It is coming up on two years this July since Wicked Campers – and consequently its deeply disappointing owner, John Webb – entered my family sphere directly; through my then 11 year old daughter; with one of their worst van slogans.

If you believe this is a small issue, I emphatically disagree.  As human beings, we should be looking at the patterns occurring within our current existence; to then evaluate for best forward action.  This is my understanding of critical thinking.
In an ever more toxic climate, where politicians keep coughing up terms like, Domestic Violence or Alcohol Related Violence, speaking of the social emergency surrounding these issues; and expressing apparent heartfelt pleas of Creating Change – what better test case is there today to show that no change is happening at all, than Wicked Campers.
But words are unequivocally Not. Enough.
Change from our leaders must come through their ACTION and this has not been the case with a simple business like Wicked, which not only degrades women and girls but promote drug and alcohol use – sometimes using children’s cartoon characters to communicate that – whilst also passive aggressively pushing their gutter sexual perspectives publicly.

In short, John Webb – is a bully.
We are always speaking about bullies in schools and how to deal with them – funny how this bully seems to be pushing his toxic perspectives around without so much as a fine. Not even that.

Basically the rundown of this Wicked ‘journey’ has been like this:

  • My daughter saw ‘the slogan’ in July 2014 + I did the petition; it all went global and fast.
  • Wicked called ‘uncle’ three days after the petition started (got 127000+ signatures in 4 days), covered the offending slogan and said they’d cover any other ‘insensitive ones’ (their words) over the following 6 months.
  • On the fourth day, Greens Senator Larissa Waters took the issue to The Senate, where they were unanimously condemned. Human Rights Commissioner Tim Wilson said it was free speech. Yet NO OTHER PLATFORM is lawfully allowed that free speech – not on a billboard, not in an ad – so why is John Webb afforded this luxury?

The thing is – they did not respray any other vans besides the one my daughter saw. They are a company – particularly its owner John Webb – with no integrity, not only was a promise broken, the slogans have worsened in some cases.

  • When the six months were up – mid Jan 2015 – I released the post, Literally Wicked. Campers still offend., which is still being updated by me (even today), as the public continue to send through images from our Australian roads. Please note the promise that John Webb made at the start of the post.
  • Unfortunately, seeing as it was considered ‘old news’, the media outlets that hounded me six months earlier were disinterested to pursue the fact that John Webb lied and has consequently continued to cash in on the indifference of our culture. This has meant that it’s only been recently that some people – including reporters – have been enlightened to the fact that Wicked did not follow through on their promise and essentially put the whole issue back to square one.

I have been a high school teacher for 20 years and started a business providing media literacy workshops using critical thinking, with high school students. One of the main points I stress is how our brains are forced to continually ‘take pictures’, through the bombardment of both images and words.
I also show them that the way women and girls – females – are represented, is nothing short of useless – mainly objectified. What are we good for in our representation?
When women and girls are not represented to be more than visual and sexual objects to be assessed and used, it’s little surprise that a culture of males show contempt and disrespect toward females; that emergency climate we keep talking about.

The Federal Government is currently showing the following ad about Violence against Women, which talks of ‘Respect’ and the fact that we have to ‘Stop it at the Start’.

Following is a list of van slogans that have been on the streets of Australia (a few from NZ) since Wicked Campers reneged on their promise. Please think of the word ‘Respect’ for women and girls as you read these:

Don’t die a virgin, terrorists are up there waiting for you
She can’t wrestle, but you should see her box
Legs are a girl’s best friend, but even the best of friends must part
Save water…take a shower with your neighbour’s daughter
Bukkake ruined my carpet
A blowjob a day keeps the breakup away
I ate so much pussy in those days, my beard looked like a glazed donut
Virginity is curable / She wants my brick (Hypersexualised LEGO figures)
Pussy; taste the difference (Pepsi Logo)
Fat chicks are harder to kidnap
I’ve often wanted to drown my troubles, but I can’t get my wife to go swimming (NZ)
Life sucks if your girlfriend doesn’t
My cock just died, can I bury it in your backyard?
Blow in her face and she’ll follow you anywhere
Your thighs won’t touch if my head’s between them (bare breasted woman on the side)
OMG my pussy needs recovery but I still want more
Boobs prove men can concentrate on two things at once
To all virgins, thanks for nothing
If a dog sniffs you’re (sic) arse, then you’re probably a bitch
Everyone feels the cold except Polar Bears and Hookers
It makes my heart race when you sit on my face
What do you put in your mouth but don’t swallow
Honk if you want to be dipped in chocolate and thrown to the lesbians
A blowjob a day beats an apple
We only break for pussy
Women fake orgasms because they think men care
OMG Barbie’s a slut
Hurricanes are like women – when they come they’re wet and wild; when they leave they take your house and car
A blowjob is a great last minute gift
I used to be a veterinarian and drive like an animal, now I’m a gynaecologist…
A man would be interested in a woman’s mind, if it bounced gently as she walked (NZ)

