Not content with a mere blog post mocking the objection to ad advert that equates chemical residue with sexual assault and harassment, now Ad Age has published an editorial admonishing us to "Quit Looking for Offense in Every Single Commercial." Shaker Joe sent me a pdf of the print version this morning:
[Click to embiggen.]
While the words in this space are usually directed at marketers, we'd like to take an opportunity to talk to all of those out there who often find themselves so offended by ads that they feel a need to launch a crusade. To you we say: "Take a deep breath. Have some perspective."It goes on from there with the smug confidence typical of concern trolls who believe they're saying something new and important by accusing feminists of looking for something to get mad about. Congratulations, editors of Ad Age, you've just published an editorial that can successfully be refuted by Derailing for Dummies.
Extra points for equating "homophobes" and "men's rights groups" with "gay-rights activists" and "ardent feminists." Because people who want to deny equality are the same as the people fighting for it. I particularly love the construction of "ardent feminists," by the way, with its positively adorable implication that it's fine to be a feminist, but y'know, not one of those ardent ones who complains about stuff. Like the minimization of the gravity of sexual assault.
But here's the best part: "In this case, Method was probably right to just pull the spot. After all, rape and sexism aren't, like gay marriage and sex on TV, issues that can be argued." Leaving aside the inexplicably absurd conflation of same-sex marriage and "sex on TV," I love how this basically boils down to: "Those hysterical nutballs were right this time—but they should still STFU."
The piece ends with this:
Maybe it's not so easy to let such perceived slights go. But perhaps if you're the sort to start letter-writing campaigns and the kind who's quick with a #fail hashtag on Twitter, you could try to stop spotting offense under every rock. They're just commercials, after all. You can always change the channel.Which couldn't more clearly expose the editors' manifest misunderstanding of the nature of my (and plenty of others') objections to this sort of material. It's not that I can't "let such perceived slights go." The reason I take action, the reason I lift my teaspoon, is because it's part of the way I process and let go of the occasional stuff that does get under my skin. Being a member of a marginalized population means, literally, being out of control. And it feels that way. Taking action in response to the means and methods of one's oppression is a response to being and feeling out of control.
Being a survivor of sexual assault, which is a crime of control using sex as a weapon, can leave one with an urgent, compelling need to take action, take back control, and campaigning against the narratives, images, language, jokes, and other accoutrements of the rape culture that diminish the seriousness of what is a life-altering event for many of its victims is a valuable course for many survivors. Encouraging them to "let it go" is actively, if obliquely, discouraging them from healing.
It's a particular bit of cruelty, that: Get over it. But if getting over it means anything but silence, we'll call you an overwrought hysteric.
It's a cruelty that also conveniently ignores the reality that imagery of sexual assault can be triggering for survivors. Despite what the editors of Ad Age evidently believe, survivors of sexual assault who are triggered by its imagery used as a joke are not just weak-minded reactionaries. They are survivors of a heinous crime who don't find the "humor" in its being used as a metaphor for soap scum.
Who's really lost perspective here?
And that's why whether this stuff affects/triggers me personally isn't even my main concern; my main concern is that all this stuff contributes to a culture in which sexual assault flourishes and constantly hurts women, and men, and children.
"Turning the channel" doesn't change that.
Actively working to create ever larger spaces in which rape and rape apologia are considered unacceptable, however, does.
The notion that anti-rape advocates look for things about which to get offended is manifest horseshit: The truth is, if I actually spent my days actively paying attention to every example of rape apologia around me, I would be a profoundly unhappy woman. Not bitchy or grumpy or short-tempered, but paralyzingly depressed. Women have to train themselves to avoid consciously reacting to every bit of rape-advocating detritus permeating the culture through which we all move, lest they go quite insane. I write about the things I can't not write about. If I wrote about all the examples of sexual predation I see every day, I'd never sleep.
And the recommendation to "ignore the little stuff," so often intertwined with accusations of looking for things about which to get offended (as here), is not merely condescending, but counter to the objective of stopping rape. The "little stuff" is the fertile soil in which everything else takes root and from whence everything else springs; it's the way that the fundamental idea that sexual assault is acceptable is conveyed over and over and over again.
Which, quite frankly, means that if even we did have to look for it, we'd be right to do so.
[Previously on the Method Shiny Suds Ad: Today in Rape Culture, I Write Letters, I Get Letters, Hysterical Bitchez.]