Earlier this month, the US-based crowd funding platform Catapult launched its COVER STORIES campaign to draw attention to human rights abuses faced by girls worldwide. It has garnered widespread attention, accumulating both praise for making International Women’s Day more than a “cover story,” as well as criticism for sensationalizing and racializing very complex issues.
Catapult’s CEO, Maz Kessler, chats with us about the campaign’s inspiration, public reaction and more.
What was the inspiration behind Catapult.org’s COVER STORIES campaign?
We’re following in a long tradition of using well-known media to underline a social justice message. We hope that it helps people to understand the scale of these human rights issues. Culture hacking, or “detournment” is a technique that’s been used by many organizations, activists and campaigns, including ActUp, and Adbusters. It’s a great way to get attention for difficult issues.
Given the myriad human rights abuses that women and girls face globally, how did you select the topics — child marriage, child trafficking & slavery, and sexual exploitation — for COVER STORIES?
As a crowdfunding platform Catapult supports all issues that impact the lives of girls and women worldwide – currently we have 28 open issue categories called out on the platform! Our NGO partners define their own issue categories for their projects, tag themselves, and we display these.
The three issue categories that we chose for COVER STORIES were all highly important global injustices, and also well suited to map directly onto the girls and women’s magazines parodies. We wanted to marry the COVER STORIES parodies with the highlighted statistics for the issues because there is such low awareness of the scale of these injustices.
Child Brides is an obvious candidate – bridal magazines need only the addition of the word “child” married with the image of a frightened young woman to bring home the shocking reality of this specific human rights abuse. The ease in which we were able to satirize the cover copy and bend it to our purposes made child marriage a great candidate for the campaign.
Both Good Slavekeeping (our Good housekeeping satire) and Thirteen (a satire of Seventeen) met similar requirements. In the case of Thirteen, we feel it is incredibly important to highlight injustices in the U.S., in Catapult’s own backyard, not just globally.
Although public reaction to the campaign has been overwhelmingly positive, there has been some negative feedback. How do you respond to those who report feeling offended by the COVER STORIES?
We welcome the feedback, and hope that the conversation can continue. We’re interested to hear in more detail and nuance from people who might have found the campaign offensive in some way.
Have the associated projects seen an influx of financial support since the campaign launch?
While Catapult always links any communication efforts to the opportunity to take action, COVER STORIES was not a fundraising campaign per se. However, we saw a massive spike in donations to all projects on the platform during the week of the campaign, as well as significant new engagement, membership and of course press coverage directly driven by the campaign.
Look, almost every day we share the incredible work of our NGO partners. When a project is fully funded, we celebrate this on our social channels. When an organization delivers their 90-day report, we share these, and link people to the reports on the site. We talk about the difficult and dangerous work of frontline organizations defending the rights of girls and women, as well as featuring issues that often aren’t talked about.
But the media is almost indifferent to the work of advancing the lives of girls and women. And to the realities of girls and women’s lives worldwide.
So we plan to continue creating powerful and challenging visual campaigns that bring attention to the issues, build engagement, and give people everywhere a clear way to take action.