While browsing through google, I happened to come across a list of controversial ads. Which is where I found this ad with a particularly problematic message.
An advertisement by the International Society for Human Rights (ISHR). (http://www.themost10.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/International-Society-for-Human-Rights.jpg?0c7f8a)
In this image, a woman from the Islamic world appears to be “jailed” by the burqa she is wearing, which is often thought to be a full body covering imposed by men of Islamic belief. The picture is trying to portray the message that women who wear burqass are caged by their country, their religion, and their men. Perhaps the image even goes so far as to suggest that because Islamic women are caged, they are also barred from tapping their full potential as fully capable human beings.
The image righteously declares to “stop the oppression of women in the Islamic world”. Meaning that the image calls for the emancipation of all Islamic women, whether they are in a country dominated by groups with a radical political agenda or right here in Vancouver. The vocabulary used by the creators of the ad seem to be communicating the idea that any woman wearing a hijab must be oppressed by, what is strongly suggested to be, anything and anybody Islam.
Therefore, I have recreated the image using photoshop, but with a few different images I have found on google. The goal of my recreated image is to show how a different perspective can totally change the way anybody, including the Western world, understands the world around them.
Above is my recreated photo. In the image, a woman from the Western world is in a jail cell. She is posing provocatively, wearing clothes that barely cover what is considered butt-naked, with the words “stop the sexualization of women in the Western world” in front of her.
I have created the image to send the message that our Western portrayal of women in Western media is often “confining” women as well. Women are over sexualized and the norm is to wear revealing or tight-fitting clothing. To someone of Islamic faith, this image may come across as disrespecting women and also imposed onto them by the men of the Western world.
However, much like women of Islamic faith, not all women from the Western world are living the same life. I am myself a woman from the Western world and on any given day I can assure you that I would never be caught wearing this bikini. I also do not dress in revealing clothing, neither do I ever present myself to people in a sexualized manner. Women of Islamic faith also wear a variety of clothing not limited to the burqa. Many choose from a range of dress that are acceptable for their faith. Similarly, not all women of Islamic faith who wear the clothing asked by their faith are forced to or caged by Islamic men or their religion.
These two ads demonstrate two different perspectives but are derived from the same way of thinking. Both of the images portray a message of stereotyping and not trying to understand the other’s perspective. Women from any world are diverse and complex, to the same degree that all cultures, political situations, and religions are diverse and complex. The ad I have created can be considered just as controversial or offensive as the image created by the ISHR.
To most in the Western, the original ad makes sense and reinforces a sense of fear of the unknown Islamic world. Hopefully, some will take a step back and realize the problematic message communicated in the ad.