This Israeli Ad Agency Figured Out a Clever Way to Combat Vandalism Against Billboards Featuring ‘Immodest’ Women

Here’s an advertising tactics atheists might want to use with their own billboards.

In Bnei Brak, an Israeli city with a super-conservative religious population, a lot of men don’t like to see images of women dressed “immodestly.” That means their elbows and knees and hair must be covered at all times.

So advertising company Twisted came up with a clever way to raise awareness about the need to stop violence against women.

They put up this poster, knowing it would get vandalized by the ultra-orthodox men:

Less than 24 hours after it went up, the face of the woman was ripped off… revealing a hidden message:

International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women


Very clever. Very effective.

If only we could’ve seen the looks on the vandals’ faces…

(Thanks to Scott for the link)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • JA

    Not to go off-topic, but how can one see elbows and knees as sexual objects?

  • Artor

    In a repressive society, any amount of skin can be sexualized. Believe it or not, some people get all hot & bothered by the sight of an exposed ankle.

  • C Peterson

    I guess if you grow up in a culture where every part of a woman must be hidden, you develop some pretty screwed up sensibilities.

  • MineApostasy

    It’s similar to how we see breasts as sexual objects whilst, I’ve heard, in some remote areas of Africa the women find it hilarious that anyone would fixate on breasts asking “are they babies?”

  • Goape

    Evokes an image of Dark Helmet saying “Fooooled Youuu!”

  • Mick

    The vandals couldn’t also rip down the underlying message?
    The vandals couldn’t find some black paint to hide the message?
    (Yes, I’m dubious about this story)

  • cyb pauli

    That’s what they see as immodest. A face and some hair. Oy.

  • cyb pauli

    They say the pilgrims found ears and noses erotic… that’s what they SAY.

  • Rich Wilson

    I was about to say:

    In Victorian England, they put skirts on chair legs.

    But I can’t find anything to back that up. I’m also a bit suspicious of this story, in particular how they didn’t rip down any more of the sign. It all seems so ‘neat’ for vandals.

  • Matto the Hun

    I suspect the vandals don’t really care about the underlying message. They got rid of the wicked, sexy, sinful woman… mission accomplished.

  • Ronny G. Chevrier

    Depends on the position, I suppose…

  • Ronny G. Chevrier

    That’s what they were holding during… well you know…

  • Peter Cranny

    You’ll often see 16th Century images of women wearing ear coverings. This is thought to be because Mary became pregnant with Jesus by hearing the word of God, so ears are sexual otrgans….

  • JA

    That was actually the British making fun of prudish Americans.

  • TrickQuestion

    Looks like a good part of it is missing. I wonder if they took it home with them…

  • Kathleen Bohr

    Even if they pulled the face off themselves, which seems more likely, the message is there. Women should not be treated as property.

  • KrisDStar

    Apparently in the original report, vandals usually rip female faces off billboards anyway. The advertising company decided to use that to their advantage:

    Advertising agency decided to make use of the phenomenon, which ordinarily suffer many advertisers. The phenomenon in question is the destruction of the advertising signs bearing the images of women.

    It’s a bad google translation of a page in Hebrew.

  • RegularJoe
  • Don Gwinn

    Well . . . it did occur to me that if the vandals failed to oblige, you could always rip it down yourself. But if the vandals normally cut out the offending parts, so this looks like their handiwork, the effect is the same. If they normally paint over it, so someone looking at this billboard wonders what happened instead of thinking, at least for a moment, “Oh, they got another one . . .” then maybe it’s not so effective.

    I’ve been told that the story about skirts to cover table legs for modesty was actually something that got passed around Victorian England as a fun joke at the expense of puritanical Americans
    (Oh, look, JA already brought that up 26 minutes ago!)
    . . . . but I haven’t seen evidence for that, either. It sounds plausible, though, the way the French called Syphilis the “English disease” while the British called it “The French Disease.”

    So, to sum up, vandalism is bad, table legs are sexy (but not as sexy as Israeli Elbows*) and everybody has Syphilis equally.

    *Israeli Elbows is a great Cream cover band.

  • Don Gwinn

    Don’t get me wrong, Scully, I want to believe. But that’s totally new for me. R u bn sirius?

