Thursday, November 29, 2007

Amnesty International. Making You More Aware Of Every Atrocity In The World—One Clever, Aesthetically-Pleasing Ad At A Time.


(click ads to read copy)
LadyFlowers. It's admittedly a tough assignment: How do you illustrate the horror of female genital mutilation without showing genital mutilation? Ad agency Publicis of Stockholm, Sweden has decided to make really pretty visual metaphors—and they're apparently really proud of the ads, as they immediately pop up on their homepage.
Honestly, I can't—off the top of my head—think of a better way to visually convey genital mutilation. My problem with these ads is whether they should have any visual in them at all. I think the words "genital mutilation" are more powerful than any visual. GENITAL MUTILATION in big white letters (maybe a flowery typeface? maybe not.) on a black background would make for a more effective ad, I believe. Your mind would then create the visual. Making such warm, beautiful ads for such a cold, ugly human rights violation may be "clever" and "dramatic." But to what effect?
previous Amnesty International ads:
1. New event at the Beijing Olympics: Uphill Tank Slalom.
on Gawker: TORTURE PORN!
(images via)

26 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The reason like these is because, like so many other words out there, "genital mutilation" is overused and under... well.. understood. This shows people exactly what adults are doing to little girls. They're sewing them up. Sticking a needle and thread in them. Effectively losing them off for life. It's horrible - but we need to see the horror to be horrified enough to do something about it.

10:24 AM  
Blogger copyranter said...

you make a very valid argument and may be right. I'm perfectly conflicted on the point.

10:27 AM  
Anonymous Susette said...

I wonder what people think of male circumcision, and why it isn't discussed as genital mutilation? Arguably it's unnecessary almost all of the time, little boys certainly aren't born needing surgery, and there is some evidence that it diminishes sexual function.

10:38 AM  
Anonymous ADstudent said...

I actually really like these ads...I don't think the words "Genital mutilation" would be more effective...in all honesty, the image of the sewn up rose makes me want to vomit.

I'm taking my nausea as effectiveness.

2:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

GENITAL MUTILATION in big white letters (maybe a flowery typeface? maybe not.) on a black background would make for a more effective ad, I believe.

This is the dumbest suggestion you have made by far. And I can totally see you dishing that ad out for lack of creativity if they had just done what you suggest.

3:56 PM  
Blogger copyranter said...

you're right anon, it was dumb. But I still say these pretty ads, which were created mostly for the agency's portfolio, will do absolutely nothing to stem genital mutilation in Africa——so what fucking good are they?

4:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Isn't that how most pro bono work, errr, works? Agency makes a nice ad for free, takes liberties with the cause, and slaps their suspenders silly in pride - then submits the whole thing for awards shows.

I still think the visual was necessary - and I also think any exposure is good exposure for non-profits. So long as the agency puts a clear call to action and inspires people to give, well - I can't see a better system, unless agencies start doing pro bono work anonymously..

4:20 PM  
Blogger ricpic said...

What courage. How come they don't mention who mutilates? Muslims. That's who. Wouldn't want to put their noses out of joint. There might be real consequences.

4:46 PM  
Blogger Blaize said...

Um. Most people who practice genital mutilation are actually not Muslim, ricpic. Most are nominally Christian, having been converted from tribal religions. So, you'll have to spread your religious intolerance a little more widely if you want to target the mutilators. Wouldn't want to mention the Christians; might put their noses out of joint.

10:08 PM  
Blogger Make the logo bigger said...

@Susette-Maybe, but male circumcision at least allows the person to carry on with a normal life and have kids.

1:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

come on, it is MOSTLY muslims who practice this, no question. christians have done as bad or worse, but this particular practice-- and why doesn't the ad illustrate the actual cutting off of the young girl's clitoris, done by barbers in egypt? --is largely found in countries where the men bow to allah. not people who were "nominally christians". please. and male circumcision creates better health for the female partner, or don't we care about that?

9:30 AM  
Anonymous Susette said...

