A two-year-old advertisement for a hair salon in Edmonton, Canada has sparked an online controversy after it was e-mailed anonymously to the New York City advertising blogger Mark Duffy. The ad depicts a woman with a black eye, dressed up with her hair styled, sitting on a couch. Behind her is a man in a suit, holding a diamond necklace. The ad’s tagline reads: “look good in all you do.” In a facebook post about the ad, salon owner Sarah Cameron wrote: “hottest battered woman I’ve ever laid my eyes upon.” In his short blog post which outed the ad, Duffy (known as copyranter) wrote “well, she’s about to get a shiny diamond necklace to match her shiner, so all’s well that ends well?”
The glorification of domestic violence in this advertisement has shocked women’s rights advocates and others in numerous forums across the Internet. In an article in the Edmonton Sun, Jan Reimer, from the Alberta Council of Women’s Shelters, called the ads “disturbing and chilling,” noting that “they may have had the best of intentions, but I don’t think they thought it out much in terms of what the message is. It seems like this is an ad for domestic violence.” Edmonton blogger Kasia Gawlak, who blogs at Confessionality, told the Edmonton Sun that “it is like saying ‘at least you have good looking hair when your boyfriend abuses you.’ The women who have been abused (deal) with real pain, heartbreak and suffering — it’s not something that should be trivialized to sell a hair salon.”
Although salon owner Cameron defended the ad as a “particular art form” in remarks on her facebook page, she also apologized to abuse victims. However, the apology did not truly accept responsibility or express regret for the choices she and her creative team from Laird Media made. Cameron wrote:
If survivors of abuse interpret this ad to make light of any abusive situation, we sincerely apologize, that was never our intent as there are people that worked on this campaign who are survivors of abuse. To the rest of you who this has so deeply affected, we truly hope you do something to help stop domestic violence. Truly honor the survivors that you are standing up for. Unfortunately boycotting a hair salon will not accomplish this.
Cameron also promised to donate the proceeds of any services booked by people who mention the ad to the Edmonton Women’s Shelter.
In its article on the ad, the Toronto Star discussed the legal implications of such an ad. The Canadian Code of Advertising Standards Clause 14 prohibits advertisements that “appear in a realistic manner to exploit, condone or incite violence” and that “undermine human dignity.” Advertising Standards Canada told the Toronto Start that it did expect a complaint to be filed and that it would investigate such a complaint, but that it would be handled confidentially.
What do you think? Are ads depicting violence against women simply a form of provocative art or are they crossing the line?
Photo credit: Laird Media