Viral Feminist Campaign Poster Plagiarizes Art Student Project—Oops
"Cheeky," "asking for it," and "slut," appear in both works.
Do great minds think alike, or does a new feminist poster series about how women are judged by their appearance and attire rip off a student project on the same topic?
A new campaign designed by Theresa Wlokka and Frida Regenheim of the Miami Ad School, Hamburg, for German woman’s rights non-profit Terre des Femmes is strikingly similar to Judgments, a photograph by Pomona Lake (formerly known as Rosea Lake) that went viral back in 2013 (see When Is Artist-on-Artist Theft Okay? Jamian Juliano-Villani and Scott Teplin Duke it Out).
Both projects depict a woman’s legs, with gradations indicating how she might be judged based on the length of her skirt. Is she a prude, flirty, or provocative? No matter what she wears, misogynistic attitudes are all-too-often in play.
Lake took to social media to respond to the Terre Des Femmes work, tweeting to the non-profit that their project was “a really blatant ripoff of my work, FYI.” While she acknowledged that the posters promoted an important cause, she maintained that she should have been credited for the concept. “We’re all #feminist, we’re all fighting the same fight. Thanks for amplifying the message. Ask next time?” Lake added.
In addition to using the same measuring stick visual conceit as Lake’s piece, the Terre des Femmes posters use many identical descriptors as the earlier work: “old fashioned,” “cheeky,” “asking for it,” slut,” and “whore” appear in both pieces. The new posters expand on Lake’s idea with two additional images focusing on a woman’s neckline and heel-height.
“Sometimes you can absorb ideas without realizing where it’s from, but in this instance, word for word the projects are the same,” Lake told the Huffington Post. “If they had emailed me and reached out for permission and credited me with the idea, I would have said yes.”
A pair of leggings released by 24Dientes in 2010 play with the same idea, albeit with less negatively charged gradations such as “demure,” “passionate,” and “sensual.”
Regenheim, who has since deleted her account, posted a Tweet indicating that she had been in touch with Lake and received permission to use the idea. Lake quickly denied the claim, tweeting “Um… ‘we’re all on board’? No. I still have not been credited.”
“There’s such a big black cloud over such a simple, fun thing as clothing. It should be a way of expressing yourself and something to have fun with. Not a foundation to judgement,” Wlokka wrote to the Huffington Post. “Of course we wanted to be unique, but we didn’t see it as something negative that others wanted the same change as us. And that’s something that [Pomona] agreed on when we emailed with her.”
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