Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Google's celebration of Jonas Salk makes a timely point

Google Doodles are well-known for hot political and social issues. A couple of years ago, their July 4th homepage was all about internet freedom. During the Sochi Winter Games, they doodled their defiance of Russia's anti-gay laws.

Today, they ran a comic that celebrates the 100th birthday of Jonas Salk, father of the polio vaccine.

So, what's controversial about that?

When my mom was a kid, polio was one of the biggest fears of every parent and child. One of her best friends, and next door neighbour, caught the disease. The disease could cause paralysis, sometimes permanently, and could result in being confined to an iron lung. In the worst cases, people died. Neil Young is among many celebrity survivors.

Although the disease is making a comeback in some parts of the world, polio is one of those diseases, like smallpox, measles, diphtheria and pertussis, that were no longer considered common threats to childhood health by the time I was growing up. And that was thanks to vaccines and public immunization programmes.

But the "anti-vax" movement, a loose conglomeration of people who have religious, pseudoscientific, or other non-medical objections to vaccines, has been gaining steam. No thanks to celebrity non-scientists like Jenny McCarthy, preventable outbreaks of things like measles are on the rise.

Dr. Salk, by the way, is also celebrated for his selflessness. He forfeited billions of dollars by refusing to patent the polio vaccine.

Now that another flu season is on its way, the push is on to vaccinate as many people as possible against it. Each year, approximately 3,500 Canadians die from the flu. But the flu shot can prevent up to 80% of flu infections in healthy individuals.

While we're waiting for that ebola vaccine, maybe it would be a good idea to get vaccinated against a disease that is statistically more likely to hospitalize or kill you. And say a silent thanks to Dr. Salk and all the other scientists who have made modern life much less scary.

Thanks to David for pointing me to this nice bit of public health advocacy.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

"MRA" organization tries to co-opt white ribbon campaign

White Ribbon is a worldwide campaign that engages men and boys to "end violence against women and girls, promote gender equity, healthy relationships and a new vision of masculinity." They were a partner in the Canadian "Draw The Line" campaign against sexual violence and predates the #heforshe campaign in making women's concerns a "men's issue."

This mandate has apparently upset another group of men. A Voice For Men, a group that claims to advocate for men in a "gynocentric" society, publishes articles with titles like "Domestic violence and rape are not gendered issues" and "Ten reasons false rape accusations are common." They basically try to negate all feminist claims of misogyny in culture by saying "but it happens to men, too!" and completely ignoring the lopsided statistics. 

Generally ignored as a fringe movement, AVFM has come up with a new way to get attention. They have created a "copycat" White Ribbons site, hoping to cause online confusion and get their message in front of people searching for the other campaign:

The founder at AVFM writes:
A simple Google search will return many, many references to that campaign and to websites that have been set up to further its message. That message, of course, is that men can stop domestic violence, that they bear the weight of all evil on their backs, and that they need to create a safe world for women, blah, blah, blah.
Obviously, the people getting the job done on behalf of WRC really outdid themselves on planning and marketing. 
Well, there was one goof. They neglected to pick up the obvious choices for domains for their program, especially given they are aiming for growth.
He suggests that AVFM members work together to boost the copycat site's SEO to the point at which they become "the most highly recognized and iconic voice in the worldwide White Ribbon Campaign."

Todd Minerson, Executive Director of White Ribbon Canada, responded:
Today, White Ribbon (www.whiteribbon.ca ) became aware that a “so-called” men’s rights group has launched a copycat campaign articulating their archaic views and denials about the realities of gender-based violence. 
Their vile sentiments – which include disparaging comments about women’s shelters and victim blaming survivors of rape – are completely incongruent with our values at White Ribbon. 
Their misguided attempts to discredit others only make clear the extent to which they see the success of our equality-driven, evidence-based, ally-focussed work on gender justice as a real threat to their ill-informed, isolated views on this issue. This latest example is clear evidence of their insincerity and lack of commitment to developing compassionate solutions for the issues they claim to care about. It also showcases their real focus: attacking, harassing and directing anger towards others. 
White Ribbon will continue to stand beside the thousands of women’s organizations around the world who see feminism as an all-encompassing effort to realize equality.
We will continue to support the efforts of men and boys in over 70 countries around the world who wear the White Ribbon as a pledge to never commit, condone, or remain silent about violence against women and girls. 
We will remain committed to the advancement of gender equality, and the dismantling of patriarchy, which is the real cause of so much pain for women and men around the world. 
Allies and supporters: do not to be fooled by this copycat campaign. We are exploring all of our options, but we will not be engaging with this group in a public screaming match. They can remain a shrill minority. We will continue to engage with the vast majority of men who believe in gender justice, and want to be part of the solution. And we will do it with the same determination, conviction and passion we have shown for the past 20 years. We appreciate all the support and kind words we have heard from women and men across the globe. Please know that goes a long way, and that we will carry on with our effort to make the world a better, safer, more equitable place for all women and girls, men and boys. 
Until the violence stops,
Todd Minerson
It will be interesting to see if the organization launches a trademark case against AVFM. But for the moment, the real White Ribbon campaign still comes out on top:

Thursday, October 16, 2014

JWT Greece mocks domestic violence victims in mattress ads

Via Ads Of The World

It's a bad year for mattress ads. First there was the appalling Malala Yousafzai one from India. Now it's a Greek campaign that makes light of domestic abuse.

Appearing on Ads Of The World, this campaign by JWT Spot Athens, carries the body copy "Don't let your mattress abuse you. Ask for help at Dimstel."

Considering that the campaign uses stock photography, it may be yet another example of vanity ads that only appear online. But if this is the way Creatives Alexandros Tsoutis, Alexis Alifragis and James Karolos want to get their names known, they clearly lack as much common sense as sensitivity.

According to Greek Reporter, one in three women in Greece is a victim of domestic violence.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Montreal cinema owner inflames Twitter with "Hockey Widow" promo

If there's one Canadian stereotype that has a strong basis in reality, it's not weird pronunciations of "out" or niceness — it's an obsession with hockey. The game is deeply rooted in our culture. While not every Canadian is a hockey fanatic, it's safer to assume a Canadian has a favourite hockey team than a favourite type of poutine.

Which makes it all the more baffling that a cinema chain in Montreal, "the Mecca of Hockey," would so casually insult female Habs fans by running a women-only promotion for "Hockey Widows" on game nights.

The CBC has compiled a collection of Tweets about the issue, including cinema owner Vincenzo Guzzo's defensive non-apologies.

Oh well. Canada's women's national ice hockey team has won gold in the past four Olympics, and is one of the winningest teams in history. So I guess it will take more than a sexist local cinema promotion to turn Canadian women away from the game.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

PornHub's "SFW" billboard removed from Times Square

PornHub, the internet sexual content provider recently known for dabbling in music, managed to score an earned media hit by getting their new billboard forcibly removed from Times Square, NYC, within 24 hours.

Gothamist writes, "though an advertisement for a porn site would have fit in on 42nd Street a mere 20 or so years ago, the city's long since swapped out the peep shows for a Ripley's Believe It Or Not, and sadly, Pornhub's billboard was removed only hours after its first appearance. We can't have anything fun anymore."

Apparently, a neighbouring hotel managed to get the billboard yanked (so to speak).

Seems like a silly controversy to me, considering competing porn site Brazzers had a rather saucy "get rubber" billboard up there four years ago, complete with sexualized models.

You could say that the PornHub billboard was promoting even safer sex... at least for the viewer.