Thursday, June 2, 2011

Rip & Roll... the battle against homophobia was won but the war rages on

So I had to break my study block once again to post on something I'm finding quite distressing and has made me actually consider packing up my books and moving to a forest away from people. There was a massive scandal yesterday over an ad posted in some of the bus shelters around Brisbane. Commissioned by the Queensland Association for Healthy Communities the ads depicted two men embraced holding a condom to promote the new 'rip and roll' campaign QAHC has launched to promote safe sex.

The poster causing all the fuss

The posters had been up for about a week when Adshel (the company who owns the billboards the posters were posted on) stated they'd be removing them because of a series of individual complaints that they were inappropriate. They denied it was the work of a single organisation and that the 30 complaints were enough to necessitate their removal. Soon after they released this info Wendy Francis, the Queensland director of the Australian Christian Lobby, stated that in fact the complaints were the result of a campaign they, the ACL, had launched. She said their complaint was that the poster was pornographic (apparently the picture depicts foreplay) and is unsuitable for children to see.

You know what, fair enough, I completely agree that many billboards are way too sexual and needlessly so (why does my favourite perfume need a sex scene to sell it to me?) but this poster is not one of them. Many of Wendy and the ACL's fans state that they aren't being homophobic, they're simply appalled at the idea of such sexualised images being broadcast in front of their kids, adding to the early sexualisation of our children. Again I'd say fair enough, EXCEPT that this is the only billboard* they've complained about. Below are some of the billboards that have been in Brisbane** over the past year or two which received zero complaints from the ACL yet fit within the complaint parameters set out by the ACL.

This embrace most certainly could be categorised at sexual and foreplay, they're sweaty, half naked and she's tugging at his underwear. There is nothing here that suggests respect, love or partnership that the rip and roll poster depicts.

This picture is definitely more sexual and about 15 times larger than the 'Rip and Roll' poster.

One of ACL's complaints was the prominence of the condom in the 'Rip and Roll' posters (which is kinda the point) however this billboard has been up near my house for about 6 months now without complaints. It's at the corner of a major intersection into the city and within close proximity of at least 5 schools (primary and secondary) and in view of the main bus route that goes by.

As much as the ACL pretend it isn't the homosexuality in the poster they're offended by their singling out of this one poster makes it kind of obvious, as does their statements on their website and in the letters their little campaign sent in to Adshel.

“The only reason homosexual men need condoms is because their sexual intercourse carries with it a very high risk of serious disease. To promote this lifestyle to our youth is NOT in the interests of HEALTHY COMMUNITIES.”

“Homosexuality is a destructive practice in our society. I work in the health care industry and have seen firsthand the devastation and misery and death that result from homosexual and bisexual practices.”

When news broke that they were taking down these posters the public rose up and demanded that they reinstate the images (something like 40 000 complaints about taking them down compared to the 30 about keeping them up!) and launched a viral campaign on facebook and twitter (using the hashtag #adshel). By the end of the day Adshel stated they were reinstating the posters because they had no idea the campaign was actually orchestrated by ACL and therefore the complaints were deemed illegitimate. So hurrah, the battle was won!

As I'm sure you can imagine there were countless articles released online on the issue and most of them had comments sections. I'd like to say they reflected the anti-discrimination spirit found on Facebook and Twitter, but unfortunately a disgusting amount of homophobic comments made their way online demonstrating exactly how backwards so many people in Australia still are. So it seems while we won the battle, the war rages on with no clear indication that society will wake up to the fact that homosexuality is not dirty and immoral any time soon.

Show your support by joining the 'event' Homophobia - not here - Adshel caves to homophobic pressure. It's an online campaign so it doesn't matter where in the world you are, it was set up by one of the men on the poster (you can read his story in the info section) and send them a message of support and solidarity!

While you're there 'like' the 'Rip and Roll' campaign itself. Positive results of HIV and AIDS was at an all time high in 2010 in Queensland and these posters are just a single part of the campaign trying to encourage safe sex (amongst all people not just homosexuals).

*I should also mention here these aren't really billboards, they're about A1 in size and can't be noticed by people driving in cars, only people sitting at the bus stop will get any real idea of the detail of the posters. This is also only a small fraction of their advertising, the majority of these posters are found in the bathrooms of clubs and bars.

** These pictures are the actual billboard campaigns used in Brisbane but the images may not be from Brisbane


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