Domestic violence: still not chic, artistic or cutting edge

woman sits on couch with black eye and done up hair while man stands behind holding a necklace

The image pictured above is an ad for a hair salon.

It depicts a woman with a black eye sitting on a couch in a dress with her hair done up, and her apparent abuser standing behind her, holding out a piece of jewelry (presumably to make up for inflicting the black eye).

The implication of this ad is that, as a woman, your desire to be beautiful should extend to any situation, even when you’re being beaten by your partner.

It’s tired, offensive, and disgusting, and it’s rightly inspired a number of people to speak out (see comments here).

When I come across such glibly sexist and unambiguously violence-apologist media, I’m often left with frustration that my feeling of rage and indignance aren’t enough. Why do people continue to make light of a topic that has brought about so much violence, pain, and death? Why don’t they understand how they are contributing to the problem?

Instead of asking “Is an ad featuring a battered woman offensive or artistic?”, as this article does, we should ask “is an ad depicting a woman’s black eye as a glamorous accessory and her violent perpetrator as a jewelry-bearing lover creepy, disgusting, offensive, or all three?”

The salon that originally created the ad campaign issued a media release in response to the hubbub, in which it apologized for the ad and also promised to donate proceeds to a women’s shelter. That’s a good start. But the release also featured this ridiculous copout, an attempt to downplay the seriousness of the offense which undermines the rest of the apology:

“Is it cutting edge advertising? Yes. Is it intended to be a satirical look at real life situations that ignites conversation and debate? Of course. Is it to everyone’s taste? Probably not.”

Cutting edge? Please. People have been trivializing domestic violence in ad campaigns for years, so yall can just join the club.

As we discovered during our Feministing group chat on the “Love the Way You Lie” video, depictions of domestic violence in pop culture can be complicated. They are easily controversial, inspiring a host of different reactions even among a group as pro-woman as our writers. That being said, I think it’s safe to say that the whole crew would have a much more unanimous reaction to the ad above.

Considering this is supposed to be an ad for a hair salon, the worst part may just be the hair itself!–lookin like a bird’s nest. Advertising #fail.

I can’t emphasize enough how dangerous and harmful it is to trivialize violence against women, as this ad does. In the words of Rachel Griffin, an Assistant Professor at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale and an anti-sexual violence activist, “if our media depicted more accurate representations of the systemic and everyday nature of gender violence at the intersections than perhaps more people would care and most importantly more people, largely women, would have access to the information they need to survive.”

H/t @heysuburban

Brooklyn, NY

Lori Adelman is a writer and advocate focusing on race, gender, and sexual and reproductive rights. In addition to her work at Feministing, Lori is an Associate Director at Planned Parenthood Global. Lori has previously worked at the United Nations Foundation, the International Women’s Health Coalition, and Human Rights Watch, and has written for a host of print and digital properties including Rookie Magazine, The Grio, and the New York Times Magazine. She regularly appears on radio and television, and has spoken at college campuses across the U.S. about topics like the politics of black hair, transnational movement building, and the undercover feminism of Nicki Minaj. In 2014, she was named to The Root 100 list of the nation's most influential African Americans, and to the Forbes Magazine list of the "30 Under 30" successful people in media.

Lori Adelman is an Executive Director of Feministing in charge of Partnerships.

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