• Mon, Sep 9 - 4:00 pm ET

Are These Domestic Violence Ads Too Beautiful?

abused goddesses

A new awareness campaign juxtaposes beauty and violence to effectively and viscerally highlight the endemic domestic abuse of women in India. Save Our Sisters, “an organization that works to prevent young women from becoming trapped in the world of human trafficking and promotes their education and well-being,” is behind the new ads, called Abused Goddesses.

The ads show traditional depictions of goddesses in lush environments consistent with Hindu art. The models-as-goddessses appear to be horribly abused, with bruises and scars covering their faces and bodies. The campaign succeeds on two levels: first, the juxtaposition of beauty with violent disfigurement is effectively jarring. Secondly, the women look strong and resilient, which is a welcome change from the cowering victim narrative we see so often when referring to women in impoverished counties. I like that this add shows their strength and agency.

abused goddesses 2

A commenter named Nora over at Bust pointed out a glaring failure in the ads: it plays on a stereotype about non-Western women. By turning them into goddesses, the ads sexualize and eroticize the women, and the ads don’t shy away from using beauty at a tool to get their point across (the ads even feature photos of the women getting into hair and make up). Do these ads to too far and ultimately glamorize or eroticize the abuse itself?

abused goddesses 3

Either way, the ads bring awareness to the staggering 68% of Indian women who endure domestic abuse. I’ve been known to quibble over details in ads like this, and while I find this to be slightly problematic, I’m just happy that any awareness is being heightened.

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  • Tania

    It’s an Indian charity. How can it be a “well-intentioned interpretation of another culture” when the people making it are making it about their own culture?

    • Julia Sonenshein

      Got some bad info but checked into it and you’re right. Thanks!

  • Natalie

    The actual point of the ads is to point out that you should treat all women as you would treat these women goddesses. And these depictions are how these goddesses are depicted normally, that’s how they look. The point is, how would you like to see them as you see your wives/daughters/etc? As objects to harm? You, as a Hindu man who worships these women, wouldn’t. You didn’t really seem to get the point of the ads or what they intended to portray. It’s not the juxtapose between beauty and violence, but between worship and violence. Many Indian women actually believe that it’s ok for husbands to beat them, so the ads also is encouraging women to see themselves as much than objects and “owned”. http://www.buzzfeed.com/regajha/indias-incredibly-powerful-abused-goddesses-campaign-condemn

    that actually explains things decently well.