this) actions such as these refute these claims.
I must note that this ad campaign is part of a larger ad series. These images in connection to the image I am critiquing say that the City is reaching out to marginalized populations and urging them to vote, pushing the notion that Vancouver is an accessible and multiracial city for all.
my land. not my city.
This jammed version of the ad reveals the underlying intentions of the City of Vancouver’s inclusion of an Indigenous man in the election campaign. As the speech bubble says, he is being tokenized as a member of a marginalized community in order to garner attention from the voting population and make them think that the city cares for Indigenous issues. Vancouver is great at adding works of Indigenous art (totem poles) across the city and having Elders give a traditional welcoming at large-scale events, but has been severely lacking in actual support for Indigenous people. The City of Vancouver itself has not implemented any systemic changes for the protection of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW) even though a fair percentage of these women lived, worked and disappeared in the Downtown Eastside (DTES). There is a stigmatization of women living in the DTES and their relation to sex work, which is another reason why I think the ad depicts a man instead of a woman; there is a risk of her becoming a target of violence or abuse in such a public campaign. Election times always spark public debate around the larger social issues but they rarely deliver for marginalized groups in the city, but especially Indigenous groups (see: Justin Trudeau election campaign).
It is not clear where this man is from, but it is clear that this city does not represent him or his people. It is a city built on the unceded (stolen) lands of the Indigenous people that still live here. A city that ignores their grievances and does not involve them in city planning or council meetings. The elected representatives do not represent the Indigenous population until they address the systemic racism that exists in the police system, the housing problem or the larger act of reconciliation which would include giving the Squamish, Tsleil Waututh and Musqueam peoples ownership to larger portions of their land. The political system will represent the Indigenous population when local chiefs and councilmen are included in municipal governance decisions in what would be the most meaningful act of inclusive governance and reconciliation.