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The Issue of Posters

As some of you may know I’ve had the opportunity to flex my graphic design muscles a bit here with different event posters and whatnot. It’s been a lot of fun and a great learning experience. That’s kind of how I learned photography; I just jumped in and started swimming out to the deep end (the deep end being… where there is more knowledge?). Anyway, I just keep throwing myself at it because of how much I enjoy it. So I’ve really gotten in to designing posters for people (back home I collected gig posters) and lately party posters.

However, there is this ongoing question of the women on them. Are they ok? Is it adding to the problems of a country with messed up gender issues as it is? Is it actually degrading to women? There are no party posters here without women on them (just so you know). So my original goal was to include all the elements (colors, vividness, women, etc) that Jamaicans like but really try and raise the bar for designs in general. (And then Kim sent me my first Grid Systems book and I’ve just been all over it lately.) I was going to use that poster I recently did for my party until I showed it to another Jamaican. I showed it to one of my friends (he’s easily one of the best and brightest from up here in the valley; very intelligent church going guy) and he seemed flat out confused by it. It took him 5min to recognize the image as me. He even said, “You know usually party posters have like… you know… sexy ladies on them!” I said yeah I know. Just trying something different (quite disappointed).

But back to the women… Recently a volunteer expressed their disapproval of me (a PCV) producing posters with sexy ladies on them. Not to me, but to those around that volunteer and it made it’s way to me. Not the way I’d prefer but it’s the thought that counts. Their complaint was that my producing of these was counter-intuitive to their teaching on gender roles/issues (in Jamaica). It’s a valid complaint. And I kind of agree with them. It would be great if woman weren’t objectified and I certainly don’t want to be a proponent of said objectification. So in my participation perhaps I am indeed a proponent. And that’s bad. But these posters are going to be made whether I exist or not. I started doing them to save my neighbors money. I’m not creating this market for sexy posters.

I don’t know if said volunteer has even seen my posters before. Because having some sexy lady on there seemed like a mandatory thing, I tried to use the most tasteful and complimentary images I could find. Part of the reason I don’t feel bad about it is because the lines in Jamaica are very blurry. We were in a formal regional meeting the other day and the head guy says the ice breaker is to say something romantic about yourself. In one person’s turn it changed to something sexy about yourself. So all of the sudden these professionals were making sexual innuendos during the ice breaker. I mean, no one particular thing was extremely shocking, but the fact that sexuality is just this gray area that’s always two steps away from surfacing in any given conversation is… well, it’s different and at times, quite shocking.

My point is, do cultural differences make things more okay? Or is a half naked woman a half naked woman in all contexts and cultures? I normally would concede but this is a big activity for me. And I don’t have many activities! Like I said I’m trying to curb the use of women on there, but it won’t make any sense to Jamaicans. You wouldn’t design a car ad without a picture of a car, so what am I supposed to do? It’s just the standard. Now what I don’t like is that you probably couldn’t show these to your kids. I mean, it would be just a bit inappropriate. But the parties aren’t for kids. I mean, they aren’t sex parties or anything, but late night block parties aren’t for children in general. So is it an inappropriate image given the context?

I guess let me know what you think. It’s not going to destroy my world if I can’t make posters for another 6mo, but I really do enjoy it. Like I said, I’m trying to phase out the women for more personalized posters (i.e. putting the people on their own poster) but so far procrastination on their part has just put me in a corner to make something fast.

Here are my most recent ones. I hate that I maybe can’t show these to anyone and everyone because I’m really proud of them. I made the 2nd one in 2.5hrs at 11pm a few nights ago. It was a record. (Granted I had the girl cut out already from a poster that didnt get used, but still.)

Check ‘em out and let me know what you think. Or don’t. I’m not your mother.

Valentine’s Day
Build Back Frday

My Revised Birthday (i’m gonna revise this again. i think i could use a more tasteful image.)


7 Responses

  1. Hey! Just wanted to throw my 2 cents in…

    I stumbled upon one of your posters in an old blog entry last year while I was looking through PC journals, and I assumed (for whatever reason) that you were just showing a poster that a Jamaican designed. So when I read that you were designing them, I have to admit that I was mildly shocked/disappointed. I’ve been given the same kind of posters on campus inviting me to frat parties or whatever, so it’s not just a Jamaican thing, it’s pretty much widespread. And in all cases, I feel it’s inappropriate.

