The poster was totally asking for it.

It’s been a very long time since I last committed an act of civil disobedience but, as you can see, the poster was totally asking for it.

10492375_10152595739093659_7632263138585660036_n

This is not the first time I have seen this particular poster.  We’ve met on several occasions, exchanging glances across the short distance outside of a multistory car park.  It tempted me, I know it.  The insidious, misogynist message.  The graphic imagery straight out of 1950s era pulp fiction cover art.  The victim-blaming propaganda pouring from its tight-fitted lamination.

This poster was totally asking for it.

And so, after a lengthy period of intense flirtation, I acted.  I ripped it down.  I shoved it into my car.  I kidnapped it, defiled it and then stuffed the ruined remains in the bin.10410861_10152595740718659_3437244459888679975_n

Of course, before its final desecration, I had to make it understand just what it had done wrong.  But that would be selfish.  After all, I had the supreme pleasure of tearing down the poster.  I decided other forces should have the opportunity to vent their anger.

My daughters are aged ten and five.  Ten and five.  I wish they lived in a world where this poster didn’t exist.  I wish they lived in a world where a lot of things didn’t exist.  But I cannot let them live in a world of ignorance.

I didn’t tell them what to think.  I asked them to tell me what they thought of the poster.  My girls did me proud.

‘What does the poster show?’ I asked.

‘Someone scared.’

‘Someone getting murdered.’  The five-year-old is a bit more bloodthirsty than her sister.

‘Someone?’  I asked, emphasizing the last syllable.

‘A girl.’

‘And what is happening to her?’

‘Someone is hurting her.’

‘Someone?’

‘A man.  Probably.  It’s usually men who hurt women.  I don’t know why.’  My ten-year-old looked solemn as only she can.

‘Who do you think the poster is meant for?’

‘For girls,’ they chorused.

‘Who do you think it should be meant for?’

In unison they pointed to the disembodied black hand wrapped around the woman’s face.

‘Why?’

‘Because the hand is doing the murdering.’  That was the five-year-old again.

And here is where I took over the lesson.  There were many things I wanted to say but I have no desire to terrify children.  I kept my message simple and honest.

‘Two things I want you to understand about this poster.  First, if anything happens to you that makes you scared or hurt or uncomfortable you can tell me and I will be on your side to help you anyway I can.  Second, if anything happens to you that makes you feel scared or hurt or uncomfortable it is not your fault.  Not ever.’

For a moment, they both looked from the poster to me and back again in silence.

‘Can we tear it up now?’ asked the five-year old.

10561820_10152595739863659_7967071806040704692_nI gave them each a pair a scissors.

To the well-intentioned people of Harrogate District Community Safety Partnership, I have this to say: you should know better.  I realise you have a message to convey and I suspect, at least I hope, that you and I are on the same side.  We both want to keep women safe.  This poster and its message will not keep women safe.  It will keep them scared.  It will keep them ashamed.  It will keep them silent.  But it will not keep them safe because they are not the ones putting our community in jeopardy.

Blaming the victims of crime and violence does nothing to prevent crime and violence.  It does nothing to address the problems which lead the owners of black-gloved hands to commit crimes and violence.  And that’s not even beginning to address the fact that violators of women seldom wear black gloves.  They have no need for protective clothing because our misogynist culture protects them.  Every day, every hour, every minute women experience violence with gloves off and the patriarchal world lets it happen mostly without comment.

If you like HDCSP, I would be more than happy to offer advice for an alternative public service poster.  One aimed at the men who commit these crimes.  One which might stand a chance of keeping us all safe.

PS: if you put up another poster, I’ll just take it down again and I don’t think I’ll be alone.

 

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20 thoughts on “The poster was totally asking for it.

  1. Fantastic post and it’s good to know you’re raising your kids with such a good ethos! Still in our society I can’t believe victim blaming is still happening, at my uni girls were advised to wear their hair down in freshers week, as an assailant wouldn’t be able to grab it as easily as he would if it were in a ponytail. Of course it occurred to no one to publish anti-attack propaganda! Anyway, good post!

  2. You are Awesome! and your kids are Awesome Little Peeps too… only by learning our kids young is the way to make the next generation smarter!!! Thanks! I shared the word!!!

  3. Wow. I think you have posted as good an example of victim-blaming as I can imagine. I had to read the piece twice to make sure it wasn’t satire.

    Sadly it’s not.

    Thanks for telling us about this.

  4. I’m not sure how setting fire to kids is going to help the situation, Christoph Poole. You obviously meant raise, but to be honest even with that subbed in, your comment leaves me wanting. The above is EXACTLY how to raise kids. She’s doing it right.

  5. Have you written to the council about this in order to inform them of why you think this kind of poster isn’t addressing the problem and/or helping?

    Also… “‘Who do you think it should be meant for?’” … Problem is people committing such crimes aren’t really going to read ‘public information posters’ so the local council is trying to ‘help’ in other ways. It misses the mark but it is, in a heavy-handed way, trying it’s best to say “there are crazy f****** out there; try to think about how you get home after a night out on the razz”.