  • Jeff See

    Seemed a bit clean, the tearing/removal of the picture on the top ad, and how well it ‘framed’ the underlying message, did it not?

  • ferulebezel

    The path of the cutting is just too precise to be the work of vandals. I think the ad. agency is trolling.

  • justnearthling

    One must remember that every human being that has ever been bornl was born an atheist and it was their parents that dragged them into a church f8r their first and ongoing indoctrination into whatever cult their parents were a memeber of….including christians, jews, muslims, whatever….they are all cults….not just momons, Davidians, westboro baptist, southern baptist, no matter they are all cults…

  • Neko

    Thanks for that.

  • Guest

    It seems a bit clean, does it not? The way it frames the underlying message? (My apologies if this ends up being a double post. Disqus is acting weird today).

  • Michael

    Because the people who made the rules were into those bits. It’s all a question of taste, nothing more complex than that.

    I kinda like shoulders, so long as they’re not bony.

  • Rob U

    Mary became pregnant with Jesus by hearing the word of God, so ears are sexual otrgans….

    I call bullshit on that one, if this were true then there would be a ginormous pregnancy epidemic every time a Morgan Freeman movie came out!

  • Gaël Cassetari

    No, we froggies called it the Italian disease. So nobody gets jealous.

  • David Mumford

    her hair isn’t covered…i know BIG DEAL

  • Richard Wade

    I would like to see this idea used on U.S. college campuses where SSA and other atheist student groups’ fliers are constantly ripped off of bulletin boards and kiosks. Underneath the flier, attach much more permanently a message to the anticipated vandals, speaking about their cowardice and lack of patriotism in wanting to silence free speech that apparently contradicts their opinions and beliefs.

    That being said,
    I’m suspicious that this ad is contrived by the designers, but for reasons other than those expressed so far:

    The accuracy of the ripping off of the woman’s face is not what makes this suspicious to me. That would be done with a knife by someone on a ladder, reaching as high as he can for the horizontal cut and then following down the line of her hair and shoulder.

    The precise placement of the message beneath does not make me suspicious because the designers could have seen a pattern in how similar images were vandalized, and anticipated exactly where to put the text.

    The fact that the underlying message was not also removed is a little suspicious, although that might have been prevented by using a much stronger adhesive than the peel-off-easily adhesive used on billboards that are frequently changed.

    BUT the part that most makes me suspicious that the “vandalism” was done by the ad agency is the text of the original ad: “Violence men & women” What the heck is that supposed to mean? It only makes sense when the underlying message is added. I think they were either 100% certain that the billboard would be vandalized just that way, (instead of with paint, etc.) or they did it themselves.

    Anticipated or contrived, it is a very clever idea, because either way it responds to a particular expression of misogyny that is apparently common in that town.

  • duke_of_omnium

    Wait. You mean that some people DON’T get aroused by the sight of an ankle?

  • GubbaBumpkin

    Yes. “How convenient.”

  • smrnda

    I don’t know why some people can’t just look at whatever part they find appealing, enjoy looking a bit (being mindful not to stare and be creepy) and then move on. Most humans do that every day. Either these people have been taught that ordinary human sexuality is bad, or else it’s simply a power issue with them hating the fact that other people might have appealing bodies that they can look at but can’t have.

  • BathTub

    Come on, does anyone really think that simply isn’t a part of the advertising campaign? Like the recent BitTorrent advertising campaign where the 2nd stage was to deface their own bilboards.

  • Michael Harbour

    My first thought, too.
    I’m immediately suspicious of whether there were actual vandals involved.

  • AramMcLean

    Their advertising campaign to sell their special brand of violence against women? Are you a wee bit ‘touched’ friend?

  • C Peterson

    It doesn’t matter. The campaign is effective either way.

  • toolman78

    So does that make those of us who left a religion behind “born again atheists”?

  • Don Gwinn

    I feel certain you must be wrong; I learned that fact from careful study of a James Clavell novel. I’m sorry to be the one to break it to you, but clearly my source is unimpeachable. ;)

  • Crash Override

    It makes no difference either way…the message was the same, and was delivered in an effective manner.

