August 30, 2011

An Open Letter to Fluid Salon

Posted in Current Events at 5:18 pm by sacetalks

As a public educator dealing with violence against women, the recent fervor over Fluid’s ad campaign has been interesting to observe.

At the most basic level, a critical part of dealing with violence is to get people to talk about it. For that, I am thankful, because it’s clear from my Facebook and other social media feeds that just about everyone I know in Edmonton is talking about this ad.

However, I feel it is important to address why, as someone who works to prevent violence, this ad evoked a strong response in not only myself but in many others.

This morning on Global Morning News, Sarah Cameron, the owner of Fluid Salon, excused the approach of her ad campaign by pointing out that one of the key people involved “grew up” with domestic violence. I found this related statement on the Salon’s blog today:

“Everybody’s getting on me about, ‘well how would you feel if you knew someone who was in domestic violence?’ The producer of this shoot, the one who styled it all, she grew up in it.”

It’s unclear to me how this makes trivializing domestic violence acceptable in any way. Is using abusive imagery a privilege society now offers to witnesses of abuse? The experiences of the designer does not justify an image, created to sell salon services, that minimizes the impact of domestic violence by claiming, even satirically, that it’s not so bad if you have fabulous hair.

I also have a problem with what’s implied in the tagline: “Look good in all you do” and the relationship of that statement to victim blaming. The ad clearly focuses on the woman as the subject, as the one doing the “doing”; being a victim of domestic violence is not something that people do; it is something that is done TO THEM. This ad trivializes the trauma of domestic violence, and at the same time implies that victims choose to be abused. This ad, although it has evoked conversation, serves only to reinforce attitudes that excuse the perpetrators of violence and point the finger at victims.

I do want to acknowledge the comments made by Phyllis Jackson, mother of the designer on Fluid’s blog, who points out that verbal and emotional abuse is as harmful/or possibly more so than physical violence, and are all aspects of domestic violence. She is absolutely right, and I think that resorting to personal insults towards the salon owner and the ad campaign participants is not helpful. With that, I encourage all of the people who are speaking out, writing in, and contacting the salon to do so respectfully and without resorting to abusive behaviours. However, I do disagree with Jackson with this statement, also part of her comments on Fluid’s blog:

“In reality this is a picture on a computer or piece of paper of a woman sitting on a couch with interesting hair and a painted on black eye and a man standing behind a couch holding a necklace. With my experience on both ends of the spectrum, I fail to see how that equates to domestic violence.”

Well, I acknowledge it is possible to interpret this way (unlikely, but possible). However, in a Facebook photo album posted by Fluid Hair, screen captured here:, there is a caption by the salon underneath a photo of the model having her black eye make-up applied, and it says “hottest battered woman I’ve ever laid my eyes upon”.

For me, this is more evidence that those responsible for this campaign feel that it’s perfectly acceptable to make domestic violence “sexy” to sell salon services.

A posting on the salon’s blog from earlier today states:

“If survivors of abuse interpret this ad to make light of any abusive situation, we sincerely apologize, that was never our intent as there are people that worked on this campaign who are survivors of abuse.”

This is a start, but it’s insufficient. It sounds an awful lot like “Honey, I’m sorry I hit you, I didn’t mean to… but you know how I grew up watching my dad beat up my mom; I just lost my temper.”

Images created purely for commercial gain that make light of issues as serious as domestic violence are unacceptable, but it would seem as though that Cameron still fails to see the connection:

“To the rest of you who this has so deeply affected, we truly hope you do something to help stop domestic violence. Truly honor the survivors that you are standing up for. Unfortunately boycotting a hair salon will not accomplish this.”

Absolutely, everyone should be doing something to help stop domestic violence. But I would argue that boycotting a hair salon, does help accomplish this because it is one way for potential clients to show that they would rather their hard-earned dollars go services that do not trivialize domestic violence to sell hair cuts. I, for one, will be encouraging any non-abusive action such as boycotts or respectful letters and phone calls until Fluid Salon issues a public apology and take some direct action to compensate. The blog mentioned that anyone who goes into the salon and mentions this ad will have the proceeds from whatever services they book to go to the Edmonton’s Women’s Shelter, but isn’t that just another attempt to get clients in the door?

It’s clear to me that if Cameron really believes that her campaign was “just fine” and everyone is just being “too sensitive”, then she has a lot to learn, and I suggest that she takes steps to do so.

Sarah, here at the Sexual Assault Centre of Edmonton, we offer customized workshops and presentations to schools, groups, or businesses that are interested in learning more about violence against women without charging fees (although we do ask for honorariums when the group can afford to pay). If you are sincere in your claim on your website that you want to turn this negative backlash into something positive like “partnerships… with appropriate organizations in this community”, I hope that you will give me a call and access our education services.

I look forward to speaking with you.

Lily Tsui, Director of Public Education




1 Comment »

  1. torujahan said,

    very nice thanks for sharing

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