Please join us at

Get the posts on my new blog by e-mail. Enter your e-mail address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

New posts on

Sunday, December 02, 2007

"Oh, my."

Reader-submitted question: AUGH! Why would anyone sew vaginas shut?

I really wish I knew. Well, I know why they say they do it, but I have a hard time wrapping my mind around such a vile thing. Don't e-mail me to say that little boys get circumcised. I'm not in favour of that, either, but it is NOT the same thing.

I'm not sure that I consider myself a feminist, but I do read some blogs written by feminists, and there has been quite a bit of chatter about this ad series. I thought it was really good for the reasons my readers mentioned, but many women apparently do not for one or more of the following reasons:

  • Vaginas are not flowers. Using roses to represent vulvas just reinforces disgusting stereotypes. Also, vaginas ARE NOT VULVAS. How dumb are people if they don't even know the right names for their genitals? Clearly, men are responsible. (Okay, so I'm taking a bit of license here, but this isn't far off.)
  • It looks like a chastity ad. (This confuses me. I've seen some pretty inappropriate chastity ads, but I've never seen one that made me think of genital mutilation.)
  • The ad is not violent enough: the stitches should be dripping blood and maybe some pus. The rose looks too pretty. You could just snip those stitches and the petals would spring back into place.
  • To be accurate, the top half of the rose should have been torn off. (I admit that I thought this myself, but decided that that was too nitpicky.)
  • There should be NO images in ads about genital mutilation. The words "genital mutilation" are shocking enough.
With all due respect to the women who made these arguments with such passion, I disagree. These ads were not intended to make feminists happy. When designing an ad campaign, you have to decide if you are trying to reach a "general audience" or a "targeted audience".

"General audience" is a fancy way of saying "everyone". You design these ads using the assumption that the people who see the ad won't have any background information (or very little) and aren't prepared to spend much time with your message. You are usually trying to catch their attention for a moment and get them to learn more by reading a handout or going to a website.

"Targeted audience" is a fancy way of saying "group of people with something in common". It could be children between the ages of 7 and 10, gymnastics coaches, vegetarians, or feminists. Depending on what you're trying to achieve, targeted audiences usually already have a certain amount of knowledge about the issue you're doing the ad campaign about. They are often willing to spend more time with your materials and to do more in response to the information you've provided.

If Amnesty was trying to get feminists to learn more about female genital mutilation, this would definitely be the wrong image. They already know about it and want to stop it: what they really need is some practical information about what to do.

This ad was never intended for feminists, but it is a great example of an ad that's directed at a general audience. The image draws you in, and you wonder why the flower has stitches. You read the text and can go to a website if you want more information. Overall, it's very well done. It's too bad that some women think they have to be so upset about it.


Jules said...

I'm not offended, but I am also not at all outraged- which I think I should be if I am looking at an ad on genital mutilation.

Anonymous said...

Well said, Megan.

b*babbler said...

Excellent response!

As in all things, I really get upset when people become so blinded by their mission that they start to miss the original intent. That is to say, shouldn't it be in the feminists best interest to have as many people as possible talking about this issue? Simply put, that isn't going to happen with a graphic, disturbing image.

As I commented earlier, a rose is not a vagina (nor a vulva), but in this case I think it serves the intended purpose.