And there are many more. Many more.
These have no place in the public sphere. They titillate and feed an already hyper sexualised world and contributes to the desensitising and normalisation that this – as human beings – is all we’re about. I beg to differ.

So where are we now?

Since Wicked Campers reneged on their promise there has been a lot of action and today there is quite a bit of momentum.

  • A feminist activist group of Brisbane women called Wicked Pickets formed in July 2014, inspired by my petition. They have written to every QLD MP, including all Cabinet Ministers, asking them to act against the blatant misogyny of the WC slogans and have held numerous rallies against Wicked Campers in Brisbane – Wicked Campers HQ city. In July 2015, I flew up to Brisbane to speak at one of these rallies, where we marched and presented signatures to QLD Senator Claire Moore, a supporter of the cause, asking the Government to provide protections to vilification against women and girls in the same way they provide it to other groups based on race, religion, sexuality and gender identity. They have spoken at community and union events, and met with the QLD Anti Discrimination Commissioner. QLD Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and Federal Minister for Women, Senator Michaelia Cash have also received correspondence and signatures from Wicked Pickets. They have been very active.
  • Parent Christine King, who found herself and her children, confronted with an offensive van in late 2014, started her own campaign; tirelessly writing to Attorney-Generals, MPs, Police Commissioners, Camping Organisations, Mayors looking at bylaws to see Wicked Campers held accountable. She has secured a meeting with the QLD Attorney-General, Yvette D’Ath this week (April 7) and needs signatures on her petition to Ms D’Ath, to back up her amazing submission. Her petition is much more important than mine was because mine was addressed to a liar, but hers is aimed at people who can make legislative change.
    Please sign this important petition here.
  • 2015 – I wrote to the companies that I saw had their logo used by Wicked; The Wiggles (who are represented as stoned), Pepsi, LEGO and Mattel. They all said they passed it onto their legal teams but weren’t sure if anything could be done. Just recently, however, an NZ Federal MP seems to have flagged their attention. Fingers crossed.
  • In mid-2015, I had a meeting with the Federal Shadow Communications Minister, Jason Clare, who then arranged to meet with the Advertising Standards Bureau head, Fiona Jolly, to discuss possibilities of giving the ASB the power in fine businesses, like Wicked Campers, who have been found in breech of Community Standards, but do not take the offending slogans or images down. Ultimately, however, Jason could only forward recommendations and I appreciate the fact he investigated the options.
  • Also in mid-2015, a concerned citizen, Verina Green, presented a question to Malcolm Turnbull (when Communications Minister) on Our Say, where she also highlighted the fact that the Advertising Standards Bureau was a relative ‘toothless tiger’ when it came to enforcing those who breech standards. He promised to take a look at it. He then became PM.
  • A great success occurred when in April 2015, Coralie Alison of Collective Shout, wrote a simple tweet to Lonely Planet, asking them why they promote Wicked Campers. I backed her up and sent them the link (above) with the evidence of the vans that were still on our roads – and Lonely Planet DROPPED THEM from both their Australian and New Zealand publications. All from such a simple but effective action from Coralie.
  • In March this year, New Zealand  have taken some great action! Wicked Campers have been dumped from the Department of Conservation’s tourist information listing for those wanting to hire camper vans. Ministers – led by associate tourism minister Paula Bennett – are searching for ways to pressure the company into dropping the slogans.
  • Not just one but TWO New Zealand campsites have banned Wicked Camper vans from their sites regardless of slogan. Wicked have had more than enough time to rectify this situation. I only wish Australian campsites would follow their lead.
    ** Addition 7 April 2016: A very exciting development; Queenstown NZ council are going to start issuing fines. Article: ‘Council regulatory boss Lee Webster says: “We disagree so when we have evidence of a sign-written camper that we believe is sexually explicit, lewd or otherwise offensive, we will issue a $300 infringement.’
  • I wrote to the NSW Premier Mike Baird and received an automated response, saying it was a Federal issue – even though not outlined how – a quickly passed the hot potato.

