I was in the shower listening to Air America the other day when I heard an ad that described the process by which photos are spread around the internet. It, like nearly every Ad Council project, was a seriously misguided and ham-fisted attempt at directing the behavior of teenagers who couldn’t give less of a fuck what the federal government thinks they ought to be doing with their weed or their digital cameras. The ad went on a progression from “here is one of your classmates downloading your racy spring break photo,” to “here is some asshole writing dirty comments about it,” to “here is your dad seeing it.” The whole ad was aimed at convincing girls not to post saucy photos of themselves on MySpace or Facebook. You know, because the problem in this scenario is the fact that the girl posted the photos on her homepage, not that her privacy has been violated or that she has been sexually harassed.
The ad doesn’t say anything like, “Hey, asshole, don’t write gross shit about people’s photos on the internet.” Or, “Hey, fuck face, don’t spread around photos that aren’t your business to spread around.” Or, “Hey, missy, don’t let people take pictures of you without your clothes on. People who want to take or see naked pictures of you aren’t your friends, but rather are assholes who see women only as sexualized body parts.” Or, “If your photo gets passed around without your permission, you should get pissed and do something about it, like make a big deal out of how women and girls are being sexualized against their will and being openly sexually harassed online, then write a blog about it, write your senator about it, etc.”
Instead, the message is, “The problem here isn’t that our culture treats women and girls like masturbatory tools, it’s that men can’t help themselves. They just have to degrade any female they can get a picture of, so it’s women’s responsibility to save these men from themselves by curtailing their own freedoms. You girls, if you should find yourselves victimized in such a way, ought to feel nothing but shame. Oh, and one more thing, your father owns your body until you get married, at which time the deed will be transferred to your husband. If he sees that his ownership has been compromised, he’ll be really, really disappointed in you. That’ll be all.”
I suppose the fact that the Ad Council has missed the point isn’t a huge shock, what with the horrendously misguided “kid smokes weed and thus shoots self in face” or “kid smokes weed and then kills small girl on bike” ads that became complete jokes within moments of airing (and make even Reefer Madness look like a realistic depiction of the ills of pot smoking), but I’m unhappy to be confronted yet again with our society’s (and our government’s) tendency to blame women for the fact that our culture allows them to be routinely abused in such a manner.