I like laughing at Silvio Berlusconi as much as the next guy, but someone at Ford India really needed some common sense.
Yes, the now infamous ad created was never sold or used officially in public. It was probably one of dozens of creative ideas that drives the advertising industry. I'm sure the firm didn't remotely consider India's current high-profile case of rape and sexual assault. They just didn't think.
The Mad Men didn't connect a vision of women as sexualised, subjugated and trivialised with what happens on the street. The media gets blamed for everything frequently, but this is a perfect example of where they're right.
Having an ad with women tied up in the boot of a car wouldn't matter if the male half of the public viewed it as a fiction. If men know how to distinguish reality from the messages they receive from advertising or idiot politicians who blame women, then they are less likely to suddenly decide to rape a woman.
The Ford India ad is a problem because too many people CAN'T tell the difference between words and images and their own actions.
Much like the recent debate on the age of consent in India, there is a continuing confusion about crimes that involve a sexual act. Rape isn't about sex, and it shows the level of ignorance of those who think that it is. Rape is about power and violence. A higher age of consent simply criminalises more people for having sex but does not prevent the rape or conviction of those found guilty of committing rape.
Rape is classed as a war crime in cases of conflict by the International Criminal Court. Is the solution to preventing that raising the age of consent? No. It's a back-door way of blaming women over the age of 18 and saying "they're old enough to know better", or "they wanted it".
Some will undoubtedly oppose the Ford India ad for sexualising women and sending sexualised messages to children. Children should be protected from exploitation, which is essentially what we mean when we talk about "sexualisation" - it's a corporate and sometimes individual abuse of the natural childhood desire to be "grown up" like those around them and in the media.
But clothing choice, music selections, etc are also part of free exploration and growing up. And it's important we don't confuse a desire to hide children from sexualisation and to protect them from rape. They're very different things.
Changing an age of consent or restricting advertising campaigns can easily be used as a cop out from teaching our young people about healthy sexual relationships until they're suddenly "adults" and we can ship them off into the world and partners. That's how we end up with rape, domestic abuse and sexism.
Education is still the only way to curb the rape culture anywhere on this planet. Teach individuals of any age to respect each other - regardless of gender, race, religion or sexual orientation - and the problem will be severely reduced. You'll never eliminate rape, sadly, nor murder or any other form of crime. But it can be minimised, and legislation isn't the answer.
Educating our youth on healthy sexual relationships and how that is separate from violence will help cut through any mixed messages out there. Perhaps the firm behind the Ford India ad should do an ad campaign on that. . . and aim it at children a decade younger than the age of consent.
Updated Date: Mar 26, 2013 16:42 PM