  • Matt Davis

    All religions teach that ordinary human sexuality is bad. The worst are the ones that teach men that women are responsible for men’s feelings – that if women dress immodestly, whatever that may mean, and get attacked by men who can’t control themselves, it’s the woman’s fault. Disgusting behaviour and attitude.

  • wmdkitty

    He has that voice, man.

  • compl3x

    Stunt or not, the fact that vandalism is so common and it could be used to promote a positive message is still a nice kick in the ass of the zealot.

  • Greg Baker

    Seems as though this is not that authentic of a story. Fail.

  • Madison Blane

    But why are French called froggies?! That’s the real question here!

  • Martina

    Very true

  • Madison Blane

    This doesn’t just apply to attacks. In fundamental religions, it applies to ALL men’s actions towards women. Any negative behavior directed at a woman is entirely her fault – she caused the man to sin. Any good behavior on the woman’s behalf is also the man’s right to take praise for, as he is her ‘shepherd’, her guide, her teacher. If she does something right, it is because he trained her into obedience. Training usually involves pain BTW.

    My mom was part of a fundamental Christian religion. When my step-father had an affair (with a married woman in the church), that resulted in my mother, me, and my baby brother being homeless, the Pastor scolded my mother. He said that it was HER fault that her husband felt compelled to have an affair because she had failed to be a good wife, to be someone he wants to come home to, and to keep herself sexually attractive (yes, she gained weight during her pregnancy; he gained MORE weight and didn’t have a reason other than her cooking!)

    When a sunday school teacher felt compassion towards us (she gave us a key to the church so that we could sleep in her classroom and have access to the church kitchen and facilities) the pastor was irate! His words were: this is a church not a charity! The church takes care of widows and orphans not women who cause their own demise through sin! Both women were forced to ‘repent’.

  • Bec

    They eat frogs legs as a national delicacy, and the British would frequently refer to France over the Channel as ‘across the pond’, so I guess it came from that.

  • Jennifer Lakewood

    That is a very sad story. I hope your mom never attended that church again.

  • MARTinNJ

    I am sure you are also dubious about the 20th Century.

  • MARTinNJ

    Are we talking the left ankle or the right ankle? It matters. (Snark).

  • smrnda

    I’m no pagan, but some pagans seem a bit more sex positive.

    I suspect that teaching that ordinary sexuality is bad is a way you control people, and it’s advertizing logic all the way through. Convince people that something normal is broken, sell them a phony fix that doesn’t work, and you get a lifelong customer.

  • b s

    There once was a lady, it’s tearful,
    of performing fellatio was fearful.
    At the moment of dread,
    she’d just turn her head,
    and boy did she get an earful.

  • tracy two crows

    Frog legs are delicious and I’m nowhere near french.I DO however, get to endure Quebec week in Florida every year, does that count?lol *licks fried froggie from fingers*

  • Coolred38

    Interesting that the page link is blocked here. I would assume because it has something related to Israel/Jewish. Love the middle east censorship randomness.

  • Grover Milhouse Taft

    “Israeli Elbows is a great Cream cover band.”

  • Shazam

    What can you expect Muslim men get excited by their goats so yeh a real female (Or in their case under age 4 plus year olds turns them on lol) Yes they are a backwards and sick culture period!

  • Jan Kafka

    I get aroused by the sight of the eyes of burqa-clad women.

  • Randay

    What makes you think that this has anything to do with Muslim men. The town is likely predominately Jewish Orthodox, otherwise why was the hidden message in Hebrew rather than Arabic? The Google translation of the original article also says, “in Israel this year that killed 19 women by their husbands, and hundreds of animals in a violent relationship”

    Who are these presumed men who have violent relationships with animals? They could be Jewish or Muslim, or maybe even Xian.

    Maybe a Hebrew speaker has a better translation.

  • Pogonip

    BTW, the word “legs” was never used. They said “limbs” when referring to legs.

  • Stev84

    The right angles in the middle of the right edge look really weird.

  • Randay

    I don’t know what the practice is today, but in the 1920′s and 30′s it was usual to just paste new ad campaign posters over the previous ones rather than remove them. This led to an aspect of surrealist art where individuals would tear away parts of one or more layers of posters to create a new image or message, a work of art if you like.

    Of course the accumulation of posters had to be removed entirely from time to time. So the art was ephemeral.