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  • Last week I wrote to the Australian Censorship Board asking whether we could follow New Zealand’s lead; whose Chief Censor is investigating whether the Wicked Camper slogans can be classified as ‘publications’. I am still awaiting their response, although the form stipulated it may take time.
  • **Addition: 13 April – Here is the ACB’s response:

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  • **Addition: 5 April – I wrote to the new(ish) Federal Communications Minister, Senator Mitch Fifield, asking for assistance with this issue.
  • **Addition: 9 May – here is part of the letter from the Minister’s office. Please note the circular argument we always receive; ‘Please complain to the ASB as they are in charge of this, but have no power to have the slogans removed. if lots of people do what Wicked do, then we’ll consider taking action.’
    The frustration I’m feeling is palpable.

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The letter finished there – so, in a nutshell, Wicked Campers are unique and therefore not worth the effort of changing legislation to have their worst slogans removed, let alone having John Webb pay any sort of fine, according to the office of our Federal Minister of Communications.

Which brings us to today.

We’re back in Australia – Byron Bay; a Wicked Campervan hot spot – and a few days ago, on the 1 April, grandfather Paul McCarthy saw the slogan; A blowjob a day beats an apple. He snapped and sprayed over the word ‘blow’.

It is VERY important to note that John Webb – in his original apology to me and media release, clearly stated that people could feel free to spray over or cover any slogans they found offensive.  One was very imaginative:

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Most, however, simply covered over with spray or tape.
In early 2015 – John Webb decided to change his mind and this is how he did it:

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This is the calibre of John Webb. No integrity and a bully.
I’ve spoken with Paul and he is as livid as I am about the situation with Wicked Campers; even mirroring a sentiment I made in the original petition – Enough is Enough!
Paul’s in the ring now too. It will be interesting to see if Paul McCarthy gets charged by Police but regardless, Paul has all our full support.
(Update: Police have dropped charges against Paul)

Freedom of Speech is not what this is about; no-one has that freedom in print. No-one.
We are living in an ever hyper sexualised climate where are our youth (especially) are being wallpapered in very limited visuals of sex and this business contributes to this though its public forum.

If we have leaders who are touting commitment to changing our current sexist climate and the violence that comes from it,

Question #230: Why not *start* with Wicked Campers taking down those offensive slogans?

The Government says that a start has to be made; so if not them – who?

Paula

PS I now solely run the Facebook page Boycott Wicked CampersIt has become an HQ of sorts where all information relating to getting this issue resolved is shared.
Wicked Pickets also have a Facebook page. Follow for updates.

PLEASE help by writing to anyone you feel may be able to help – use the inspiration above.

** Please don’t forget to sign this important petition here

 

 

 

Community.

This word is purported to mean something important – as it should – but this word can only exude power when it is reinforced and supported by an unshakable standard that drives it. Unfortunately, the reality is that we are not in Kansas anymore. The time has come where we must detach ourselves from suckling at the 1984-style illusion that our standards are deeply rooted in the righteous and good, and realise that our pervasive bystander attitude has contributed to allowing those who hold malice in their hearts to systematically disintegrate the standards of yore, using the various social platforms of today to send us careering to a place where we will soon find it hard to recognise ourselves.

What’s more disheartening is that not only are more people absolutely crossing the line of decency and lawful behaviour, they are simply not being held accountable; in fact, online, the opposite is happening more often; where the victims are the ones being put under the microscope and worse, punished for being said victim. In the past, it was all about attaining proof of wrongdoing – but now, in this age of technology which affords us an abundance of evidence, we still find ourselves questioning what it is that’s exactly needed for those committing crimes to be held responsible for having wronged another human being – especially when it comes to misogyny.

A year ago, I wrote that Facebook is evil and this has never been more apparent than today. One only needs to wade through their handling of serious breeches of their ‘Community Standards’  *cough* to see they deliberately have no control; the crux being that the actions of males that clearly cross standards are excused by Facebook, whilst the actions of females (or simply just the names they use) are penalised. The following is just a snapshot of what’s happened in my bubble of existence of late – and it’s only just a snippet of what’s really going on out there.

In recent weeks, some awareness of this issue came to the public light when writer Clementine Ford staged a protest against Sunrise – which started a Facebook debate (since removed) asking the question: ‘What’s it going to take for women to get the message about taking and sending nude photos?’ Incensed at having the searing spotlight of blame be turned toward those who were wronged – AGAIN – instead of towards those who have committed the violation and CRIME, Ford sent a photo with a message to Sunrise.

