Contributed by:
Senator Lisa Shoman

I write to you on the mentioned subject in several capacities – as a former Chairman of Belize Telecommunications Limited, a Senator, a Belizean, and a woman. As a taxpayer, I would also add the capacity of shareholder.

DigiCell has, for some time now been conducting a social media advertising campaign on Facebook and Instagram which carries advertisement of the services offered by your company which are offensive to women, and lately, degrading and in one particular case, suggests that violence/abusive restraint are not only acceptable, but laudable and uses the hash tag #tryduct tape.
The matter first came to my attention with the “ Free WiFi Pan Di Road” campaign, when two images were used to sell your product line. One was a close-up of a female bottom, clad in jeans. The juxtaposition was clear to most. Innuendo about “free wifey” escaped the notice of no one, and the egregious use of the body part to sell “wifi pan di road” was unmistakable.

The ad campaign did not end there. Another image was of a woman leaning suggestively into a vehicle, with the legend FREE WiFi pan di road. The link with transactional sex was clear.
There was significant protest and comment on social media on the matter, and your marketing department either remained oblivious to the negative feedback, or they simply chose to ignore it.
This past weekend, two more ads came to my attention. The first featured a suggestive photograph of a woman (actress Jennifer Coolidge) with the accompanying text: ladies meet cougar. she is the enemy. she is mature, experienced, rich and loves young boys. your young boys. luckily DigiCell has equipped you to fight back!
I was utterly appalled and disgusted at the use by DigiCell of the image of Jennifer Coolidge to sell their product, coupled with the tawdry text above.

The message was unmistakable and degrades women but in particular, older women. This was not the first time DigiCell had used female flesh in order to advertise its product, but it was the first time as far as I am aware, that this particular type of suggestive degradation has been used, implying among other things, that older affluent women are insatiable pedophiles. It is completely unacceptable.

Furthermore, if DigiCell did not get permission to use the image of Ms. Coolidge, it is stealing. It probably would not be the first use of an image without prior authorization by the DigiCell marketing team either.

About thirty minutes after I had posted my objections on the DigiCell Face Book page, and loudly voiced my discontent on my personal page, the offending advertisement was removed, without a word of apology or explanation.

I did however, manage to capture the ad, as did many other Belizeans by screen shooting the same, and I include with this letter, image files of the ad.
As if this were not sufficient, other outraged Belizean women brought to my attention another advertisement, featuring a young woman, bound and gagged with rope and duct tape covering her mouth, being held by a man, with text on the picture saying : This could be us but you keep escaping

This meme used by DigiCell for an ad is accompanied this text :
Sighhhhhhhhhhhh, there’s nothing like true love….but if your true love keeps escaping, Talk & Text with them ALL NIGHT for only $2.49 with DigiCell’s new Nightshift. Just dial * 638 to activate.

and if they el chapoed on you, call the US or Mexico or China or India or any of the top 10 most dialed countries for as low as 19 cents a minute in July to track em down!
#GetMORE #TeamDigiCell #tryducttape

Memes like this help to perpetuate a culture of contempt for women and abuse of their personhood. It is this that helps to cement a culture of violence against women, and equates women as flesh for male consumption.

It caters to, and is dreamed up by an adolescent male fantasy of rape, submission, degradation, depredation of women, and incredibly, the geniuses who create your ad campaigns helpfully suggest that the consumer “#tryducttape . Even more incredibly, some marketing superior of the genius(es) sanctioned it.
These ads serve to anoint your company as an endorser, if not an accomplice of rape culture.

Your corporation peddles the suggestion that the rightful place of women is to be an object of “true love” – bound, gagged and submissive. And for what? For the most egregious of reasons –to market and sell your products in the cyber-marketplace.
We are, as Belizean taxpayers, purportedly the owners of a company without any apparent scruples when it comes to using women in any possible form or fashion to sell its product. It is utterly unacceptable.

As a woman, as a Belizean, as a taxpayer/owner, as a former Chairman of BTL, as a Senator, I demand, on behalf of myself and all Belizeans, the following :

• An immediate and public apology from the Board of Directors of BTL for the offending DigiCell ad campaigns;

•An immediate cessation of any advertising that is degrading to any human being, but especially to women and girls, ethnic minorities and the LGBT Community;

• An immediate investigation to determine the intellectual authors as well as those who approved the use of the DigiCell ad campaign, in particular the last two referenced, and swift and appropriate sanctions for the offenders;

• That BTL immediately seek assistance of experts in Gender Justice and Equality to investigate the extent to which the corporate culture of BTL is infected with misogyny and homophobia;

• The swift development and implementation of a Corporate Gender and Human Rights policy, and a zero tolerance policy of misogyny and degradation of women at all corporate levels., including but not limited to advertising.
Nothing short of this will provide you with the opportunity to try to restore the tarnish placed on your company by the offending marketing/advertising team in charge of DigiCell ads on social media.

Lisa M Shoman

Copy to BTL Board of Directors
• Nestor Vasquez – Chairman
• Anwar Barrow
• Colonel George Lovell
• Audrey Wallace
• Ambrose Tillett
• Dr. Colin Young
• Eric Eusey
• Dr. Carla Barnett

BTL Managers
• Rafael Marin – Chief Strategy Officer
• Mario Quiroz – Chief Information Officer
• Marlon Johnson – Chief Sales and Marketing Officer

CC. The Prime Minister,
The Minister Responsible for Telecommunications,
The Special Envoy for Women and Children,
Women’s Issues Network – WIN Belize.

Public Service Ad.

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