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The Kyoto Government is offering free AIDS and STD testing. Good. But check out what image they’re using for the face of sexually-transmitted diseases:
Subject: Embedded Racism, AIDS, and Sexually Transmitted Diseases
Date: March 8, 2018
Please see the attached photo, snapped on a Kyoto metro yesterday afternoon. The only non-Japanese face visible in the metro car (other than mine) is on an advert for AIDS and STD testing by Kyoto City Government.
The poster seems to imply the foreign as the source of danger, illness, social decay. The (dyed? or at least not black) permed, and slightly disheveled hair accord with the stereotype of the western woman of lax morality.
I wonder whether they used a stock image or hired a model and whether the model was aware or consented to the use of her image in this context? While technically she is contributing to a good cause – increasing awareness of AIDS, STDS, and of a useful public health service, she most likely did not realize that her image also contributes to the construction and maintenance of negative bias against non-Japanese women.
I also wonder about the designers. Who decided to use a non-Japanese model and what was their rationale (or rationalization)? Japan as a multi-ethnic society, where non-Japanese can be employed for health service publicity? Or the purely functional message that the service itself is available for both J and NJ? How does it relate to the actual epidemiology of AIDS and other STDs in Japan? Does the poster reflect any reality in the situation or is it a complete misrepresentation of the epidemiology?
Cheers and keep up the good work. Sincerely, XY
COMMENT: Now, some might argue (and believe me, pedants, naysayers, and White Samurai will) that this is merely an IStock photo and that there was no association meant. But that’s not how advertising works. (Why add an image of a person at all if that were true?) Others might say that she’s representing a medical professional pleased to see people coming in for testing. But there is no context grounding that, either. (No clear nurse’s uniform, nor a background that is clearly a hospital. It looks more like a government front desk area to me; if you look closely at the poster, that’s in fact where the testing is happening, not at a hospital; she’s a patient, not a government representative.)
Again, why are we targeting a Visible-Minority demographic with this ad? As XY says, that’s the embedded racism of this campaign.
My suspicion is that they are targeting Japan’s sex workers, and a frequent association is that any foreigner imported for this task has diseases. This poster merely fortifies that.
And, to answer XY, it’s wrong. According to the National Institute of Infectious Diseases, in 2015, non-Japanese people accounted for the minority of 108 (88 male; 20 female) out of 1,006 AIDS cases in Japan (and homosexual men, not women, remain the largest affected demographic). Plus don’t forget that historically, a significant number of AIDS cases in Japan were the result not of sexual contact, but of HIV-tainted blood recklessly given to hemophiliacs by the Japanese government in the late 1980s. That’s why this poster is visually misrepresenting the issue on many levels.
As XY also notes, I wonder what the model herself thinks about being associated with sexually-transmitted diseases? I wish we could ask. Dr. Debito Arudou
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