It seems that every few months, an advertiser comes out with a new and “edgy” marketing campaign involving depictions of violence against women.
Over the years, these depictions have ranged from images of men hitting women as the women express sexual ecstasy to images of beautiful women covered in bruises.
These images present violence as glamorous, even portraying the wounds of victims as beautiful. These images are universally damaging, and viewing them can have dramatically harmful effects both on individuals and on society as a whole.
Desensitization to Violence
Violence against women has reached epic proportions, with some estimates indicating that as many as 25 percent of women will be raped, and 35 percent of women will be victims of attempted rape.
Domestic violence is exceedingly common, with almost one in two women reporting at least one abusive relationship. These victims face a difficult uphill battle.
Rape victims frequently are not believed by police, prosecutors and juries, or are blamed for their rapes. Domestic violence victims frequently struggle to get resources to leave and are more likely to be killed immediately after leaving the abuser than at any other time.
The cost of violence against women is very real, but violent images desensitize us all to violence, making it look glamorous or normal. This can make it difficult for victims to get the services they need and may even cause them to be met with hostility when they seek help.
Repeated exposure to violent imagery can lower someone’s threshold for committing violent acts, increasing the overall level of violence.
Even more troubling, glamorous images of violence convey the message that women actually like violence, that women exist to be dominated, and that women are weak and prone to victimization.
This lowers women’s overall social status and can subtly bias individuals’ impressions of and interactions with women.
In a society where women are already frequently victims of violence, violent imagery can increase women’s fear and anxiety.