Ad Council to the women and girls of America: Harassment is your own fault!

18 Mar

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.


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7 Responses to “Ad Council to the women and girls of America: Harassment is your own fault!”

  1. Genevieve March 18, 2008 at 9:45 PM #

    And furthermore, why’s it always the dad who’s supposed to be pissed off that his precious jewel is less virginal than he expected? Wouldn’t the mother be just as disappointed if she expected a certain set of behaviours from her children and they defied her? But no, this is rarely depicted, especially concerning sexuality.

  2. Nine Deuce March 18, 2008 at 10:04 PM #

    I agree. Why aren’t moms going to purity balls with their daughters? It’s really kind of gross if you think about the idea behind these sorts of things: according to the Ad Council and the people putting on purity balls, fathers own access to their daughters’ bodies until they relinquish that access to some other dude.

  3. K B April 24, 2008 at 2:33 AM #

    I agree, too; I never understood why boyfriends always had fathers to worry about, and mothers were supposed to be totally unaffected?

  4. Screaming Lemur July 21, 2008 at 1:19 AM #

    Maybe because mothers aren’t supposed to “own” their daughters, being mere women and all *shrug*.
    And I express extreme distaste at the whole Purity Ball idea. The father/daughter thing is a bit too Oedipal for me. I sure as hell wouldn’t want my dad to be “the protector of my virginity”, cause it’s creepy as hell. I said this to a girl who I sometimes forget was brought up uber-christian (she seems so reasonable usually), and she said something like “Maybe you don’t like your father enough to do something like that with him, but I like my dad just fine.”
    Am I the only one to see the *shudder*-inducing qualities in that sentence?

  5. Liselotte April 19, 2009 at 12:52 AM #

    I’m against the virginity pressure at all.
    Not against virginity itself of course, but against others pressuring girls into it.
    The weird father / daughter dynamic in that (it’s kind of a mock marriage if you think about it!) is only one of many possible complaints.

  6. GXB January 17, 2010 at 5:56 AM #

    In regard to the “your dad” bit: I thought that kind of ick factor was the same as the way most men/boys are grossed out by putting sex and their own mothers in the same thought. Isn’t it? I can see the argument for that case being different because of misogyny (sex=dehumanizing women=harder to do to your own mother), but it seems like that would still be the less important factor.

  7. Immir April 2, 2010 at 6:19 AM #

    I *know* right? When it comes to girls, say, going out to part or whatever, parents and people in general are like- you can’t wear this or that or do this & this because you’ll be ‘asking for trouble’ or you’ll seem like an ‘attention seeking whore’.
    I say :WHY aren’t poeple saying to their sons, when they go out- “Now, son, don’t be an attention GIVING whore!”.

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