Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Warning All Girls Online

This PSA aimed at educating young girls about the danger of posting personal information online reflects and reinforces a dangerous attitude. Boys and men of all ages are shown shamelessly invading this girl's personal space and/or treating her like nothing more than entertainment.

But the only one scolded is the girl.

The message that the PSA sends is that it is not the boys and men who need to change, but the girls and women. If this weren't true then there would be another similar PSA aimed at boys who post personal information. Identity theft is a huge problem now, but nowhere in the ad is there any mention of that danger.

Girls are across the board at greater risk of sexual violence than boys whether they ever go online or not. The Ad Council recognizes part of this here:

Teenage girls are particularly at risk of online sexual exploitation—a recent study by University of New Hampshire researchers for NCMEC found that of the approximately one in seven youth who received a sexual solicitation or approach over the Internet, 70 percent were girls.

It's all about what can happen sexually to girls who put out (virtually in this example). The more powerful message could have been one that addressed the attitudes which puts girls at higher risk than boys who post the same types of information.

This PSA reinforces the idea that boys and men aren't responsible for respecting girls' boundaries. Worse, this PSA reinforces the idea that girls who continue to post personal information online are asking for it. After all, any girl who doesn't want to be treated the way the girl in the PSA is treated won't exhibit that sort of behavior, will she?

So the warning about the danger increase the danger by increasing the frequency of victim blaming.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 12:06 AM   4 comments links to this post

4 Comments:

At May 02, 2007 9:21 AM, Anonymous Scott said...

Yeah, I think they are trying to use scare tactics but it definitely comes off badly.

It's a bit unusual that Missing Kids is one of the sponsors. They tend to be more balanced in their approach than this.

I'd be interested in hearing their rationale for taking this approach.

 
At May 03, 2007 12:55 PM, Blogger sailorman said...

OK, this is a bit hard for me, Because there's a fine line between victim blaming (bad) and acknowledging the reality of the current world (good): the men who rape don't pay much attention to PSAs, so young girls should be made aware of that.

this:
Boys and men of all ages are shown shamelessly invading this girl's personal space and/or treating her like nothing more than entertainment.
is yucky. and you'l get NO disagreement that the men are at fault. I don't know why we wouldn't also help the girls to realize what's up though.



If this weren't true then there would be another similar PSA aimed at boys who post personal information. Identity theft is a huge problem now, but nowhere in the ad is there any mention of that danger.
I think this is really going after rape and/or sexual assault. And boys are at much less risk than are girls. Identity theft is bad, but not as dangerous.

Worse, this PSA reinforces the idea that girls who continue to post personal information online are asking for it. After all, any girl who doesn't want to be treated the way the girl in the PSA is treated won't exhibit that sort of behavior, will she?
I dunno about this. I don't want my kids to act in a way that ignores life's dangers. I'll teach them not to post pics online, and not to get in cars with strangers.

That DOES NOT mean that I will think it's "their fault" if some asshole assaults them.

I worry here that you are taking such a hard line that you might interfere with an effective warning in the name of avoiding any victim blaming. I don't think that it's an either/or choice. I think we ca warn and NOT victim blame. Don't you?

 
At May 03, 2007 1:53 PM, Blogger Marcella Chester said...

Sailorman, first, your concern and question at the end are patronizing and insulting. My post was on a specific PSA. It's clear that you don't understand the problem with this PSA. Just because you don't understand it doesn't mean it isn't there.

This PSA isn't going to be effective and definitely sends a message which I remember well from my pre-teen and teen years: certain girls are asking for it. That was -- and is -- a very dangerous message.

It was one of the key reasons I was afraid to tell anyone I had been raped. From how I had seen other girls treated, I knew most of the focus would be on what I had done (or failed to do) before my rape rather than the focus being on my rapist's actions.

Unfortunately, not enough has changed since then. Many people continue to largely ignore the actions of predators and rapists while focusing obsessively on the victim's actions. That supports rapists whether it is intended to or not.

This PSA only gives us more of the same "some girls are asking for it" and it is they who need to stop asking for it if they want to be safe.

The attitudes which allow people to step over the line don't pop up out of nowhere. All prevention efforts need to ensure that they don't reinforce the attitudes held by current and budding sexual harassers, predators and rapists. This PSA does reinforce those attitudes.

A PSA about online safety isn't doomed to be victim blaming. The focus needs to be on what the predators are doing wrong so girls and their parents can be aware that creeps like that are out there with the reminder that most creeps don't look like creeps.

The PSA also needs communicate that the boys and men who step over the line are doing so by choice rather than biology. And that rather than being successful their actions mark them as failures.

In this PSA the focus is entirely on what the girl is doing wrong -- and that is wrong.

 
At May 04, 2007 6:08 AM, Blogger sailorman said...

I certainly wasn't trying to be patronizing or insulting; sorry if I cam across that way.

I guess we may just disagree on the PSA. If it's aimed at girls then I don't see the problem with focusing only on what the girl (the viewer) can improve.

 

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