@Anonymous: At the risk of feeding the trolls, of course we care about female health, but you can't make a "tit for tat" argument. What if the little boy will grow up to be gay? What if he'll never have sex at all? Then you just lopped a piece of him off.

Claiming that something COULD benefit another group is not a good enough reason to do it. We could remove everyone's index finger at birth to stop people from firing guns and murdering people too, but clearly that would be silly. Or maybe you'd like people to be sterilized at random since that would be good for the planet's health? But clearly that would be fascist.

Circumcising men on the premise that it might help some woman down the road is not a good enough reason! If you propose that, then how about supporting mutilating women because it might make some man happier down the road.

10:12 AM  
Blogger OlyimpicDreamz said...

First of all Trolls of all types, FGM is wrong by ANYONE who does it. It should be stopped. It destroys women's lives, and it's a disgusting ingrained system of controlling women, and the power over they're bodies. Along with being meaningless, it's torture of the rest of your life. So there's no, "oh this group didn't do this.." nonsense. We're all to blame as long as this keeps going on.

On the topic at hand, maybe it's because I am very sensitive to this issue, but those images are horrific, and appropriate for the subject matter. I think it's subtle enough to drive this disgusting terrifying practice home.

I hope they do make many campaigns, and bring this to more of a forefront. It should be stopped.

6:06 PM  
Blogger Zeynab said...

Thank you to all those who defended Muslims against the Islamphobic comments on this post.
FGM is not an Islamic practice.
I personally think these ads are incredibly effective. While I dislike the likening of female genitalia to flowers (it reminds me too much of likening women to flowers or pearls, things that need protection instead of people), I think it's an incredibly striking image.

7:25 PM  
Blogger andrea said...

how has no one balked at the trite and (i think) misogynistic assumption that the best representation of ladyparts is a flower? Blech. I find these ads objectifying.

7:29 PM  
Anonymous Ann said...

Well...a flower IS a reproductive structure, although roses contain both male and female parts. If it was good enough for O'Keeffe...

10:47 PM  
Anonymous neko said...

i thought the images were very beautiful. they make me think of some sort of artistic suture bdsm scene. not so much the violent non-consensual act that genital mutilation is.

3:11 AM  
Anonymous Blackbirdwoja http://monetslilies.typepad.com/the_blackbird_whistling_o/ said...

Neither the images nor the text come close...

I'm really disappointed in this campaign. Neither the images not the text come close to conveying, or even suggesting, what really happens to these girls.

First of all, they deceptively cover only one of the (arguably) less destructive types of FGM. Secondly, the rose isn't DAMAGED at all! It's not MUTILATED. It's an lovely image of a rose that has been sewn in the middle. In fact, the rose is so unblemished it appears that the stitches could be removed and it would bounce back into its former perfection.

The text doesn't describe what female genital mutilation really is and it doesn't suggest the physical, emotional, and psychological consequences of the act.

Given that the actuality of this horror is beyond what anyone unacquainted with it could or would imagine without being explicitly told, this is just too vague to be of any consequence. FGM is so unpleasant to contemplate and so removed from most of our everyday lives that the only way to get someone to fully experience the stomach-turning, chill-inducing discomfort of recognizing the detailed reality , is to be BLATANT.

And, I'm sorry but in the pink image the "clitoris" is healthy and thriving and absolutely untouched.

Too artistic. Too (thriving, unblemished) beautiful. Too vague.

PS- Suzette - if you're comparing FGM to male circumcision, you don't understand what FGM is. If a small part of the labia was excised and healed without future medical incident, it would be similar. If a boys penis were cut to a semi-functioning stub, or if he were castrated without anesthesia or sterilization, if he were left with lifelong infections and increased likelihood of dying (menstruation, urinating, childbirth, sex, all become fraught with medical dangers) it would be the same. For these reasons and more - it's NOT.

12:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don't get me wrong: FGM (or whatever it is termed) is, in many cases, a brutal practice. But the type of FGM/FGC portrayed in this advertisement is actually performed in a small percentage of the "mutilations" (something around 10% - I'm not sure exactly, but it's relatively low). Again, these cases are awful.

