How can you make this woman any more beautiful? By excising out her clitoris, of course.
AdFreak notes that this quiet, understated German ad contrasts the horror of female genital mutilation (FGM) with serene music, a stark white background, and the beautiful image of model Manon von Gerkan. The voice-over tells viewers that they are "beautiful," "wonderful" and "unique" before pointing out that the only thing keeping women from perfection is the presence of the clitoris.
The shock value is kept to a minimum, which can be a good thing, but in this case it almost feels too quiet, too simple to be truly powerful. Compare the PSA with this excerpt from an article published last week in the Guardian on the practice and reversal of FGM:
"Then they hacked at me like a piece of meat until it was off," [Ann, a victim of FGM] recalls. "They said that cutting would make my vagina flat and beautiful and not dirty or smell bad and would not itch. They said that if it didn't happen then no man would touch you, and they also told me not to tell anyone."
The lack of emotional impact isn't the only bothersome thing about this ad. It's the slow panning over her naked body, the focus on her light skin, blonde hair, white background. It's the choice of model, the image of what is "perfect." Von Gerkan is presented as the epitome of female beauty, the Western ideal. But in focusing on her physical form, we lose track of what FGM is actually about: gaining dominance over women through the repression of female sexual pleasure. It almost makes it seem as though FGM is primarily a cosmetic procedure, which is an incredibly reductionist viewpoint. The creators of this ad were clearly trying to create a striking contrast between the eroticized model and the shockingly un-sexy subject matter, but I have to agree with David Gianatasio from AdFreak that it "fails to shock the system, stir the heart or rattle the cages of the soul." It is important to raise awareness about FGM - the U.N. recently called for renewed efforts to fight against the deplorable practice - but we would like to think it possible to do so without sending the message that white, blonde, and naked equals "perfection."