  6. You talked to your kids about it, it started a conversation, so in a way they have got there message across. Putting up posters of any type – even if they are bang on topic – doesn’t mean people will read them or follow their advice. It’s your personal approach that is key to getting the message across, whether to those at risk of attack or perpetrating attacks.
    Look at the ONS “Crime in England and Wales report 2013” – http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/dcp171778_360216.pdf – the number of rapes and sexual assaults involving a female child under the age of 13 increased 25% (6,097 to 7,611) , and the number of rapes and sexual assaults involving a male child under the age of 13 increased 54%, compared to last year (1,775 to 2,727). As your girls show, those age groups won’t understand a poster about violence, nor should they have to.
    It’s the way the parents advise their children on how to act that will keep them safe.

    Also, more than 1.1 million or 7% of women and 720,000 or 4% of men where reported victims of some kind of domestic abuse in the past year (and yes, there will be members of both genders who don’t report it happening for various reasons). That’s a 60/40 split. So you’re right, not all crimes and violence are committed by black-gloved hands, some wear nail varnish.

    • There is a long, disgusting history of women being blamed for violence committed against them. This tradition transcends time and place. The mindset behind this long history of victim-blaming is deeply rooted in the heart of misogynist patriarchy. That is my problem with this poster. That is puts the emphasis on women keeping themselves safe thereby also insinuating very strongly that if we don’t manage to keep ourselves safe it is our fault. This, to quote Caitlin Moran, is bullshit.
      I also think your statistics, while technically factual, need to put into a wider picture of sexual violence which is unfortunately encoded in our culture. Legal definitions of domestic abuse are complex. Reporting can be complex as can the convicting and sentencing. What I’m talking about and concerned about is less the legality of the crime of sexual violence than the cultural and psychological impact of the widespread existence of sexual violence committed against women. If it were a disease, the World Health Organisation would have declared a global state of emergency to deal with this epidemic. The fact that no one has only goes to show how rape has been woven into our artificially constructed social DNA.

      • How about taking responsibility for your own actions, making decisions and dealing with the consequences? This poster is about excessive alcohol intake and the effects inebriation can have on your actions. You can be the most sensible person, with years of defense training, but after 15 drinks you’re not the same person. We had posters like this at uni for guys and the dangers of hurting yourself or getting mugged, or getting into fights when drunk. The risks are out there, but you can minimise them (being drink aware, travelling in groups, booking a taxi, etc).
        You chose to drink those drinks, not society. If the poster had a picture of a woman lying in the road having been hit by a bus, would that also be the fault of the misogynist patriarchy?
        I was actually congratulating you on talking to your girls on the topic of violence, even if this poster is not aimed at them. I doubt your five and ten year old go out and get pissed – it’s one thing I think America has over the UK; America teaches young people to drive before they teach them to drink – but keeping yourself (whether female or male) safe is a vital message, because you’re the only one who can. Would you rip down a poster at a station telling people not to walk on the tracks, because that’s blaming the victim, and it should be up to the train to stop in time?

        And my statistics where in response to your line “Every day, every hour, every minute (,) women experience violence with gloves off and the patriarchal world lets it happen mostly without comment.”
        The word you use is violence, not just sexual violence. Physical or emotional, violence is not restricted to one gender. How many men have been brought up to accept being nagged and belittled by their partners as part of society? Even guys being kicked in the crotch is a staple of comedy tv. And getting back on topic, just look at the recent attack by Solange on Jay-Z and how drunk she was and how the media dealt with that. She wasn’t arrested.
        Alcohol intake is a personal choice, and so are the after effects.

      • The poster in question doesn’t show a woman getting hit by a bus, it shows a woman getting attacked by a man with the clear implication that sexual violence is the threat women need to guard against. Perhaps I should have clarified “sexual violence” rather than just violence in my earlier reply. And I don’t really believe that this poster is about alcohol intake. Or perhaps it is trying to be about alcohol intake but not doing a very good job of it. We are a visual people in the 21st century and the image is everything. The image doesn’t show a woman getting drunk and puking in a shrub. It shows a woman getting attacked. I also think there is a huge difference between getting mugged (threatened and robbed), getting your face punched and being raped.

        My main point behind all of this, is that anyone…men, women etc should be able to waltz down the street at 3am drunk off their asses and half-dressed and the only thing they should have to worry about it getting picked up and put in the drunk tank to sober up. As women, we are trained from an early age to fear the night, the be on guard, to constantly expect danger. Men don’t. Or at least, society doesn’t train men to fear. Yes, men do experience rape but its not on the widespread level as women and it’s not woven into men’s understanding of the world the way it is with women.

        For me, this poster represented everything evil about the way that society treats women. Making them feel afraid first then responsible for violent acts committed against them. This attitude is not isolated but part of a larger picture of the role patriarchy has carved out for women.

      • “5 pubs
        15 drinks
        1 journey alone

        The consequences ”

        If you don’t want to read, then there’s no point writing anymore.

      • Or maybe as a mother you should be teaching your kids to actually look at the whole situation before being so violent.

  7. The big words at the top of the poster are “STOP VIOLENCE”. It’s the smaller words below that then put the onus on stopping the violence on the potential victim by implying it’s her fault if she’s drunk too much. Maybe feyip should read the words that are actually there less selectively.

  8. Pingback: LADY MACBETH, REALLY? - Tracey Spicer

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