Flush Away social media challenge in 2020 - and how to keep it tasteful

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  • kimmee22
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Flush Away social media challenge in 2020 - and how to keep it tasteful

Hello SuSanA forum friends!

I wanted to share with you the fun 5-day game planned by FLUSH , Loo Tours , and The POOP Project will be running on social media during the holidays. The purpose of the game is to have fun by enjoying some arts & crafts around toilets while celebrating the end of the year.

Submitting at least two times gives people free admission into one of our events. Also, people in the US are eligible to win a Grand Prize of a year's supply of Reel bamboo toilet paper!

Each day will have a theme with some directions that we'll share on Twitter and/or Instagram. Here are some hints about the 5 days of games:
  • Day 1: Toilet Paper Challenge (arts & crafts)
  • Day 2: Thank You (Sanitation Workers) Challenge (gratitude)
  • Day 3: Toilet/WC Upgrade Challenge (design)
  • Day 4: Bristol Bake-Off Challenge (baking)
  • Day 5: Final Flush Challenge (therapy)
We are judging submissions based on creativity and fun! We encourage people to think outside the box (so long as it’s tasteful).

We are hoping people join us, and we invite the water & sanitation world to join us, too!

More information is on this link: https://www.flushwash.org/post/all-about-flush-away-2020 

Also, feel free to reach out if you have questions about participation or anything.
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  • Elisabeth
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Re: Flush Away social media challenge in 2020 - and how to keep it tasteful

I was wondering how this competition/game went and found the summary on their website here:  www.flushwash.org/post/all-about-flush-away-2020

You can also look at some of the tweets made during the campaign by searching for #FlushAway2020 on Twitter:
twitter.com/search?q=%23Flushaway2020&src=typed_query

One thing that made me pause was this content rule:

Keep it Tasteful: Pictures or videos that included real poo or sensitive materials (aka genitalia) were automatically disqualified and reported as abuse on social media.

Whilst I can totally understand this, I just wonder if "real poo" really should be such an issue. Real urine is OK; real menstrual blood not OK (? Hence in ads for sanitary pads the use of blue colour instead...), real poo not OK. Interesting, isn't it?

We sometimes have similar discussions on Wikipedia, where we do like to show real (medical) images of body parts and body functions but it can also be a fine line regarding what is OK & tasteful and what is not OK or vulgar. Often, one resorts to schematic depictions instead. 

When you look at the Wikipedia article on feces, you see some real images of human and animal feces. The animal feces are somehow easier to "accept" than the human feces images:
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feces

Kimberley, did you have any further discussions on this during the design or evaluation of your social media activities?

Regards,
Elisabeth
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  • kimmee22
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Re: Flush Away social media challenge in 2020 - and how to keep it tasteful

Hi Elisabeth,

This response was crafted with Shawn Shafner from the POOP Project, Rachel Cole-Wilkin from Loo Tours, and me.

Good question about the poo taboo – it is something we considered. It's something that all three of us working on this project deal with in our professional lives (as I'm sure you do, as well). Of course, the scatology taboos are self-reinforcing. There is certainly value to pictures of real poo being daylit to all confront the honest and simple nature of our existence.

It's a case of thinking about what communication tools and images will be right to engage the particular audience for every project. In this case, the contest aimed to be inclusive of those both in and outside the WASH sector, including families we wanted it to feel accessible and welcoming to those who might not already be used to talking toilets and poo daily basis. We didn’t want to play into that taboo, but we acknowledge that most people hold it.

We created that language for the sake of wanting something that felt friendly to the average person and to discourage pranksters who could have wanted to provoke with ill-intentioned poo pics using the game’s hashtag. Our goal is to destigmatize conversations about sanitation, not gross people out, and turn them off from opening to conversations.

Thanks,
Kim
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  • paresh
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Re: Flush Away social media challenge in 2020 - and how to keep it tasteful

Thanks Kim, Shawn and Rachel for a very thoughtful response. 

I agree that as professionals we may be okay discussing and seeing poop (incl. pictures) all the time and it is mostly not the case with non-sector people. 