    Take the Valentine’s Day poster, for example. She’s in lingerie, with her back arched, and her mouth slightly opened…I mean, it’s basically soft porn. What overall effects do you think results from this image? I get that the point is to get people to come to the event, and I’m sure it accomplishes that purpose. But in the process, it uses a young overtly sexual woman as bait. And in some (or maybe most) men’s minds, she’s no longer a woman (who should be respected and honored), but instead an object to be used solely for sexual pleasure. That attitude is then sometimes displayed toward women that they actually come in contact with, some of whom, after repeatedly seeing posters like this and the attention they get, start to believe they need to be overtly sexual to get a man. And they accept getting used and being treated like an object because they think it’s the best they can get. And that leads to many mo problems…I could go on. The reason why it really bothers me is because, although we all recognize that it isn’t appropriate for children, somehow it magically falls into a child’s hand, and then passed around to other kids. And soon you’ll have skimpy-dressed little girls, and in combination with the overtly sexual dancing…bad results await…I’ve seen it in person.

    You said you wanted to set a bar for designs, and thats great, you still can do that, but you can also set a bar for tastefulness. There has to be a way to compromise…show them that women can be attractive without being slutty. Maybe a pic of a guy and girl interacting respectfully. Or maybe a couple holding hands running through a field of daisies! Haha, that’s probably too much.

    I hope this didn’t come off mean/judgmental. I felt weird commenting since I don’t actually know you (yet) and haven’t stepped foot in Jamaica (yet!), but I decided to give it a shot anyway.

  2. Josh!

    Just wanted to give a word of support coming from someone else who’se lived in a 3rd world country for an extended period of time where the sexual bar is set differently. For those of you who don’t know, I’m from Brazil and I’m sure you’ve all seen the tourist videos of carnaval. Plus, I have been to Jamaica for 1 day. :) While I’m definitely not condoning this cultural acceptance and promotion of provocative advertisements, I must say that I can attest to the fact that Josh’s work is definitely toned way down compared to the typical advertisement. In Brazil it’s common to have prime-time TV commercials and even TV program title sequences with full frontal nudity – not just nipples, FULL frontal!

    Yes, as Christians we are called to a different standard – I can’t say “higher” because to them it’s not viewed that way and I’m not conceited enough to call it that. Josh is in fact doing what he can in his environment. If he hadn’t made this poster with a woman in lingerie, there’s a good chance someone else would have made one with a woman in less “clothing” in an even more provocative pose. And if Josh did stick to his guns on excluding any provocative images, his posters wouldn’t get used AND they wouldn’t continue to procure his services. So good job, Josh!

    I will also point out that my feeling is that the culture of the US tends to go a little too far in the whole taboo-ness of sexuality. There’s an aspect of the openness of these cultures that I can appreciate, even as a Christian. My feeling is that if the US was just a little more open in their handling of sexuality – true sexual discussion and education, and not just what we see glorified and misrepresented in the media – there might be less teen pregnancy and therefore abortions, and maybe even less misguided glorification of sex in the media! In Brazil as a part of 5th grade biology we studied the human reproductive system and thus had sexual education. My parents didn’t freak out or anything (or sue) like most american families would – they used it as an opportunity to have “the talk” with us. My view is that because conservative parents in the US and the world (Christian or not) are generally keeping quiet when it comes to sexuality, kids have no choice but to listen to the only thing speaking to them, which is the media and peers. Now that I have a 1-year-old, it’s my responsibility to make sure I offer him enough information so that he can make the right choices on his own when he sees a poster like this, and NOT “shield” him from this type of thing.

    Anyway, I say all this to make sure we as americans don’t look down our noses at the rest of the world for their “immoral cultural tendencies” or whatever. We need to lighten up a bit on our global sexual outlook, if you will – ESPECIALLY if we’ve never been in these cultures. Yes, the world in general is going to hell in a handbasket. But guess what: we aren’t called to move to a remote compound and isolate ourselves from “the world” – we are called to be IN the world to shine Christ’s light, BUT NOT be OF the world. I’m proud of my good friend Josh for doing just that in his small way, even if it’s not ideal.