  • Aguz

    I thing the vandals were people from the agency itself as the cut out is very, how to say it, neatly. The idea is good regardless, but I’m skeptic to the existence of such neat vandals.

  • Jonas Caleb

    I don’t see why there is an international violence day against women, it should be people. It’s very convenient for feminist ideologues to write men out as victims and cast them as perpetrators attributing to a negative male gender stereotype.

  • MrScruffles

    So these unnamed vandals (Shas? Charedi? Muslims? Drunks?) decided to
    tear down just exactly the part of the poster that the “anti-DV”
    crusaders wanted them to in order to get to the message underneath, and
    did not choose to spray-paint or vandalize it any further. Seems legit.

  • Guest

    The vast, VAST majority of violence in all cultures the world over is suffered by men. Do we not care about them? Why not “End violence against PEOPLE”? Or are men not people too?

  • Rich Wilson

    This is subtle, but sometimes people suffer violence because they are female/black/atheist/gay/trans/albino/disabled.

  • Guest

    Take the Sudan. Men are round up and shot, boys watch their adult fathers/brothers executed, their sisters traded as property, then are handed a rifle and sent to fight on behalf of the warlord who did it and to inflict it on the next family. Unique forms of violence on both genders, but at least the women are allowed to live – a miserable life though it may be. I’m tired of the suffering Olympics.

  • Rich Wilson

    So you’re tired of the suffering Olympics, and your solution is to shit on people who are trying to do something about it because they’re doing it with too narrow a focus for your taste?

    I sure hope you’re doing something pretty major to end suffering, to make up for your shitting on other people’s efforts.

  • Guest

    My point is, lets stop the violence. Not violence against women, because that says women are much more important than the men and boys who are actually suffering a lot more in these horrific places because they don’t have sexual currency. Supposedly liberal people are constantly dividing people into categories in some sort of hierarchy of grief. They discriminate to end discrimination. It’s pitiful. I’ll worry about stopping the violence. I care if anyone is suffering. Man, woman, gay, lesbien, black, white, whatever. I’m sure you do too. But you’ll still insist on the categories as if one person’s suffering takes precedent over another by virtue of the fact that they belong to the current popular demographic of pity.

    From there, I’m done. It didn’t take you long to resort to ad hominem, truly top class discussion there. You must use reddit. Thanks for the chat.

  • Rich Wilson

    You must use reddit, which is why you don’t under stand what an ad hominem is.

    There, now that is an ad hominem.

  • Gust

    You resort to attacking me, not my argument Rich. Everything you’ve said has been a constant deflection or insult simply because I’m not conforming to your doctrine. Liberal minded indeed.

    Anyway, goodnight Rich.

  • UWIR

    “Across the pond” is America.

  • wmdkitty

    You do know that most violent acts are done by men, right?

    Male on male violence is common, yes, and it is glorified in the media, we’re told that “real men” solve disputes with fists and bullets — that’s the root of the problem: men are literally conditioned, from childhood, to view violence as The Solution.

    Male victims and survivors should be taken seriously.

    But asking “What About The Menz?”

    That’s a silencing tactic designed to gloss over the fact that those harmed by violence are disproportionately women and children.

    Please think about that.

  • lishevita

    Oh, this pleases me to no end. When I used to live in Petach Tikvah and work on the border between Bnei Brak and Tel Aviv, I used to see vandalized billboards nearly every day. I always thought it would be fun to just make it even, and go around covering up all the pictures of men on all the billboards. It’s not that I didn’t want the billboards, I just wanted to make a statement about equality. I never did it, but I’m glad that someone twisted the billboard vandalism in a positive way.

  • Nancy Shrew

    I get where you’re going, but it is possible that they only wanted to get rid of the woman’s face—which is fucked up, but I digress.

  • Susan_G1

    Utterly fantastic!!!

  • MrScruffles

    And chose not to get rid of her forehead or hair? Both the Ultra-Orthodox and Shia extremists have issues with women’s hair (and let’s not even get started on the Sunnis). In Iran, a woman is required to cover up her hair to some degree, and cultural norms in the orthodox pressure women to do the same. Apparently, there’s a previously unknown group of religious extremists wandering around that care about a woman’s face, but not hair and forehead, are selective and gracious in their vandalism (and only vandalize posters in a way that helps get the message the poster is giving across), and are okay with anti-DV messages.