Could you please elaborate a little more on

Of course, the scatology taboos are self-reinforcing.

There have been discussions here on taboos related to sanitation and MHM (which many are also working to overcome in their respective societies/work areas), but none on scatology taboos. Do they vary across cultures/geographies? Any basic readings you would suggest to get acquainted with the subject. 

Thanks
paresh
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Re: Flush Away social media challenge in 2020 - and how to keep it tasteful

Hi Paresh, 
Taboos are an interesting topic.  Much sociology literature addresses the nature of taboos and their evolution through time, but strangely, the best basic overview I have found is in a journal of economics.  Right off the bat, they quote "The strength of the taboo is determined by the number of individuals that obey it." (Fershtman, Gneezy, & Hoffman, 2011. Taboos and Identity: Considering the Unthinkable.  doi:  www.researchgate.net/deref/http%3A%2F%2F...0.1257%2Fmic.3.2.139 )
So, the reflexive nature of taboos is core to their existence.  If a critical mass didn't agree to self-censor, the "taboo" wouldn't have social power.  
In WASH, we do walk a fine line, as Kim pointed out.  Flouting taboos entirely does nudge the social bar, but may do so at the expense of an immediate message.  Change on taboos is always incremental, and relies on some actors "nudging" and others "flouting".  We need both for change in the social system.  The approach behind this challenge appears to have a solid strategic base in the "nudge" category - the whole purpose of the endeavor was to increase comfort around toilet-talk, so the event gently scraped away at the taboo of talking toilets and poop, without taking on more heavily grounded social taboos like images of feces.  The latter may have narrowed the audience to those who were already receptive to the topic.
For a fun read on social taboos around toilets and toilet talk, check out "The Last Taboo: Opening the Door on the Global Sanitation Crisis" by Black and Fawcett.  It gives words to much that is obvious to sanitation professionals,  (and likely covers ideas you've already spent much time discussing), but also provides interesting historical context on the shifting of taboos around sanitation topics. 
books.google.com/books?id=TV0YWguY3nEC&p...#v=onepage&q&f=false
Cheers, 
~Froggi

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  • Chaiwe
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Re: Flush Away social media challenge in 2020 - and how to keep it tasteful

This must have been a lot of fun! A sure way to catch the attention of everyday people on issues of Poo.

To touch a little more on the subject of Poo being a taboo topic, I personally think we are still a long way when it comes to talking about faeces, sewerage and toilets in general, (this in reference to people that are not Poo experts). Poo-related topics remain 'taboo' topics among different ethnic/ social groups in many parts of the world.

I came across a perfect example from eastern Zambia, where in some cases men are reluctant to build latrines for their families because latrines attract taboos with in-laws and grown-up children of the opposite sex as sharing a facility is considered disrespectful. 'Why Latrines Are Not Used: Communities’ Perceptions and Practices...' :https://journals.plos.org/plosntds/article?id=10.1371/journal.pntd.0003570

Similarly In Kenya, among the Kilifi population it is a norm that the faeces of in-laws should never mix and it is not acceptable for one to defecate in another family member's open defecation site for fear that this may cause the offender to be 'bewitched'. 'Breaking shit taboos: CLTS in Kenya': pubs.iied.org/sites/default/files/pdfs/migrate/G02800.pdf ?

Here is another interesting and relatable example for many. Medical personnel face a challenge in requesting for fecal samples from patients because of the different taboos surrounding faeces among different people. The main barriers of the collection of such samples being embarrassment among them. 'Patients’ perspectives on providing a stool sample to their GP..':  www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4220220/

In some parts of India, toilets are regarded as spiritually unclean and people have been known to not use a toilet that is inside their home despite owning one. 'Dispelling the poo taboo...':  www.scienceline.org/2019/11/dispelling-the-poo-taboo/

I would say the poo taboo falls under the same taboo category as sex and menstruation.

Regards,
Chaiwe
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Re: Flush Away social media challenge in 2020 - and how to keep it tasteful

Thanks so much for this rich conversation!

