Tuesday, 8 April 2008

Actually, She Wasn't Asking For It At All

This morning I heard a Nine to Noon interview about the latest adverts in the Had Enough campaign from ALAC. They outlined the stories of the three ads - man drinks too much gets in several fights ("Danny"); man drinks too much, makes dick of himself at party and unintentionally hurts small child ("Mark"); woman drinks, dances, has good time, then finds herself in a dark alley, quite out of it, and gets taken away by dodgy looking man ("Lisa").

The interview didn't focus on the Lisa advert at all. It was instead about the shock nature of the ads, and mainly discussed the violence of the other two stories, in particular when Mark accidentally smashes his young nephew against a wall. They are brutal ads, and actually I tend to think that the Mark and Danny ones are appropriate - they show very real consequences of binge drinking, and they tell real stories. But all three adverts play the blame game. In two they get it right - Mark and Danny are responsible for the pain they cause themselves and others because of their drinking. But Lisa is not. She doesn't hurt anyone, yet she is hurt herself, in a horrible way (although, unlike the harm in the other two adverts, the violence she suffers happens off camera). ALAC however choose to brand Lisa as responsible for her own violation.

Since I heard the interview, I've been itching to get to the keyboard and rant about ALAC pulling out The Rape Myth That Won't Die - namely "she was drunk so it's all her fault." Maia beat me to it, and you should go read her excellent and succint post.

I won't go over the points that Maia has made, but I did want to add one more issue about the ad and the rape myths it perpetuates - namely that stranger rape in a dark alley (whether you are drunk or sober) is How Rape Happens. Actually most rapists know their victims, often already very intimately. Strangers are not usually the real danger.

This post isn't about how mad the ad makes me, or how wrong it is that ALAC is repeating and reinforcing falsehoods about rape in what would otherwise be a timely and necessary set of ads. This post is about what you can do if you feel the same way I do.

There are two avenues of complaint that I am aware of at the present time. (Please feel free to add more in comments if you have details):

A. Write directly to ALAC. Their contact details are here and for those who can't be bothered with the click-through, their main email is central (at) alac (dot) org (dot) nz. Make sure that you make it crystal clear you are making an "official complaint". I heard the ALAC man interviewed on the radio say that they had only had 2 "official complaints", and I believe those are about the violence towards a child in the Mark ad.

B. Write to the Advertising Standards Authority. The ASA deals with any complaint, from any person who feels that the ASA's Codes have been breached. Personally I think the Lisa advert breaches two parts of the Ethics section of the Codes, namely:

3. No advertisement should be misleading or deceptive or likely to mislead or deceive the consumer.
4. All advertisements should be prepared with a due sense of social responsibility to consumers and to society.

The process for writing a complaint to the ASA is very simple:

Complaints should be addressed to the Secretary, Advertising Standards Complaints Board, PO Box 10-675, Wellington. Complaints should be in writing, dated and signed by the complainant. Complaints can also be made using the online complaints form at http://www.asa.co.nz/complaint_form.php. Where the complaint involves a print advertisement, a copy of the advertisement should be included. Where a television or radio advertisement is the subject of a complaint, the approximate time, date and station of broadcast should be specified.

The Board then deals with it in the manner outlined here.

I'll be writing to both bodies hopefully in the next few days, and will put a copy up here once I've done it. The more people who express their outrage the more likely it becomes that ALAC will re-think the Lisa ad, and hopefully replace it with something that sheets home the blame for rape correctly - to the rapist, not the raped.


Lyn said...

Good on you guys for bringing this up. I haven't seen the commercial so I can't comment directly but I'll prepare a complaint if I can find it on Youtube or catch it on TV. Too many times horribly sexist advertising gets passed off as something else and no one cares. It's just unacceptable.

Anonymous said...

Thx for this Julie. I found the contacts after my last comment. I will be writing in the next day or two when I am not so angry

Face said...

Thank you so much for putting this out on the blogosphere - that's what I get for not listening to NatRad any more! My angry-yet-clear email has been sent.

Anonymous said...

I shall send a very well worded and lengthy complaint - from my Ministry of Justice email account - on the morrow.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad that there are people like you who can point out ways that we can respond and hopefully fight this rather than just seethe in anger as I have been doing

Anonymous said...

Great, google ate my comment.

I think the Lisa video is sgort and graphic - although showing her waking up next to someone horrid the next morning might be just as effective.

The fighting scene IMO should have ended with him being picked off the street by ambos, because that often happens when drunken idiots pick fights with people...

Julie said...

Thanks for the supportive comments, much appreciated. It's nice to know other people are angry too.

Anon - not sure what sgort means? Short? Waking up next to someone horrid would be short hand for "I got drunk and had sex with someone I wouldn't fancy when sober." That's rather a long way from being raped, which is the clear implication in the current Lisa ad. Fair point about the ambulances though.

Joanna said...

Waking up next to someone horrid would be short hand for "I got drunk and had sex with someone I wouldn't fancy when sober."

And they already made that point with their previous ads in which a woman watches herself get drunk, and sleep with a yucky guy from work - because she wasn't showing good judgement, not because she was forced, and that's why I have such a problem with the new ads. Drinking a lot doesn't mean you choose to get raped. You never choose to get raped.

stargazer said...

here are comments from my blog post today. would be interested on your thoughts - unfortunately i won't be able to read them until next week! great post though.

the hand mirror blogs today about the alac ad involving "lisa". it's the one where the young woman gets drunk in a nightclub, and ends up in a dark alley with a sinister looking man. the mirrors (is that ok for a nickname?) are angry the advertisement perpetuates the myth that women are responsible for rape, rather than putting the blame squarely where it belongs: on the rapist.

i totally agree with them on that point, and would encourage people to make complaints - see their blog for details on how. i just have one teeny concern. let me state straight out that as a muslim, i don't drink at all and have a pretty negative view of excessive alcohol consumption. also i blogged about this a few days ago.

i think we do need to get the message out to young women that binge drinking is unhealthy and can be dangerous, given the research on date rape. the problem then becomes: how do we package that message, without blaming the victim of rape? how do we encourage a culture change and highlight the dangers of excessive drinking, while making sure that we don't give the message that it's ok to take advantage of a drunken woman?

it's a difficult one, but one that definitely needs some work. in the meantime, it's worth letting alac know that their current attempt doesn't get it right.

s. said...

