Thursday, July 7, 2011

For The Toronto Argos, Home is Where We Hurt People

The above ads were places on the TTC to advertise and raise excitement over the Argonauts first  game of the season.  Apparently, the TTC has received five complaints about them and have launched an investigation, as to whether or not they should be removed.
The posters appearing on the TTC, show a picture of tough looking, tattooed defensive end Ricky Foley with the words, “Home is where the heart is. It’s also where we hurt people.”

Those will be replaced in the next couple of days with new posters bearing the same art but new words: “It’s not the heat that makes them sweat.”

The football club decided late Monday to make the change after learning of a complaint from Councillor Michael Layton (Ward 19, Trinity-Spadina), said Argos’ vice-president of marketing and communications David Bedford.

In the context of football the ads made sense. But, “Even one complaint is something we take seriously and certainly something of that gravitas,” he said.

Layton, who wrote a letter after discussing the ads with the White Ribbon Campaign to end violence against women, said the football club has responded correctly. (source)
Why is Argos management being thanked for taking down a poster that clearly promoted domestic violence?  You don't hand out cookies for doing the right thing.  The right thing would to have been never to create the poster in the first damn place. I was further troubled by the fact that when CTV reported on this story at their noon broadcast, they listed all of the efforts that the Argos have done to combat domestic violence, as though this somehow negates the damage of the advertisement.  Let's just face the fact, that even when the advertisements are removed, they have already caused hurt and pain to many that viewed them.  Choosing to double down on its ignorance, the CTV then announced that in their informal poll with people on the street, that no one found anything offensive about the ads, thereby implying that those who were upset by them where being too sensitive.

You can never be too sensitive about this:
  • On average every six days in Canada, a woman is killed by her intimate partner. In 2009, 67 women were murdered by a current spouse or former boyfriend.
  • On any give day in Canada, more than 3,000 women (along with their 2,500 children) are living in emergency shelter to escape domestic violence.
  • Each year, over 40,000 arrests result from domestic violence - that's about 12% of all violent crimes in Canada. Since only about 22% of all incidents are reported to police, the actual number is much higher.
  • Half of all women in Canada have experienced at least one incident of physical or sexual violence since the age of 16
  • 61% of all Canadians say that they know at least one woman who has been sexually or physically assaulted.
  • The cost of violence against women in Canada for health care, criminal justice, social justice and lost wages and productivity has been calculated at 4.2 billion a year. (source)
If you ask me, those figures mean that we cannot get too sensitive about this issue, or allow it to be publicly minimized in any way.

I cannot imagine the pain of those who have either lived in a violent situation, or are currently living in a home in which domestic violence is part of their everyday lives, upon seeing this advertisement.  Football, like many professional sports played by men, is all about hyper masculinization.  It is not uncommon to hear the opposing team referred to as weak little girls, or pussies, in an effort to build up adrenaline for the game.  In this case, hyper masculinization is constructed as the opposite of femininity.  It specifically casts masculinity as strong and violent, while providing legitimization for the devaluation of women, based in the assertion that all things feminine are weak. Professional sports more often than not, are a breeding ground for misogyny, as the Argos advertisment so aptly illustrates.

I am glad that Argos management chose to take the ads down, but I am not comforted, because these ads were considered fit for public consumption in the first place.  Violence against women and children is an extremely important issue, and no one should have to be triggered taking the TTC, to go about their daily business.  Many times when I write about misogyny or patriarchy on this blog, the response is either what about the mehnz, or a complete and utter denial that patriarchy is a global systemic force. If women truly mattered, this issue would not be up for debate.