This brought an onslaught of horrific attack which is sadly becoming the norm when (especially) women call out against the victim-blaming that permeates all discourse in matters of misogyny. I too have been a victim of violent comments.
Well, the misogyny was strong and rife; arrows of hate seeking to target and maim Ford for her audacity. Some messages were so violently threatening, that she screenshot private messages and posted them on Facebook. Ones like this:

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But this was the moment Clementine Ford found herself being punished for publishing the hateful and violent threats being made against her:

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So one can be threatened on Facebook AND produce evidence but still be punished for it? Nothing screams ‘Community’ more than that.
What a safe haven, Facebook. It’s great to know you have our backs.
Suffice it to say that due to a big backlash, Facebook quickly reinstated Ford’s page but this is a rare privilege.

Let’s explore some more.

On the Facebook Triple J Hack page a few weeks ago, the revisited debate as to whether females should be able to buy GST free sanitary pads / tampons etc. was going strong. A friend of mine, going my the Facebook name, She Said, engaged in the conversation and was soon reading the following:

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Charming; especially when the profile shot reveals the young age of the boy who said it:

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When She Said informed him that she was reporting his comments to Facebook, he responded to her with:

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Cunt, Slut, Bitch, Whore, Rape, Gang Rape…the vocabulary used through the discourse of angry, males online – some very young. Seriously, it’s never been like this before.

As we are dealing with Facebook, it came as no surprise that the boy’s comments were deemed NOT to have breached their ‘Community Standards’ and were only gone when the administrators of the Triple J page blocked him from further comment but her page was taken down by Facebook and would not be reinstalled unless she proved her name was legitimate. She had to change her name.

As I’m writing this – for no reason whatsoever – Facebook is doing the same to dynamic, feminist comedian Kirsty Mac:

Screen Shot 2015-07-04 at 11.05.03 pm

Kirsty is livid at the fact Facebook is dictating that her name is not her name. Who wouldn’t be?

Lily Munroe created REAL for Women, and with the help of Kate Drury and Pip Douglas provide a site that engages with research, articles and statistics that can help tackle the pervasive problem that is male violence; as well as provide a safe space for women to talk through anything regarding their experiences as females, if they so wish. On a Facebook post with an image of a headstone with the words, RIP Beauty Standards, the male response went as follows:

Screen Shot 2015-07-05 at 3.31.35 pm

He later apologised on the page, saying he was drunk.

But Facebook closed her page down when Anthony reported the comment because…he was told to look in the mirror? No calling him a Cunt or threatening him with violence – no just a, ‘Fuck off and take a good look at yourself’.
COMMUNITY STANDARDS BREACH ! Wooooop! Whoooop! All Facebook accounts frozen.

The thing I find profoundly bewildering is that many friends and myself have had a long battle with Facebook – getting horrid pages and images removed – to find ourselves continually told that what we were complaining about were fine and dandy. It took quite a while to get this page removed – including THIS photo:

Domestic violence photo

In both instances, I was met with Facebook responses that approved of their staying up. My response to them is at the bottom of the next screenshot, as I could not fathom how this page was actually reviewed and deemed appropriate.

Page NOT taken down

After much complaining – it was ultimately removed.

A video that proved to be profoundly disturbing, showing a man shoot his girlfriend in the head at pointblank range then sit and continue watching TV was enormously difficult to have removed. Many, many complaints were made, but it took weeks to have it finally taken down. I have a screenshot of the ‘after’ moment – but I still think it’s too disturbing an image to put up, even though you can’t see the top part of her body.

If this isn’t Graphic Violence – what the hell is?

Screen Shot 2015-03-26 at 8.46.13 pm Woman being shot. Not violent.

To go down the Facebook porn rabbit-hole is futile. It’s rampant, degrades females and looks to titillate the seemingly insatiable heterosexual male mind and penis, with an immeasurable amount of material to masturbate over. Reported images showing nudity and sexual acts will be taken down, only to be instantly replaced by others. Images I recently reported have the video symbol on them but once clicked, takes you to a dull article about accountancy or Cloud memory – one was for a nice hotel. It’s predatory and it’s feeding on the masses – US – our male minds and female bodies. And we’re allowing it. That’s the tragic part. These sites also have sex being recorded with women participants that look uncomfortable and forced to say the least. Facebook will NOT take these pages down.