    I would also like to point out that as an imperfect male who has had experience with porn, the images Josh chose are technically not “soft porn” as expressed by Benita. The definition of pornography is: “printed or visual material containing the explicit description or display of sexual organs or activity, intended to stimulate erotic rather than aesthetic or emotional feelings.” These posters are NOT clearly displaying sexual organs or activity, and in my view they are intended for the practical and subjectively “aesthetic” purpose of getting people with penises and money to go to a party. That’s it. Whether I agree or not with that intention doesn’t make it any less their intention. :) I’m not trying to justify, just trying see it from their perspective a bit.

  3. Hey Marcus,

    I respect your opinion given the fact that you have lived in another country with different sexual standards. Your opinion is probably more well-informed than mine in this situation since I’ve lived in the Southern US my whole life. And I definitely agree that it can be sometimes be more harmful to be shielded from this stuff; I’m a prime example of what can happen when you’re sheltered and then let go to run freely on a college campus.

    But…being around kids who’s parents don’t explain to them and guide them at a young age, I feel like this poster just wouldn’t be helpful. It just doesn’t sit well with me to see 11 and 12 year old girls walking around half-naked; and then they imitate these videos and let their little boyfriends touch all over them. Maybe it is partly because I was raised conservatively; we’re definitely a product of our environments. But over the past couple of years, I’ve tried to separate what I was taught and what I blindly believed from what the Bible actually says, and based on the Bible, I believe these posters are a bit too much. But that’s just my opinion. Clearly, we’ve had different experiences. I do respect your opinion though :)

    Ultimately, Josh, you’re looking for God’s approval, not ours. So I say pray about it, if you haven’t already. He sees you, in your environment, and knows your motives and intentions. Allow him to guide you to the right decision. If he says, “I don’t approve,” then make a decision based on that. If he says, “I do approve,” then keep at it!

    Oh, and sorry for my misrepresentation of soft porn :)

  4. hey josh, have you noticed that lots of the parties in town (i mean kingston) have more tasteful posters/flyers? i’ll send ya a link to some of the ones i’ve seen on my ja friends’ profiles on facebook.

    oh and i also wanted to say that some posters/fliers are SO sexual that josh’s are actually quite tasteful.

  5. hey josh. i think we’re all going to make flash decisions about this. for instance, when i first saw your posters i didn’t really want to look at them long because of the half naked girls. but i also knew that, like some of your other comment-ers have said, they ARE tasteful in comparison to the norm.

    i think what it really comes down to is seeking after the Lord’s heart in this. you know the Holy Spirit’s voice well enough to hear Him in this, and you know His love deeply enough to want to listen.

    So… i’m not a big fan of the scantily clad ladies on your posters. but that’s just me. i’m not offended by them, just preference.

    it’s a hard position to be in, balancing culture integration with the set-apart-ness of Christ’s mandate.

  6. Josh,

    Here are my two cents for what their worth. First let me say that I can appreciate the fact that you feel led to try and help the people in your community by using whatever talents and time that you have. I also acknowledge the fact that there are significant cultural differences between our societies. That being said I don’t think the poster contributes to the objective that you and Jess are undertaking in Jamaica. You took two years of your lives to go wherever you were sent, to try and make a difference in the world, and we all admire that. I assume that one of your goals in Jamaica is to leave the community better off, through the sharing of ideas and resources, than when you came and I’m sure to a large part you have accomplished that in many ways. I just don’t understand how the poster contributes to the mission. I know that you are teaching elements of graphic design, but if that is your goal isn’t their a more productive method?

    As far as the arguments to make the posters, I feel like the statement that if you didn’t make the posters someone else would, could be used to justify any type of nefarious endeavor. I also have a problem with the justification that compared to some other posters, yours are quite tasteful. Again you could use this argument to condone any behavior you choose. I guess it’s just a matter of who you want to compare yourself to. I also think that later in life you may look back at these posters and regret making them and putting them on the internet, especially once you are back in the U.S. and out of the Jamaican culture. This is coming from someone who has had those regrets and trust me they are not fun.

    I won’t get into the morality of using the pictures because I think you already know the right thing to do or you wouldn’t have asked the question in the fist place.

    I hope I didn’t rain on your parade or make you feel like I am taking shots at your decision making. I really admire what you guys do down there. We can’t wait until next winter to see you guys again. Remember you have to forgive me, I’m family!

  7. whoa. you guys really turned out! okay I’m gonna post a follow-up/reply tomorrow.

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