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.
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?
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.