Snapchat and joking about DV
25-Mar-2018


The advertisement was eye-catching—and disgraceful. The “Would You Rather” game ad, which appeared on social media app Snapchat, asked users if they would rather “slap Rihanna or punch Chris Brown.” Rihanna immediately deleted her own Snapchat account and called out the company, and it seemed that Snap was getting its just desserts: the stock price of parent company Snap Inc. fell 4 percent and the company’s market value dropped $800 million. But the Snapchat incident begs the question: why do we to joke about domestic violence? 

Domestic violence is a serious public health issue that affects hundreds of millions of women worldwide. The physical, emotional, mental and verbal abuse that constitutes domestic violence can lead to devastating consequences. Rihanna herself was a victim of domestic violence in 2009 when her ex and fellow popstar Chris Brown beat her up. While Rihanna said in her statement that she didn’t personally feel so hurt by the ad, she highlighted the fact that other victims who saw the ad would not feel the same way, particularly those who are still stuck in abusive situations.

When we joke about domestic violence, we are in fact—to use Rihanna’s words—“letting down” the victims and survivors. Joking about domestic violence creates this idea that it is “no big deal,” and is not a serious issue. The hurt and humiliation that Rihanna must have felt as photos of her black eye were plastered in news outlets everywhere is not funny and should not be used to market a silly game. Joking about domestic violence strips survivors of their dignity and reduces their experiences to nothing.

Unfortunately, the Snapchat ad was not an isolated incident, as domestic violence is joked about in ads, by comedians and celebrities (“feminist” actress Lena Dunham comes to mind) and in media. The fact that such an ad was given the approval to run on a popular app that is used by impressionable young people is beyond despicable and also kind of scary. It shows just how deeply ingrained sexism and misogyny is in society, where controversy and pain are used to sell a silly video game. As Rihanna put it best, “I’d love to call it ignorance, but I know you ain’t that dumb!”  

The media will continue to perpetuate violence against women as funny—or worse, cool—which means that women will continue to be abused. It is up to society to call the media out on it and hold them accountable, because there is nothing remotely funny about domestic violence.


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