Two grounding texts for me in this work:

Mary Douglas' Purity and Danger: An Analysis of Concepts of Pollution and Taboo. She speaks about taboos as supporting a particular hierarchy of status. Poop is at the bottom of the hierarchy, sociologically speaking: "dirt." Dirt is anything that disrupts the hierarchy. When it isn't where it belongs, it becomes "matter out of place." Like a hair in your soup, or soup in your hair :)

"Dirt" contaminates that which it comes into contact with through "magical contagion," as well-described in The Anatomy of Disgust by William Ian Miller. This creates that self-reinforcement. To break the taboo is to sully yourself, unless done very skillfully.

Magical contagion also goes the other way. Think about "holy water" bestowing its properties on whatever it touches. So, with poop, I think we have a careful balancing act. Sometimes I imagine this as Brad Pitt with a rat. The rat is contaminating generally. But if Brad Pitt were holding it, caressing its tiny whiskers, perhaps we'd see a huge uptick in people owning pet rats. Or is the rat simply too "dirty" to move the needle on Brad Pitt? What if he was in a roomful of rats? Similarly, if we're going to talk about poop and be taken seriously, what other levers of status (celebrities, doctors, facts) or social disarmament (humor, good design) might we need to counterbalance the stigma our audience might bring in to the conversation?

Of course, these viewpoints are largely grown in the "West." I really appreciate, Chaiwe, hearing these examples from the African continent, and am curious of the study of taboo and disgust is seen any differently there or in other cultures. 

An introduction by the author of Anatomy of Disgust:  https://archive.nytimes.com/www.nytimes.com/books/first/m/miller-disgust.html  

Wikipedia on Purity and Danger:  en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Purity_and_Danger

Thanks again for the stimulating conversation!!
Shawn
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  • Britta
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Re: Flush Away social media challenge in 2020 - and how to keep it tasteful

Such an interesting conversation, thank you for sharing your perspectives.

One way we at Vulvani are trying to normalize periods is through period art and photography. We think that breaking a taboo artistically has traditionally been a good idea. Why? When period blood turns into art, people consciously engage with their own menstruation. Through period art, the everyday reality of many people is made visible – whether in abstract forms or through real images.  We're creating something beautiful and special out of something painful (for some) or supposedly gross. To change the perspective of menstruation and thus rewrite – improve the meaning of menstruation. We want to show the world that menstrual blood is not disgusting, but can rather be something beautiful.

Feel free to check out these links to get a better idea of what I mean by period art & period photography we're doing at Vulvani:
- Article "When period blood turns into art" ( vulvani.com/en/when-period-blood-turns-into-art-a-photo-gallery
- Vulvani Gallery ( vulvani.com/en/vulvani-gallery-free-stock-photos-menstruation )
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Re: Flush Away social media challenge in 2020 - and how to keep it tasteful

Thanks Britta
The pictures posted at the links you shared are beautiful. I hope they are used widely by the sector professionals  in the material they share as part of awareness generation and materials including posters related to events like conferences, seminars, etc. (See the poster in this thread where the organisers have used a cut pomegranate to  symbolise bleeding)

Only once the sector professionals start using the right words and images, we can hope to normalise talking about taboo topics, an essential to overcome them in the long run. As Froggi rightly pointed out

"The strength of the taboo is determined by the number of individuals that obey it." (Fershtman, Gneezy, & Hoffman, 2011).

I think Unicef's Mr Poo campaign and 💩 (the poop emoticon) are great steps towards dismantling the taboo surrounding sanitation, open defecation and poop.

Chaiwe ,
Thanks for sharing those resources. I can totally understand the embarrassment related to handling stool samples. Recall an aunt being reluctant to send stool sample with anybody else and therefore required the uncle to travel to the city. (this was the time when personal cars were not so common and travelling to the city was comparatively expensive). Perhaps the implications of such taboos on healthcare could be an entry point to dismantle them. What do you think?      

Regards
paresh
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