When we first began to look at controversial texts my mind immediately jumped to this advertisement that I had seen floating through the internet with a lot of controversy surrounding it. I started to second guess how wise the choice of advert was, considering the seriousness of the issue raised, but then realised that is exactly WHY I should discuss it. It is an issue so prevalent (1 in 5 women over the age of 15 have experienced sexual assault!!) yet everyone seems to skirt around the problem. If people are too afraid to even talk about this serious problem then how is it possible raise awareness and reduce numbers of people effected??
“Publicity done right in an anti-rape campaign: double-page spread, pages glued to one another. After the reader forcefully separates them, the image above is revealed with the caption “if you have to use force, it’s rape”.
When looking at this advert we originally see two legs that belong to a female. These are the signifiers, they are simply on the page. But when thinking about what the image refers to (the signified), as well as taking into consideration the action just undertaken (tearing the pages apart) we begin to develop an understanding of the connotations of the image. As a reader, I feel that this ad is extremely confronting and it is because of this that I believe it is so effective. It stands out. It gets readers attention. Most importantly, it forces viewers to think about a serious issue that people generally avoid facing and discussing. This is such a simple image that has such a deep and meaningful taboo topic attached, although it does not have much room for different perspectives/ interpretations.
I have come across a couple of articles (prior to writing this article) that have argued AGAINST this advert, saying that it ‘limits’ the definition of rape, when in fact there are many different types of sexual assault. I agree with this, but I also feel like it is impossible for one ad to effectively raise awareness for such a broad issue. Maybe the best way is to simply have strong hard hitting ads tackling one issue at a time. One example where this method has proven to work is in Vancouver, where they began a campaign called “Don’t be that guy” in 2010. In 2011 the rate of sexual assault dropped by about 10 per cent, which was the first time the number had decreased in several years.