But I don't think it is that simple. What about when the girl is old enough to make a decision and is complicit? Is this a "clear violation" of her human rights? I think that is an extremely narrow-minded approach. I wonder if that means my rights, as a circumcised male, have been violated. I was not even a year old when I underwent this procedure.

Also, there is absolutely no consideration to cultural differences or relativism present in these advertisements. While it is extremely easy to have too much relativism, I believe some must be present. Some of our practices can easily be construed by outsiders as violations of our "rights" (something defined and mostly regulated by the West). The terming itself - female genital mutilation - is incredibly arrogant! The point is, we are imposing our reality, which is miles away, on these foreign cultures and peoples.

Please don't take this to mean that I am in any way pro-FGC. It is often a brutal and terrible practice, like I said. Indeed, I think that I am a feminist as much as a male can be. But these advertisements are extremely short-sighted and simplistic. Take some time to think about the complexities of this issue - I took hours thinking about it as an undergraduate and I have yet to come to any conclusion for myself.

4:34 PM  
Anonymous Susette said...

@Blackbirdwoja: Did I say that cutting off a woman's clitoris and mutilating her labia were the same as removing the foreskin from a man? No. (Although, there can be terrible complications and permanent medical problems if circumcision is done incorrectly.) But that's irrelevant. If I say that punching someone is bad, and you respond that punching someone isn't the same as stabbing them, and that stabbing is awful, it doesn't make the punching suddenly okay. It just means that you've introduced a second bad thing. Because they're both bad.

My point wasn't whether one or the other was worse, because I don't think you can put a value judgment on that unless you've had both done to you. My point was that male circumcision, without consent, is ALSO bad, but no one talks about it.

6:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Forget the image. The copy is awful.

12:53 PM  
Blogger Mariya said...

"how has no one balked at the trite and (i think) misogynistic assumption that the best representation of ladyparts is a flower? Blech. I find these ads objectifying."

Andrea, please tell me you're kidding. The whole point is taking a trite symbol of femininity and "mutilating" it so that people get the association. And they do. I agree with some others that the flower is perhaps not mutilated ENOUGH to make people wince at the grim reality of FGM, but seriously? Misogynistic? As in, people who think labia look like roses hate women?

12:47 PM  
Anonymous Peter said...

Thanks for article.

12:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Come on, let's get real here. The flowers are pathetic. Soft, sweet, beautiful, artistically and delicately stitched. We're talking about taking young girls and slicing off their labia, often without anesthetic, at any age before puberty, and also cutting out their clitoris. Then sewing them up to leave two small holes - one for urine, one for blood. No sexual pleasure ever, but probably sexual pain.

When it comes to childbirth, they are cut open again to let the baby out. Then their legs are tied together until the wound heals. As many as 1 in 12 die in childbirth due to all this additional cutting and blood loss. Not to mention the terrible pain. Don't sweeten it with flowers and don't minimise it by comparing it to male circumcision.

6:37 PM  
Blogger Ms. Morgan said...

I actually think this is a fairly effective ad. While some say that the 'flower' imagery is trite and sexist, I think that it is a well-known symbol, and that is part of what makes it effective. Be 'flowers' a cliche or not, there is a persistent cultural use of the term 'budding sexuality,' and this image plays a duel role in that regard; it shows both a physical comparative, but also the idea that the growth of the female is stunted and mutated.

With regards to it not being 'mutilated enough,' I also think the pristine condition of the flowers can symbolize how something that is untouched has been destroyed. The aesthetic innocence of the roses represent the life unburdened, were it not for the restraints of the unapologetic mutilation. It also shows how the potential beauty is now in shackles. The roses equal potential, were it not for the imprisonment of the ties that bind -- both physically and culturally.

10:05 PM  
Blogger Réasúnach said...

Circumcision in infants is child abuse. You should have to be 18 years + to recieve one upon your own consent.

10:48 AM  

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