More battered women in ads

Ok, so there was the hoax Benetton ad issue. But this one is, as far as I can tell, for real: computer ads featuring the victims of ‘computer attacks’. 

There’s also a promotional video as part of the ad campaign. The campaign includes both men and women with ‘computer inflicted’ injuries.

There’s discussion of it here, by a blogger who finds it offensive, and a response from the makers of the ads. The maker insists that the adverts are simply too ‘absurd’ to be offensive, but the blogger at ‘F-words’ (not to be confused with the F-word) writes that she finds the way that the ads appear to parody the domestic violence awareness adverts offensive.

I have to say, I don’t find the pictures, or the videos, particularly funny.

Related, news here of a Body Shop survey that suggests that attitudes amongst young people to violence in relationships are troubling -for instance, “1 in 10 teens think saying sorry makes it ok after they’ve hurt or forced a partner to do something. ”

No laughing matter.

8 thoughts on “More battered women in ads

  1. I worry about drawing conclusions from surveys like this, though, where the questions can be ambiguous. Did the Bodyshop really find out that 1 in 10 young people think sorry makes it ok? I can see someone saying those words intending to convey the thought that if someone is genuinely repentant then they should be forgiven. That’s quite a different thought, and not quite as worrying if people had it. It takes sophisticated surveying techniques to determine what people are really intending to mean by their answers, and most of the time in the media this isn’t done because the media cares more about the soundbite than the truth. Maybe it was done in the Bodyshop case – but I’d like to see the evidence.

    A similar situation arose recently when newspapers were reporting on the result that a large proportion of men thought that a women was responsible for being sexually harassed if she wore provocative clothing. That sounds like a shocking result. But before using this result I’d want to be sure that the men being questioned were clear on the distinction between causal and moral responsibility, and clear on which sense of responsibility they were being asked about. Without this, the statistic is pretty meaningless.

    Don’t get me wrong: I’m not saying for a second that there aren’t dispicable attituted towards sexual harrassment and domestic violence. We’ve just got to make sure our reasons for saying that are good ones – otherwise we don’t help anybody.

  2. But before using this result I’d want to be sure that the men being questioned were clear on the distinction between causal and moral responsibility, and clear on which sense of responsibility they were being asked about.

    Out of curiosity… which, if either, do you think would make the results of that study less shocking?

    Because, honestly, while there’s a difference between moral and causal responsibility, I fail to see how women’s dress habits are responsible in either sense for the harassment that is directed at them.

  3. I have to say, I don’t normally agree with feminist views, but I’m with you on this one. I followed the links to the ad site, and I find ALL of the pictures offensive. I think computers attacking is a dismal failure as an advertising idea. I would fire the ad agency, but then again, the client bought the idea, so they’re just as bad.

    About the survey, saying “sorry” after hurting someone or forcing them to do something don’t cut it.

  4. Roy: I guess I think there is, sometimes, an element of causal responsibility, but absolutely no element of moral responsibility, in the same sense in which I think if I walk down a dark lane and get mugged I am to some extent causally responsible for my being mugged and to no extent morally responsible for it.

    I don’t see anything too controversial in that. My being mugged is counterfactually sensitive to my walking down the alley, and doing so brings about the conditions that enables the mugging. Likewise, I’m sure there are cases whereby a woman’s dress participates in the causal chain that results in her harassment. Causal responsibility comes cheaply.

  5. I think we must have different views on that, because I don’t see you as causally responsible at all. Walking down the ally does not, in any way, cause you to get mugged. The thing that causes you to get mugged is the mugger. There are times when moral and causal responsibility don’t line up. If you’re driving a car and you pass out for some reason, and you hit someone, you are causally responsible, even if you’re not necessarily morally responsible, for the injuries that result. You were the cause of that person’s injuries, even if you didn’t mean to cause them.

    Wearing a certain type of clothing doesn’t cause other people to choose to harass you- that’s their choice. They cause themselves to harass. And the sad fact is that it matters very little what a woman wears. Women get harassed whether they’re wearing a low-cut shirt and a tiny skirt, or a big baggy sweatshirt and jeans.

  6. The use of the word “hurt” in the survey seems vague to me.

    What’s meant by “hurt”? Does a mere apology make up for beating one’s S.O. black and blue? Obviously not. What if a person spontaneously slaps at his or her partner in the heat of an argument? Well, there I can see how some might think that apologizing is the best way to handle things.

    As for the Benetton ads, I’m not sure. Most arguments about what’s “offensive” are so subjective as to feel totally unsatisfying. Many people have found the ads offensive; many don’t. Many people think that whites using the word “nigger” is offensive; others think this is ridiculous and hypocritical. I’m just not sure there’s anything principled to be said in most of these cases.

  7. I certainly don’t think my walking down that alley, or a woman’s wearing a short skirt, etc, are *sufficient* causes. Obviously, there is a choice made the mugger and the harasser to mug/harass, and that is also part of the causal chain. But I can’t see why I should think there is *no* causal responsibility: it’s part of the chain of events.

  8. I think what’s going on is that Ross is using ‘responsibility’ in a very weak sense, where A may be causally responsible for B simply by being one link in a long chain of events leading to B. So, suppose I decide to have a bagel for breakfast, but then can’t find the cream cheese, and spend 5 minutes searching the fridge. That 5 minute search makes me late for my bus, meaning that I wind up on a bus with some guy who harasses me. On the weak notion of responsibility, my decision to have a bagel was responsible for my getting harassed. Now, it may be that you, Roy, don’t want to use the word ‘responsible’ in this way– I can completely understand that both linguistically and politically. But it is one usage that’s out there. And it’s worth knowing whether it’s what people were thinking about in their answers to the survey Ross cites. It may be false that certain kinds of clothes make women more likely to get harassed (I’ve never seen concrete date on this), but thinking that women did something which was one link in a chain of events leading to their harassment is very different from thinking it was *their fault*. We need to know which errors we’re correcting, so that we can correct them effectively– no matter how we want to use the word ‘responsible’.

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