The image of a young black woman, dressed as a nun in a low-cut habit and showing her bare midriff to promote an online music service has gotten many Canadian Catholics up in arms.
“It is taking something holy and sacred to Catholics, the habit worn by our religious sisters, and twisting it to sell a product which promotes the accessibility of music, some of which is probably degrading to women,” said Michelle Smillie, who works for the Office of Life and Family for the Archdiocese of Vancouer, reported the B.C. Catholic.
The campaign first appeared in Toronto in mid-October and has since been launched across most of English Canada, including Vancouver.
The $500,000 advertising campaign for Puretracks.com, an online music service, portrays a scantily clad “nun” with a large cross hung from her neck in what seems to be an old church or monastery. The text at the top of the ad reads “pure hip hop”, while the text at the bottom of the ad reads “puretracks.com, from 99¢ a song”.
The company’s reply to complaints so far is that the visual imagery was used “to express the purity of our music audio, as well as the very essence of music itself, the individual creative spirit,” reported the B.C. Catholic.
Another company spokesperson told the Vancouver paper that the company regretted that “our communication efforts did not meet with your approval,” but that the “general response to our advertising campaign has been extremely positive.”
However, at the beginning of December, the Toronto Transit Corporation agreed to pull the ads from their buses, subways and bus shelters after a discussions with the Catholic Civil Rights League and several letters from the public.
Michael Connell, director of communications for the Catholic Civil Rights League, said the debasement of religious images in the media will only stop once “we build up a strong Catholic voice that no company would knowingly offend or alienate.
“Until that group identity begins to operate as a market force (or social force) again, we are left to pursue protections for Catholics as a minority population attacked by such advertising,” he said.
“Although most Catholics would likely find these images offensive, many tacitly accept popular culture’s distortion and exploitation of these images, believing it is better to quietly ignore them in the hope that they will eventually go away,” wrote Connell in an opinion piece printed in the Catholic Register, Toronto’s archdiocesan paper.
“We can be sure that if we do nothing, religious symbols will continue to be debased and abused until they are devoid of all meaning in our cultural context. At which point they, and the belief system they symbolize, will cease to be attacked and will merely be cast aside,” he said.
“As Catholic citizens, we ignore popular culture’s portrayal of Catholicisim and its symbols at our own peril,” he warned.
The campaign to ban these ads continues. Concerned Catholics should write to Derek van der Plaat, Moontaxi Media Inc, 260 King St. E., Suite B100, Toronto, ON, M5A 4L5 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org