  • Nancy Shrew

    I’m very open to the probability that it was staged; I guess it’s just that I’ve heard about enough senseless shit in my life to consider it a possibility, albeit a slim one.

  • Guest

    Man I am so sick of Bnei Brak, I had to live one neighborhood next to it. I guess every tribe has its embarassing clowns, and the orthodox are ours…

  • Little_Magpie

    i seem to remember someone called it the Spanish disease? which given that, if i understand correctly, it was a New World disease that came back with the conquistadores, is at least halfway correct (in that the Spanish would have been the proximate source for the rest of Europe)

  • Little_Magpie

    yep, that’s pretty awesome.

  • Josh Angle

    violence against women has nothing to do with it!! commercials and bulletin boards force a message into your heads “drink coke! you want to be happy and drink coke” or whatever the message is. i believe that in a free society people should be free to choose what they want to bring into their worlds and into their lives. these people choose to live in bni-brake for a reason, they are trying to escape western culture; they do not want what you have to offer! leave em alone

  • Devo Sandberg Kessin

    Ever try tearing duct tape? The billboards are made of a fibrous material. (BTW, I’m not saying it was vandalized or not, just explaining the weird angles)

  • HS

    What’s the connection? These communities value modesty, and don’t have high rates of violence against women. So basically this ad agency went out of their way to offend the residents, just to “cleverly” deliver a message that is no more relevant in Bnei Brak than it is in NY. How nice.

  • HS

    Valuing modesty is not about thinking women are wicked and sinful. They value modesty in men as well. This community has certain values that the ad agency went out of it’s way to offend. Maybe you should actually talk to people instead of judging them.

  • HS

    who says in B’nei Brak women are treated as property? Have you ever been there?

  • HS

    It’s not about seeing them as sexual objects in and of themselves. They believe a person should dress modestly, according to the laws of Torah. That includes women and men. There, men also cover their elbows and knees.

  • HS

    Judaism doesn’t teach that at all. Maybe do some research.

  • HS

    What an incredibly closed-minded thing to say.

  • HS

    Valuing modesty is misogyny now? They value modesty in men and women. The men also cover their elbows and knees.

  • Lauren

    I am an Israeli citizen. They are known in B’nei Brak (and Mea Sharim) for throwing ink on women walking down the street if not dressed “appropriately” including wearing a wig or covering their hair. if they aren’t treated as property, they are certainly controlled or forced to comply with the community “norms”, if you want to be PC.
    Women not from the neighborhood who are there are looked at as, and often called, whores.

    The docim (ultra religious) are a big problem in Israel and not just for stuff like this. They are a drain on the country’s resources (on welfare since the men don’t work), for generations they dodged military service, and are the main group holding back the secular majority, including impeding the peace process with their staunch support of the settlements. Remember Gush Katif?

  • HS

    Where to start?
    I’m also an Israeli citizen. And probably what you would call “dosit” or “haredia”. And a woman.

    I’m spent a lot of time in these neighborhoods. The vast majority of people, just like in any neighborhood in Israel, are good people, who just want to get on with their lives and provide for their children, and uphold the values they see as paramount in life. There are a few crazies that throw ink on women, that insult people, and that rip billboards, but it is by no means the majority. I’ve met plenty of crazy secular people too.

    Ahhhh the myth that Haredim don’t work. Actually 55% of Haredi men work, and a high percentage of women too (I don’t know it exactly). Now, that is a lower percentage than the country average, which is around 75% of Israeli men, but still much higher than 0%, right?
    I’m not even sure what “the main group holding back the secular majority” means…

    It’s just wrong to say that “for generations they dodged military service”. For many years, the official policy of the government was that yeshiva bachurim don’t have to join the army. That’s not dodging, that’s just going along with government policy, set up by David Ben Gurion, btw. Now that the policy has changed, I agree that they should join the army, but I also know that the army has to be ready to receive them – i.e. set up enough programs with the right conditions for Haredim to serve.

