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FORCE discusses "culture jamming" to change attitudes towards consent

By ELLIE PENATI | October 30, 2014

FORCE: Upsetting Rape Culture, a Baltimore-based art activist group, presented a talk Saturday on using culture jamming and creative digital media to spark dialogue about combating sexual violence.

The event was hosted by the Digital Media Center (DMC) in collaboration with the Center for Health Education Wellness (CHEW), the Sexual Assault Resource Unit (SARU) and Dean of Student Life Terry Martinez.

The majority of attendees were adults and faculty members. Some attendees remarked about how few students attended.

“I was pleased with the amount of people that did come, but it is always hard to get a turnout to these kind of events, especially on Saturday and during Family Weekend,” SARU Co-President Ella Rogers said.

“Culture jamming” consists of borrowing advertising methods from different brands to bring to light faulty assumptions or subliminal messages and to challenge the status quo. Some trends in culture jamming include reconfiguring logos, juxtaposing incongruent images and creating Internet memes.

Culture jamming provides a new way for artists and activists to promote healthy conversations and justice in their community. FORCE and many attendees alike agreed culture jamming is a great way to reach people, especially college students, as it uses social media as the platform to communicate its messages.

“Culture jamming is relevant to college students because at this age we are so engrossed in our social media, and that is one of the ways that we communicate our values to one another right now,” Rogers said. “So a group like FORCE that is drawing upon those connections and drawing upon social media can be a really powerful way to send these kind of messages among students.”

Using culture jamming methods, FORCE has created parody websites such as PINK Loves CONSENT and Playboy’s Top Ten Party Commandments to spark dialogue about combatting sexual violence throughout the nation. The ultimate goal of FORCE is to promote an approach to consent based on counter-culture.

“We produce art actions to interrupt the everyday experiences of people and help them to imagine what an alternative culture could look like,” Rebecca Nagle, co-founder of FORCE, said.

Nagle emphasized that a challenge of promoting this ideal counter-culture is alerting people to the problems that are already latent in their current culture.

“Something that is very inherent to living in a rape culture is that it is something that we often don’t notice; it’s the water that we are swimming in and becomes very invisible, and we think that our job as artists and activists is to point that out to people and not only point out the problems but to also point out the solutions,” Nagle said.

After discussing the aims of their organization and culture jamming, FORCE described their past projects in greater detail. In the PINK Loves CONSENT project, they created a parody website that mimicked the original PINK website and advertised underwear with messages about consent printed on them.

In Playboy’s Top Ten Party Commandments, FORCE mimicked the Playboy website and made a spoof of its annual Top Ten Party Schools list, which was composed of the top colleges in terms of their efforts to combat sexual violence.

FORCE discussed how they create these parody websites through culture jamming to create a positive image of consent.

“We are interested in framing consent as a good time, and there’s really dangerous narrative around [how] consent is a downer, and we try and create clear messaging around that,” FORCE co-founder Hannah Brancato said.

Understanding that the topics of sexual violence and consent are often uncomfortable for people to discuss and carry certain stigmas, Nagle illustrated that culture jamming is a great way to make these difficult conversations and topics more approachable for the timid.

“The goal is to get people involved in that conversation about consent and to think about how to normalize that conversation,” Nagle said.

Attendees reiterated this point as they mentioned that it is often difficult to discuss sexual violence and consent and how culture jamming is a great solution to that problem.

“Having the culture jams be parodies is really important too because it breaks down the seriousness,” Rogers said. “It strikes a balance between taking the issue seriously but also presenting them in an accessible light.”


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