The advert is definitely ill-considered in retrospect, since it can be overloaded with the "women are responsible for rape if they have been drinking" mythology, but the message holds: getting yourself shitfaced falling-down drunk makes you incredibly vulnerable on the street, and puts you at the mercy of bad people. Men or women doing bad things -- mugging, rape, assault, murder -- to men and women.

s. said...

Oh, I almost forgot. Why the fuck was she still being served drinks?

Face said...

@steve: What a load of twaddle. Neither I nor any other commenter here needed to conceive, write, produce, and screen that advertisement to know "in retrospect" that it's a STUPID, DANGEROUS, DESTRUCTIVE advertisement.

"Vulnerability" likewise has nothing to do with it. Place the advertisement in the context of the other two in the campaign: person drinks, person does awful thing. But we're meant to believe that for THIS one, the message is "person drinks, person is rendered vulnerable"? Do you even think that's a message worth risking the OBVIOUS "misinterpretation" of, "woman drinks, woman gets raped, stupid woman"?

s. said...

@stephanie: I couldn't agree more. Try reading more carefully, and not jumping to conclusions. Please :)

Or are you trying to assert that getting yourself shitfaced falling-down drunk does NOT make you incredibly vulnerable on the street, and put you at the mercy of bad people?

Face said...

@Stephen: Mate, you're the one who thinks this ad was a bad idea "in retrospect". And "being on the street at the mercy of bad people" is a VERY different story to "rape myth".

Please don't accuse other people of jumping to conclusions when I was merely replying to your post. This ad puts the responsibility for getting raped in a dark alley on women who drink. Ain't the same beastie.

s. said...

@stephanie: Since we're basically agreeing, I'm having trouble figuring out what your point is, but anyway....

"in retrospect"
It's not MY retrospective viewpoint I'm trying to construct, it's the makers of the ad. It floors me, it baffles me how they could be so fucking clueless.

This ad puts the responsibility for getting raped in a dark alley on /women who drink/
Cmon, it doesn't really, does it. Who believes that? Stupid, ignorant people. And stupid, ignorant people believe all sorts of stupid, ignorant things. Shame, but it still only amounts to a very unfortunate "OBVIOUS misinterpretation" (your words).

Face said...

@Stephen: Yes, it does. Have you missed that exact point being made by this blog and all the other commenters to it? Or did you just not want to get it?

Yes, my words were "OBVIOUS misinterpretation". Because even if the advertisers did not intend it ... it's clearly there, which is why people are outraged. Again, that may have been the ENTIRE POINT.

s. said...

@stephanie: Of course I haven't missed that point being made over and over again, I just think it's bullshit. That would, instead of a sorry, ignorant mistake, turn this ad into a work of malice on the part of its sponsors. I can't believe that this would ever be the case -- and I wish you luck if you try to register a complaint with the BSA on that basis.

Have you seen the work in question, yet?

Face said...

My GOD, steve, you're right! I'd never realised until now that sexual discrimination against women, and the blaming of rape victims, is always overt and open and clearly stated. YOU HAVE OPENED MY EYES.

s. said...


I'm going to have to retire from this argument now, because you're starting to resemble a caricature.

Robyn said...

There's something that might not be obvious upon first viewing of the ad, but the guy in the alley first meets Lisa in the nightclub about halfway through the ad. He eyes her up on the dance floor, started dancing with her and her friend, then the friend wanders off, leaving Lisa gazing seductively at Sleazy Guy.

It's actually quite hard to pick this up because the night club is darkly lit, our focus is on Lisa, and the special-effects editing grabs our attention.

So the situation in the alley changes from the unlikely rape in an alley by a complete stranger, to the more realistic rape by someone known to the victim (though barely known in this situation).

I suspect that the location of the alley is used more for its cinematic symbolism - it's a quick way of setting the scene for a short TV ad. We've come to associate dark alleys as places where bad things happen to people after hours, even though in real life Sleazy Guy would be more likely to take Lisa back to his place under some pretence.

I like that this ad is taking a harder stance than the "Dennis from accounts" ad, which was kind of comedy - "Ha ha! You might get so drunk that you shag an ugly guy!!!" Whereas this one is more, "Whoa, you might get so drunk that your sense of judgement becomes so impaired that you're unable to see the true intentions of a sleazy guy who'll end up raping you, much to your shock."

But I think ultimately the ad is a failure. Using the dark alley is a bad choice because it's not the sort of place where rapes normally take place. If a drunk woman is in a nice suburban bedroom with a guy, is she going to think she'll be fine because they're not in a dark alley?

But worst, the ad sort of treats rape like it's a pothole in the footpath, and that if Lisa was sober she could have stepped around the pothole, but as she was drunk and tripped on the pothole, well, that's just her fault. No mention that the pothole shouldn't have been in the footpath in the first place.

s. said...

Two Female Leads
Hollywood is not creating female heroes (xkcd)

Drunken youths flood into hospital
Young females are leading the six-fold increase in the number of drunken youths admitted to Wellington Hospital (Stuff.co.nz)