Friday, July 25, 2014

Now you can protest with #Femen without taking your shirt off

It's been a while since I've written about Femen, the Ukrainian-born topless protest group that has since gone global. But this tee, just Tweeted, and on sale at their web site, seemed timely.

Considering that the group considers their bare breasts "weapons" in the war against misogyny, creating a clothed toplessness raises some questions: Is this self-aware parody? Commoditization of their tactics for fundraising? Or just a more accessible form of solidarity for shy women (and flat-chested men)?

There's another version of the shirt that reads, "Every Woman is a Riot" in reference to Pussy Riot - the allied Russian punk protest band that won the world's support when some members were jailed.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

DDB Amsterdam thinks 1:11 of slow-motion bouncing boobs will sell tech to runners

That's right — over a minute of blurry (?), slow-mo, mammary movement because someone thought up a bad pun.

According to the TomTom YouTube Page, which claims this ad was "banned," the subject (or rather, "object") is American model Alexandria Morgan. Ads of The World lists an all-male creative team with apparently zero interest in selling any TomTom Runner Cardio watches to women athletes.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Anti- "Honour Killing" ad targets Muslim girls in Edmonton

My first thought, upon seeing this story on Global News, was "what the hell is Pamela Geller doing in Canada?"

Ms. Geller is the face of the American Freedom Defense Initiative, an American anti-Muslim organization famous for running purposely offensive transit ads in American cities so they can launch free speech lawsuits against the systems.

The organization is also known by the less generic name "Stop Islamization of America," and it has been described by Ms. Geller — without irony — as "a human rights entity dedicated to the freedom of speech, which is under attack, as well as to the freedom of religion and to individual rights."

Unless you are Muslim.

Last year, the group placed the ad above on Edmonton buses. When the inevitable outrage ensued, the City pulled the ad. Now Ms. Geller is suing.

Edmonton City councillor Amarjeet Sohi, who called on Edmonton Transit to remove the ads, told CBC, "“I was really disturbed. I found it to be very offensive,” said Sohi of the campaign’s message.

“I found it to be that it was targeting or singling out one single community. Honour killing is prevalent in many other communities so why only single out one Muslim community? The organization behind these ads is known for its anti-Muslim stance.”

While so-called "honour killings" are often associated with the religion of Islam in Western perceptions, Human Rights Watch says it "goes across cultures and across religions":
"In countries where Islam is practiced, they're called honor killings, but dowry deaths and so-called crimes of passion have a similar dynamic in that the women are killed by male family members and the crimes are perceived as excusable or understandable," said Widney Brown, advocacy director for Human Rights Watch.
Indeed, one of Canada's most famous "honour killing" cases involved Jaswinder Kaur Sidhu, a Sikh woman who was was kidnapped, tortured, and killed allegedly on the orders of her mother and uncle while she was visiting India. Her transgression was secretly marrying a man of whose social status the family did not approve.

Like many other social ills, the assumption that families own their daughters' bodies and honour is one that comes not from religions themselves, but from the violent cultures of honour that exist in parts of the world with less sense of personal security and trust in government law and order.

Meanwhile, mainstream religious leaders continue to condemn honour killings. Muslim scholars from around the world have issued fatwas denouncing the practice as antithetical to Islam. It is against the Sikh religion as well. And the Hindu one. And the Jewish. And the Christian.

The American Freedom Defense Initiative told journalists, apparently with a straight face, “I don’t know why feelings would be hurt. I would think that Muslims that would denounce the honour code under Islam would stand with us and would want these ads.”

Yeah, right. Yankee go home.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Is this Cavalli logo an appropriated Sufi symbol?

Via The Fashion Law

See that fake tattoo on Georgia May Jagger's neck?

Okay, now mentally rotate it 90 degrees. What does it look like? To an entire sect of Sufi Muslims, it looks like this:


Followers of The Maktab Tarighat Oveyssi Shahmaghsoudi School of Sufi Islam are outraged at seeing their emblem in a sexualized advertising campaign. They've launched a Twitter hashtag campaign, #takeoffjustlogo, as well as a petition.

I have written frequently about the problem of commercial appropriation of cultural symbols. And I think I've established myself as a critic of Islamophobia. But as a branding professional, I think this outrage is completely mistaken.

The logo is clearly a stylized "JC" monogram. There is no extra elaboration. "Just" JC.

I firmly believe that the logo designer was completely unaware of any similarity with the Sufi symbol, and it takes a concerted effort to see it:

Via Allvoices

So what's the big deal? One of the anti-Cavalli campaign organizers, American doctoral student Nasim Bahadorani, said "We have this sign that to us represents blessed peace. It's a refuge … To see it disgraced like this for a company to make money is heartbreaking."

But really? There are only so many ways to create symbols in the world. As much as this one means to The Maktab Tarighat Oveyssi Shahmaghsoudi School, and as much as their religious sensibilities are real, this accidental sort-of similarity ranks pretty low in the problems of the world. At least in my opinion.

Cavalli can choose to withdraw the logo if they want to, and they may if they feel the bad PR will influence their key target audiences. But for now, the brand is appealing to the European Union's trademark and design authority, the Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market (OHIM).

From Reuters:
"Roberto Cavalli SpA is deeply saddened by the distress expressed by the Sufist School students, but hopes that the sentence emitted by a competent authority such as the OHIM, will convince the Sufist religion of the complete good faith and the groundlessness of their requests," the company said this week in a statement.
Ironically, Roberto Cavalli was the subject of some much more warranted religious outrage back in 2004, when he produced a line of bikinis featuring classical Indian images of Hindu gods. Cavalli apologized and withdrew the swimwear from stores following protests in the UK.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

By participating in "hot criminal" memes, are we ruining these people's lives forever?


 Jeremy Meeks, a 30-year-old California man who is the accidental subject of the ridiculous #FelonCrushFriday meme, is just the latest victim of the internet's casual dehumanization of people whose images go viral.

Arrested for felony weapon charges by the Stockton Police Department on June 18, he ended up having his mugshot featured on the police Facebook Page. Things rapidly spun out of control, with his face being photoshopped all over the place. While there have been mentions of modelling contracts later on, in reality he will probably be forgotten about in a couple of weeks.

NY Post

Speaking of which, does the name Meagan McCullough (now Simmons) ring a bell? Two years ago, she was given the same treatment when her mugshot, for drunk driving in Florida, also went viral. A legal line was crossed, however, when her image was used (without permission) for advertising. She ended up suing, an online background check service, for using her face on a banner ad.

Why do we feel the need to participate in these free-for-alls at someone's expense? Is it any better if you're paying them a compliment, rather than denigrating them?

Well, here's the thing. While internet users have the short-term memory of drunken goldfish, the internet itself never forgets. Popular images get indexed and brought up in search after search. Both Mr. Meeks and Ms. Simmons will appear whenever someone is doing searches about "convicts," "mugshots," or "criminals" — especially if keywords about looks are added. No matter what they may try to do to clear up their lives, these mistakes have the kind of permanence that you're unlikely to experience outside of a small town.

Just today, this showed up on my Facebook feed, from an unscrupulous advertiser:

It won't be the last time.