Italian domestic violence PSA misses the mark

“What happens when you put a boy in front of a girl and ask him to slap her?”

In an Italian Public Service Announcement about domestic violence, young boys are urged to slap a girl and their reactions are recorded.
In an Italian Public Service Announcement about domestic violence, young boys are urged to slap a girl and their reactions are recorded.

Fanpage.it sought to find the answer and filmed the Italian PSA video “‘Slap her’: children’s reactions,” a production that ultimately failed to get to the root of the issue of violence against women.

In the video that garnered over 43 million Facebook views in five days, boys aged seven to 11 are asked a series of routine questions like their names, what they want to be when they grow up and why. Then, a girl named Martina (who can’t be more than 14 years old) is abruptly brought on screen.

“What do you like about her?” the narrator of the film asks, causing the boys to ogle over the young girl. They like her eyes, they like her hair, her shoes, her hands — everything about her. One boy tells her she’s a pretty girl. Another tells her, “I’d like to be your boyfriend.” Keep in mind, he’s seen Martina for less than a minute and has already decided to date her. He knows nothing about her personality or her interests. Also keep in mind that throughout this entire interaction, Martina doesn’t utter a word. It seems that her role in the video is to be seen and not heard. The boys only focus on physical attributes of Martina. Viewers do not get to learn Martina’s age, what she wants to be when she grows up or why. She is simply an item to examine and objectify.

“Now, caress her,” the narrator demands. And without asking permission from Martina, without even the slightest consideration to obtain consent from her, the boys one by one brush their fingers across Martina’s face. They stroke her arm while she stands there like a mannequin.

The young boys touch and caress Martina's face and body without her consent.
The young boys touch and caress Martina’s face and body without her consent.

“Now… slap her.” The narrator’s demand is met by perplexed faces from the boys. Even after he repeats the question and eggs the boys on, they refuse to hit Martina. Cue the inspirational music.

It’s a nice sentiment, especially in a world where almost 32 percent of women between the ages of 16 and 70 experience some form of physical or sexual violence in their lifetimes. But the video has some flaws that are severe enough to take away from the message.

Take their explanations as to why they won’t hit her, for example. “Cause she’s a girl. I can’t do it.”

“Because you’re not supposed to hit girls.”

“First of all, I can’t hit her because she’s pretty, and she’s a girl.” That one was shocking. Is it okay to hit an ugly girl? Had Martina been chubby and the boys didn’t like her hair or her eyes or her shoes or her hands, would it have been okay to hit her then? It’s worth pointing out that Martina is taller and older than every boy in the video. Pairing that with the fact that they all found her to be so beautiful, she was probably intimidating to them. Of course they aren’t going to slap a beautiful intimidating girl they were just introduced to moments ago.

The video ends with the 11 year-old boy’s answer: “Why? ‘Cause I’m a man.” Comments on the video celebrate the boy’s statement. Many even wrote that it brought tears to their eyes.

The only acceptable answer, though, was Pedro’s: “Because I’m against violence”

An individual’s gender should not dictate whether it is okay to slap them or not. Boys should not hit girls. Boys should not hit boys. In fact, nobody should hit anybody, gender aside. And if “you’re not supposed to hit girls,” then certainly you’re not supposed to intimately touch their faces and bodies without their consent.

So while the video might appear sweet on the surface, the fact that young Italian boys won’t slap a beautiful stranger on the street doesn’t offer much hope for the future of humanity.

4 thoughts on “Italian domestic violence PSA misses the mark”

    1. Thank you for sharing, Christopher! Dr. Hains clearly put a lot of research into that piece. I particularly like how she says the video actually trivializes domestic violence. I agree with her. What are your thoughts on the video?


      1. I agree with her. With that being said, I don’t believe that the video was made to promote objectification or trivialize domestic violence. I believe that it was an unintentional side effect of a video produced to generate likes rather than awareness. Like I said in the comments, implict association happens whether we acknowlegde it or not and the video clearly places value on men over women and “pretty” women over plain women. The producers could have executed this project in a much better fashion if they would have met with SMEs on the topics they wanted to cover.


      2. I also dont believe that the producers intentionally tried to objectify women or trivialize donestic violence, and you’re right — they did succeed in generating views and likes rather than awareness. Again, thanks for sharing!

        Liked by 1 person

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