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Ad Fail?  Ad Fail.

November 18th, 2009     by Anna Leventhal     Comments

Wow. I’m a big fan of Terry O’Reilly’s radio show The Age of Persuasion and I watch more Mad Men than I like to admit, but every time I think I’m a savvy mediaphile who’s completely immune to shock tactics in the world of advertising, those zany ad execs prove me wrong. Horribly, horribly wrong.

Hit the Bitch is a Danish anti-violence-against-women campaign that works much like a video game where you’re supposed to, well, beat up a woman. Your mouse or webcam controls a big, hairy, manly arm that slaps and punches a very realistic avatar of a woman, complete with sound effects and bruises that appear on her face. Your “performance” is ranked on a scale that goes from PUSSY to GANGSTA (we’ll get to the racist implications in a second). I was not able to complete the game, because I must be a pussy (& proud to say it!) but according to the AdFreak researchers, who are more dedicated than me, when you’ve successfully reduced the woman to a tearful pulp the game calls you an idiot. Well, on behalf of all abused women worldwide, thanks a mill’.

Yeah, so I didn’t really want to include an image from the Hit the Bitch website, since I figure we see enough images of women being abused and victimized, so here instead are Thelma and Louise, who fought back. Enjoy!

The AdFreak piece already makes several strong points about the absurdity of the site (people who think it’s okay to commit violence against women will enjoy it, while people to whom it’s revolting won’t be able to look at it for more than a second; it makes violence against women into a game, which is not okay no matter what the message), and personally I tend to agree that doing something in the name of a cause I support doesn’t equal carte blanche. Plus and besides are there so few images of victimized and abused women in the world that we need to start making more of them? I’d be curious to know where other people stand on that, but before I open up the floor I want to comment on what to me is maybe the most disturbing aspect of this ad, which is the conflation of violence against women and what the makers seem to suggest is a “gangsta” or hip-hop lifestyle.

Okay, so it’s a white arm beating a white woman, but the music and the use of the term “gangsta” clearly evoke hip-hop culture, which is primarily and historically black. Maybe it’s different in Denmark; maybe to them “gangsta” just evokes macho European dudes who hang out in da club and think it’s cool or manly to beat up on their girlfriends. But it seems to me that this campaign is aestheticizing violence against women as much as condemning it, and the aesthetics it’s using are those of urban black culture. This is a complete and wrongheaded denial of the realities of violence against women, which are mainly domestic and mainly occur as a result of cross-cultural devaluation of women. Yeah, you can say “well, so much of hip-hop is misogynist.” Okay, some of it is, but as if that justifies blaming such a huge worldwide phenomenon on one small part of black North American culture! Surely Fiddy is not that influencial. C’mon folks. As Sinead O’Connor said, we have to fight the real enemy. No, not the Pope. Patriarchy.

Tags: media savvy, race and racism

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