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They said/We said: What we think about domestic abuse imagery being used in Edmonton salon campaign

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An ad campaign that an Edmonton salon released last year is under fire after a New York blogger accused its creators of promoting domestic violence only a few days ago. Soon to be known locally as the cause of the Fluid Hair Fiasco for weeks to come (at least), the image in question shows a gorgeous albeit battered woman with a black eye sitting below her presumed lover with a highly stylized coif, beside the tagline, “Look good in all you do…”

It looks a little Mad Menish, perhaps a commentary on the way things were. The only problem is that domestic violence is still, unfortunately, the way things are: the Canadian Women’s Foundation states that on any given day in Canada, more than 3,000 women, along with their 2,500 children, are living in an emergency shelter to escape domestic violence. A massive online backlash from those who believe the ad sends a horrific message (like, you may be getting beaten, but at least you have good hair), has been prodding Fluid Hair owner Sarah Cameron and campaign producer Tiffany Jackson for answers.

Both Cameron and Jackson have issued a conditional apology (they are still defending the work as a piece of art, claiming that it’s meant to bring the issue of domestic violence to light) and in reaction to the backlash have vowed to put all profits earned from those customers mentioning the ad towards the Edmonton Women’s Shelter. Still, many have found their seemingly remorseless stance disgusting and cavalier, a parlour trick for the sake of selling a product, resulting in an online catfight between local media, the public, and Fluid itself (the hair debacle’s hashtag on Twitter is currently #boycottfluidhair).

We’re not sure any PR master could put a good spin on the behind-the-scenes Facebook photo showing Fluid’s black-eyed model above the company’s image with the caption, “Hottest battered woman I’ve ever laid eyes upon” or the jovial comments that followed, but Jackson, who has made a public statement about her own personal experience with verbal, emotional, physical, and sexual abuse, believes the best way to address the issue is to get people talking (incidentally, all this buzz has led me to look up domestic violence statistics in Canada, as well as the charities that support it).

If we’re to view the ad as art (although, as Jon Manning of McRobbie Optamedia pointed out in a BT Edmonton interview, art cannot be art if it is for the sake of commerce), one Fluid Facebook page commenter said, “It’s always interesting to mix a little dirt in with the glitter. This issue reminded me of the uproar the Rolling Stones caused in 1976 over their ad campaign for their album Black and Blue, which featured a woman tied up and beaten black and blue…”

So, is it art or advertising? Is the backlash infringing upon freedom of speech or the fight against domestic violence? Here’s a few people who were able to draw the line…

WHAT THEY SAID…

Ryan Jespersen of Breakfast Television Edmonton: “Either Fluid Salon meant to take on a hot button topic like domestic violence (and prostitution, for that matter, based on another photo in the series) or they’ve got the most painfully-naive creative team in Canada.” [BT Edmonton]

Stylite: “Freedom of speech is one thing; using the personal torture of literally hundreds of thousands of your countrymen as a point of your business plan is quite another. [Stylite]

Gawker: “A scan of Fluid’s arsenal of advertisements doesn’t suggest that the salon is pro-domestic violence, per se (though most of them try way too hard to be sexxxy and edgy, as in: woman pulling another woman out of a hearse; naked gals with hot dogs; and what’s up with the ‘quasi-Ke$ha duo playing in the forest’ one?)” [Gawker]

WHAT WE SAID…

Randi Bergman, online editor: “I certainly identify with the case for freedom of speech and creating buzz, but the problem with the subversive ‘message’ (if that’s even what it really was) is that it will most likely go over the heads of most people who see the ad. At a quick glance, this really just looks to be saying that domestic abuse is okay, as long as he’s paying for your hair and jewels.”

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