From ‘Ad catches the eye and raises a few eyebrows’, 8 May 2013, article by Debbie Lee, Eugene Chua and Joanne Lee, ST and 10 May 2013, ‘Cancer ad goes against Asian values’, ST Forum
“LIFT your skirt, save your life,” urges a new advertisement by the Singapore Cancer Society to promote awareness of preventive measures for cervical cancer. But the campaign appears to have raised eyebrows instead.
Public reaction to its posters, depicting celebrities in white dresses catching a rush of air from the ground, have varied from “catchy” to “obscene”…It features celebrities MediaCorp Radio 987FM DJ Rosalyn Lee, model and TV host Linda Black and 93.3FM DJ Siau Jiahui.
The campaign aims to encourage women to go for Pap smear screenings being provided for free by 178 clinics this month. However, more than 60 per cent of the 80 people polled by The Straits Times said the advertisement was not effective in delivering its message.
Respondents commonly mistook it for fashion or slimming advertisements….A quarter of the respondents felt the advertisement was offensive. “Most people are saying, ‘Oh, it uses sexual undertones to get attention, it’s effective.’ But just because it gets people talking doesn’t mean it sends the right message,” said Miss Yvonne Jin, a 21-year-old student.
The Association of Women for Action and Research agreed. Its executive director, Ms Corinna Lim, said: “It is a sad reflection on society that good causes also have to resort to sex to promote their message.”
(Dr V Subramaniam):…We have long cherished and promoted the age-old values of decorum, decency, good morals, respect for tradition and other attributes that go with our rich Asian culture. These values provide us with the cultural ballast against the influx of unhealthy foreign cultural trends and behaviour.
The ad to promote awareness of preventive measures for cervical cancer, which comes with the tagline, “Lift your skirt. Save your life”, is not in keeping with our Asian morals and is degrading to women. Left to the imagination, the crude insinuations can easily corrupt the morals of our young.
Cervical cancer is no joke of course, as ambassador DJ Ross Lee would attest, having had a near brush with the dreaded disease herself. But you don’t need a controversial headline to grab the attention of Singaporean women. One four letter word starting with the letter F would do the trick: FREE, and that magical word that possesses Singaporeans into queuing long hours for stuff they don’t need is restrained here by small caps and boring font. Hell, you may even get a MAN to queue for cervical screening if you market your freebie a little TOO well. Maybe SCC should try the same tactic for prostate screening. I doubt anyone would complain of such an ad as obscene, sexist or defiling ‘Asian values‘, though some may accuse it of causing nightmares, loss of appetite and general distress.
It’s always tempting to employ ‘sexual undertones’ when you’re talking about cancers of intimate body parts. In 2010, another local cancer foundation used nude models to encourage women to, well, keep ABREAST of cancer prevention, painted NIPPLES and all. Just like those crying foul about this PAP smear campaign giving upskirt perverts ideas on the escalator, some dismissed body painting as crass objectification of women everywhere.
Take away the provocative images though, and what you’re left with are awful puns like ‘Treasure the BREAST things in life’ in 2011, the kind of tagline that would only draw the attention and non-stop giggles of females with their breasts still under development. Unlike boobs, there’s very limited wordplay when it comes to organs around the pelvis without offending someone, especially when words like ‘penis’ and ‘vagina’ are still avoided by the media till this day. Even saying things like ‘Hey ladies, come spread your legs!’ can be as insulting as an orgy invitation.
You can’t make visual puns of erogenous zones without coming across as downright vulgar, like the ‘Unfurgivable‘ ad by the Ministry of Wax, which got some all fired up over a purse resembling female genitalia. Still, cervical cancer is the ONLY preventable cancer in women to date, which means delivering a necessary message and making it stick may be more important than what the good folks at AWARE think. All it takes is one person to notice the ad, ‘lift her skirt’ and get saved from disaster for the campaign to work. I don’t see how ‘skirt-lifting’ is a problem for AWARE considering they endorse anti-rape campaigns called SlutWalks. It’s also better to benefit from a lewd ad that is a ‘sad reflection of society’ and be ALIVE, than get your knickers in a twist and dead.