Yesterday, I came across this new UK ad campaign by Amnesty International, called Rape Is Cheaper Than Bullets. It’s apparently intended to bring attention to the use of rape as a weapon of war around the globe:
This morning I received a text message from a friend who was on her way to work. It read: “Am just in the tube and there’s a really offensive poster up there but it says its Amnesty – do you know anything about it? It says ‘Rape is cheaper than bullets’.”
I quickly replied saying yes, it was an Amnesty International advertisement launched this week, and if it’s offensive then that is nothing compared to what hundreds of thousands of women and girls are suffering in conflict zones around the world.
Well, yes. Indeed, one’s personal offense is never the equivalent of a grievous bodily assault, inflicted on one for the simple fact that she is a woman.
But like Sylvia, I still have my concerns. And my concern is, namely, about what the hell this campaign is trying to convey.
My first thought was: yes, rape is indeed cheaper than bullets. And I suppose that I had never thought of it that way before, or consciously realized that the incredibly low economic price of rape, combined with very high “results” in terms of effort to terrorize a people, would indeed make it desirable to the kind of people who are intent on destroying other human beings with limited funds.
But where, exactly, does that analysis get us? Because my first question after considering that was, and still is: so what, we should make bullets cheaper?
I’d certainly hope that’s not the goal, to discourage rape by encouraging more gunfire, and to suggest yet again that being raped is clearly a fate worse than death. But the only image of the poster I was able to find, the tiny one above, sheds no further light on the intended message, or why the fact that rape is cheaper than bullets makes it worth highlighting. Amnesty International’s own article on their campaign doesn’t help us out a lot either.
And so I’m still left with the question of what it is intended to convey. Perhaps simply that rape is a war tactic, just like shooting bullets at people? If following the tag line “rape is cheaper than bullets” came the line, also in large letters, “but it’s still used as a weapon of war,” that message could potentially get across. But it doesn’t seem to be there. So maybe the idea is that this is yet another reason why we ought to end war? Or maybe they just want to spark conversations like this one — though I’m doubtful that such a thing might readily occur outside of a feminist context?
Maybe. But yet again, I don’t know.
And so, yes, I suppose that I do indeed have an issue with quite easily triggering sexual assault victims when I don’t even know what the point is. Searching for more information on this campaign, one of the first hits I came up with was a video of some young adults joking around on the train, and though I can’t make out everything they’re saying (and therefore hope that none of it is offensive), they are clearly wondering what “rape is cheaper than bullets” means. They may not be representative of the general intended audience in any way, but the anecdotal evidence so far, including my own reaction, doesn’t look promising.
It makes me sad, because I’m usually a fan of Amnesty International, and I’m glad that they’re attempting to bring attention to this issue. I just wish that they were doing it in a way that, well, made a bit more sense.
What do you think the message is supposed to be? Do you think that it’s going to get across to a reasonable amount of people? And do you think it’s worth it?