When Nordette Adams, another contributing editor at BlogHer, told me about the Danish anti-violence program, Hit the Bitch, I thought it must be some sort of joke. It wasn't. Nordette had read a post on Feministe, in which the author "hit the bitch" avatar as many as 15 times, watched her cry and cover her bruised face, and then was rated "100% gangsta" when the "bitch" collapsed. As the online abuser observed her status, the words changed. "Gangsta" disappears and "idiot" replaced it. For some reason, Nordette did not find this to be a very effective anti-abuse message campaign. Go figure...
I wanted to "hit the bitch" myself, but by the time I went to the website, it was restricted to Danish users:
Dear non-danish visitor,
Due to an extremely high amount of traffic "Hit the Bitch" has been limited to only allow users from Denmark.
However, domestic violence is a global problem, so please support the fight against it in your local country.
Thanks for your interest.
Children exposed to Violence at Home
I guess Danes have a better cultural framework for understanding the links between "gangsta" behavior and abusing women. Yeah. (The ad is in Danish, and when Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux wrote about it onCare2, a commenter translated it. There is also a picture from the site before it was restricted.)
Since I am not gangsta enough to have hit the bitch, I'll focus on the effectiveness of the idea behind the campaign. My sneaking suspicion is that the "extremely high amount of traffic" that the website experienced is not due to people who want to better understand why you are an idiot if you hit women. I think they heard about this website where you can be a bad ass motherfucker and have some fun beating a fake woman online. I also think that many might want to feel like they are participating in some sort of gangsta culture in which this is not only OK, but really cool. Yet the last line (as reported by Nordette) does not, pardon the pun, strike me as remotely strong enough to encourage users to think about why the violence against women is wrong. I wonder how many people saw the words "100% idiot" and laughed it off.
Martina Zavagno at Advreblog disagrees with my take on the campaign. She noted that:
The campaign is literally in your face as you have to punch the featured girl to get the message. Most disturbing is that you want to go all the way through, which make you feel like a 100% idiot once finished. But the message, even though it's in Danish, is very clear.
awid - the association for women's rights in development reviewed blog posts for and against the ad, and staked out a middle ground:
Seriously though, this seems like the end result of some people sitting around a table trying to figure out how to make domestic violence edgy and attention-grabbing. Are we really so inured to the standard imagery of wide-eyed kids cowering in the background, or the bruised faces of women?...Perhaps the best way to decide is to visit the site and experience it for yourself, should you feel it's not too unpleasant to do so.
Yes, well, that would be a good thing to do, wouldn't it? Except that you can't if you are not Danish. And maybe at the end of the day that is what disturbs me the most about this ad campaign. The organization wanted to stir up a discussion about domestic violence and create awareness. They chose to do so in a very controversial way. And then when, not surprisingly, a lot of people wanted to see the site for themselves, they restricted access to it. It makes me think that they themselves realized that they may not have made the wisest decision in encouraging people to "hit the bitch."
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