    And I guess you’re lumping Charedim in with Dati Leumi (I’m not sure why, because Datiim Leumiim serve in the army at a much higher rate than any other community in the country) with your comment on “settlements”. I remember Gush Katif very well. I remember a government turning on its own people, and kicking innocent people out of their houses that they had paid for and in many cases built with their own 2 hands. And for what? For rockets on Tel Aviv?

    It can be very worthwhile to get to know people instead of relying on what you hear about them in the news or online.

    The yishuvim/”peace process” is a different discussion all together, and I don’t want to get into it now. I’ll just say I don’t understand how building houses could be holding up a “peace process”, when the conflict is not now, nor has it ever been about land.

  • Matt Davis

    Yes, it does. Have you not read Leviticus and Deuteronomy? There are loads of stupid rules about sexuality in there. Please.

    Maybe if I’d said “Most religions” it would have been better, but there’s always going to be exceptions. However, Judaism isn’t one of them.

  • HS

    You said “all religions teach that ordinary human sexuality is bad”. Judaism teaches that human sexuality is very positive, given the right circumstances, and the right partner.
    A husband is required to sexually satisfy his wife according to Jewish law.
    If you’re reading the Torah with no commentary or explanation from Torah scholars, I understand why you misunderstood.

  • Rich Wilson

    Telling other people how to dress isn’t sex positive. Recognizing that people can dress how they want, and it’s nothing to do with sex, is sex positive.

  • shifra

    Valuing modesty is valuing the woman by putting an emphasis on her whole personhood rather than one part of her being made into the whole, it is the preserving of the dignity of the woman. That being said, vandalism is not an appropriate and dignified response.

  • In the know

    I suspect that anyone that understands the slightest thing about the ultra-orthodox lifestyle would be aware that modesty, amongst both men and women, includes refraining from publicly flaunting one’s looks, dressing to attract the opposite sex and otherwise displaying a lack of humility. Conflating an image which they find offensive- set up above their neighbourhoods- with violence against women is like conflating atheism with amorality.

  • Feminerd

    They attack women who don’t dress “modestly” enough. No one, and I do mean no one, should be physically attacked for the clothes they wear or don’t wear. And yes, I do mean even those dressed truly offensively (like in a Nazi uniform or KKK outfit). Putting up an “offensive” picture of a woman’s face and having that get defaced is, in fact, directly tied to the same attitudes that lead to violence against women.

    Note, I’m not saying that there were truly vandals. It’s impossible to say if the vandalism was staged or not. But “flaunting” the fact that women exist is not an excuse to get offended, and having more worry for a bigot’s feelings than the horrible ideas the bigot espouses is really pretty shitty of you.

  • Neurotoxin

    I disagree. The vandals may hold ridiculous beliefs but they aren’t stupid, and they realized upon succeeding at their vandalism that they had lost a major political battle by doing exactly what the ad agency intended for them to do. As for you HS, the ultra-conservatism of these values unfortunately often translates into violence that is never reported or in any way countenanced – and the ad agency successfully demonstrated that for this community, ‘valuing’ modesty translates into a violent intolerance of immodesty. People have a right to their own values but NOT a right to others respecting these values, and their values do NOT give them carte blanche to be violent toward those that don’t respect their values.

  • tickletik

    And then the next time they will simply use paint. Congratulations on antagonizing people for absolutely no reason just to score a petty point. And the best part is, they will now associate anti-violence against women with heretics. So it’s a double win!

  • tickletik

    They didn’t involve themselves one way or the other with Gush Katif. So while some of us do remember it, you obviously don’t.

    And for a leftist to open her mouth about caring about the majority is a real laugh. You could not possibly give less of a damn what the majority want, given that the majority have for years wanted to scrap the “peace process”. Only you are so good at lying to the outside world and gaming the system internally that the majority are frustrated, and the world thinks you actually represent us.

  • tickletik

    Yes, it has effectively convinced some Haredim that now they must be against anti-violence. So thank you for the extra wife beatings. I think assholes like you, and the assholes in the Haredi community should both be put in a leaky rowboat and shoved into the ocean. Then the rest of us could get along in peace like human beings.

  • tickletik

    “I’m not even sure what “the main group holding back the secular majority” means…”

    It’s a dodge. She’s trying to pretend she represents the majority. Leftists and their lies, remember?