Saturday, May 31, 2008
Flipping it around
There has been much discussion and debate about the "Lisa" ALAC ad in a variety of blogs and other fora. Sexism in the MSM continues pretty much unabated, but something which addresses rape in the way this ad does takes it beyond the usual run of boring misogynist tropes usually used for marketing. Anna McM at the hand-mirror has bravely shared her story of the night something "Lisa"-like happened to her and it's important reading for anyone with an ambivalence about what the ad is trying to say. Victim-blaming in relation to rape is pervasive - and sadly, judging from Anna's story and the comments thread at Charlotte's Crazy, it would appear that a group of people very likely to do this are the victims themselves, because this is what they imagine everyone else is doing anyway, and, looking at the content of the Lisa ad, they are perfectly justified in doing so. How brave you have to be to run the gauntlet of public opinion in claiming you've been sexually assaulted and in confronting the person responsible. It's a very rare woman who does, an even rarer one who would be 100% supported in doing so and a still rarer one who ever gets justice through the legal system.
In a striking example of administrative incompetence, Julie and Joanna's complaints to the ASA about the "Lisa" ad were dismissed even before they arrived, on the grounds that they made the same point as an earlier submission. Both posts about this situation fully illustrate that the earlier complaint was made on a different basis, which makes the ASA look truly incompetent. Anyone interested in making an additional formal submission about the ad can find a full list of posts on this issue at the handmirror which has tips and Julie's new letter of complaint which could be used as a jumping-off point.
As per suggestions made in the comments threads at the handmirror and Charlotte's Crazy (links above) it's quite illustrative to address the issue of drinking in sexual assault from a different perspective. Imagine that, like the other two ads in the ALAC series, the "Lisa" ad looks at the implications of drunkenness in relation to MALE behaviour. Men are usually the ones who perform sexual assault whether on women or on each other. An American study (I couldn't find relevant NZ studies but if you know of any please let me know) has shown that alcohol is involved in sexual assaults at least one half of the time, and that these crimes usually occur between people who don't know each other well, but who have met in a bar or similar. The most common scenario is not that of a predatory, sober, male dragging a drunk woman off into an alley as in the "Lisa" ad, but a drunk man subjecting a drunk woman to unwanted intercourse.
If I was writing an ad that actually addressed this issue head-on, I'd start with a pub situation - a group of guys getting shit-faced, a few misogynist comments bandied about in relation to the women in the bar, a focus on one guy who drunkenly hits on several different women and groups of women and gets laughed at or repelled, some piss-taking by his mates over his lack of success in scoring, and his growing aggression. A group of woman come over to the table where his mates are and start talking. Our main character is pushed into a conversation with a shy woman. Suddenly we're outside in a dark street and our character and the woman get into a taxi together as our character's mates make approving hooting noises. Inside the taxi the woman smiles uncertainly and drunkenly at our character. Suddenly we're inside a bedroom and the light is flickering - the woman is partially undressed on the bed, coughing, crying and pushing at our character, saying "please, just get off me, get off me", and our character, on top of her, is confusedly going "what?". Final shot - the ALAC banner - "It's not the drinking - it's how we're drinking".
I can't imagine a broadcaster who would screen this even though it's not even a worst-case scenario and all of the most horrible bits have been missed out. But it attempts to place responsibility for rape squarely on the shoulders of the perpetrator and address the role that binge drinking plays in sexual assault by men. It's crucial to remember in this scenario that a drunk woman behaving like a dick does not result in sexual assault. That part requires the addition of the perpetrator - almost always a man, probably drunk, and the permission/encouragement of his mates and all the people in the situation that the two people are located in. I'm not sure why ALAC decided that emphasising female vulnerability would be the most effective way of addressing this issue. Considering the way that alcohol aids and abets sexual assault through male drunkenness it seems beyond ridiculous.