The Color of Indifference

A woman is physically abused every nine seconds in the United States.  Every day, four women die of injuries from domestic abuse, which is also the leading cause of injuries to women.  One out of every four women will experience violence from an intimate partner in her lifetime.  Domestic violence is pervasive, dangerous, and yet mostly invisible.  Despite the prevalence of violence against women, many people are oblivious, sometimes willfully so.  Whether they realize it or not, 74% of Americans personally know a victim of domestic violence.  Those who are aware of an abusive situation frequently turn a blind eye or keep their distance for fear of “meddling” or because it’s “none of their business.”  However, a problem as rampant and deadly as domestic violence is necessarily everyone’s business.  Only 21% of victims ever ask for help from an outside agency.  The rest stay silent because they are afraid, or embarrassed, or protective of their abuser, or think the police will do nothing.  For these women, a policy of noninterference is untenable.



A French women’s rights group called Ni Putes Ni Soumises, which translates to Neither Whores Nor Submissives, is attempting to face the problem of indifference towards domestic violence with a new ad campaign.  The series of ads, which time their debut to coincide with the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on November 25, is entitled “Ce qui tue c’est l’indifference,” or “What kills is indifference.”  Each ad features a startling close-up of a bruise with a caption superimposed, as in works of art on display.  The caption describes the color of the bruise in terms like “grave green,” “booze brown,” and “rape red.”  The gruesome realization that these titles refer to the cause of the bruise as well as the color is heightened by the discovery of smaller letters beneath the caption bearing a woman’s name, birth date, and death date.

The campaign is a powerful and effective attempt to capture attention and heighten awareness of domestic violence.  The ads demand acknowledgement and in doing so subvert indifference.  A battered woman on a shocking and ubiquitous poster is much harder to ignore than the one who lives next door.

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14 Responses to The Color of Indifference

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  5. uksara2012 says:

    I volunteered at a domestic violence shelter for about 6 months and this is an unfortunate truth. I think this is a pretty good campaign. Maybe it would make someone re-consider a bruise they saw on someone and perhaps motivate them to help.

    • sarcrowe says:

      I agree. Even beyond motivating someone to help on an individual level, I think that confronting people with an issue like this in such a shocking way can’t help but raise awareness in general and force them to reconsider their preconceptions. Hopefully if that happens enough it can provoke a larger societal shift.

  6. This is such a provocative and subversive ad campaign you’d think Creative Review would have more to say about it. For example, we might think about how women have been made the subject of art for millenia and how this works as a kind of critique of that. Or we could think about how the camera allows us to create “close-ups” which decontextualize and reemphasize the visual field in a way that our natural eye cannot. Then there’s the aesthetic of the images themselves which are almost like post-expressionist paintings in the vein of Rothko.

    Really, really powerful imagery that sticks with you. I won’t soon forget this.

    • sarcrowe says:

      That’s true about the Rothko comparison- the abstract nature of the image is similar to his “multiforms” in that the viewer has to create their own symbolism, with the key difference that these images exist as parts of a concrete whole. It’s almost a reversal of an abstract expressionist experience, with the initial interpretation of the image giving way to the “correct” one, which I think accounts for a lot of the campaign’s power. It also reminds me of Barbara Kruger’s “Your gaze hits the side of my face”, since it could be argued that these ads contain a morbid commentary on the objectification of images of women.

  7. tvanh001 says:

    I think this is a very effective way to bring attention to this matter, I would hope there there are other programs in the US that bring the same attention to this matter in such an unconventional way. This is the type of way that someone is more likely to remember more visually rather than just reading it as another statistic.

    • sarcrowe says:

      That’s a really good point about visually remembering, and I think the fact that’s it’s one single, static image really forces the viewer to stop and consider the message without distraction.

  8. hallokeri says:

    The use of alliteration makes a huge impact along with the pictures. I think this is a great campaign that brings much-needed attention to domestic violence.

    • sarcrowe says:

      That’s very true, and the impact of the alliteration seems greater because it’s used with monosyllabic words. The whole thing comes across as very flat and matter of fact, which is really jarring when juxtaposed with the ad’s message. It’s startling and effective.

  9. I have to agree here, this is a great campaign and should be voiced out more often than it is. I really don’t understand why men would go so far to cause such harm to women. It is something i highly disagree with and guys who do these kind of acts should be put in a very small cell somewhere that no one would find them. The use of the three different pictures is very strong and the word about this should be passed around more.

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