So here we are – full circle. A teeny snapshot. Facebook proudly champions their misogyny by allowing an endless sea of pornified and degrading images of women through to violent ideologies against them. And yet, when a woman stands up and raises the red flag to a serious online threat?
Facebook’s response is, Sorry – your name is what?

I just have one question (#229): WHAT Community Standards?

(And this applies to Twitter, as outlined here by Caitlin Roper of Collective Shout – YouTube – Tumblr etc.)

The essential ingredient needed with this issue – any important issue – is critical thinking; when one steps out of the emotion of a situation and looks at solutions through logic. Considering we’ve ironically labelled ourselves the most ‘intelligent’ species on this deteriorating planet (thanks to our parasitic and destructive consuming and wasteful ways) we now seem to be finding solace either in self-destructive behaviour or turning the proverbial blind eye, ultimately hammering the nails into our community coffins…

OR we can take some charge.

Who’s up for a little Facebook boycott? If we all go offline – deactivate – at the same time for a few days or a week or a month – noone will be on either, so you won’t miss out on anything!:)
Facebook may pay attention. Or maybe not. But anything’s better than standing and watching a few take the reigns because ‘someone’s gotta do it’. Let that someone be you, even if it be in a small way.

Remember:The Standard We Walk Past is the Standard We Accept.

Shall we? Yes?
Facebook does not have our back.

Deep Breath.

Yesterday I created some discussion on my blog’s Facebook Page about the #putyourdressout movement – where women around Australia got out their wedding dresses, took a photo of it and posted in on social media, with the above hashtag – to honour Stephanie Scott on the day she would have been married. Stephanie was horrifically murdered six days earlier.

I’m always trying to teach my daughters – especially the one that just entered high school – to think about the core reason for doing anything – mainly due to her recent small engagement with the online world. I tell her that that’s what drives action and that even though her actions may change as she gets older, the core reason behind them, may stay the same. It’s an important thing for all of us to identify, I think.

Yesterday, when I saw the first few wedding dresses pop up on Facebook, I thought about taking out mine but then questioned the action when it didn’t sit right with me. I believe it’s a very well meaning and touching tribute (organised by her friends, so I’ve been told), but after 28 women having been murdered by male violence before her – I felt like I needed to show my respect for her differently. Plus, to be honest, I couldn’t imagine the family perusing through the wedding dresses of others and gaining comfort from them. I may completely wrong here but it’s what stopped me from doing it and think it’s an equally caring action.

My Facebook post prompted a friend to wonder if it was the same as when people put Cricket bats out for Phillip Hughes’s accidental death. I think it is very similar in sentiment, but ball parks away in context. Phillip died due to a freak accident, playing his beloved sport and was honoured as such. Stephanie, however, was the 29th woman murdered by male violence, (or suspected male violence) in Australia so far this year and today the tally went to 30*; a teacher at school in the holidays setting work (like so many of us do). She was a fellow Drama teacher and we may have met one day in the future, at HSC marking perhaps, if her life hadn’t been tragically taken. It’s hit us all in our own way. This is what I did write on Twitter to show my respect:

My post was never one to put this movement down but truly question what the drive was for the action. I won’t go into detail about the responses I received, as most mainly explained the sentiment –  which I reiterate, I understand – but others wrote it’s to create awareness.

This is where it hit the wall for me. Awareness? As a good friend of mine said to me – Awareness we have –> the rate of female deaths from male violence has gone up from one per week – to #OneEveryThreeDaysfrom one year to the next; a little more than double! A few weeks ago I started that hashtag to attach all the stories containing Male Violence Against Women; which is at epidemic proportions. Another one started online was, #MysteryIsMisogyny, a category Stephanie’s murderer falls under – the ‘he was such a quiet man’ or ‘it’s a mystery why he did this’ blanket. These hashtags could actually create more awareness, but sadly, they won’t be as popular as #putoutyourdress, though.

And there’s the conundrum for me. It’s action we need.

As I was pondering this, I read a piece written by my good friend Lily Munroe from REAL for Women titled: While men decide what they stand for; we women must be warriors. Bam!
Just the title alone birthed two thoughts about the #putoutyourdress movement:
1. Are women collectively being warriors about the situation we’re finding ourselves in?
2. Women also need to decide what they stand for.

Well, I stand for a society that finds the spike in male violence against women – against ANYONE – abhorrent and I’m sure most of you do too.
So, what’s next?
The dresses are up and they gave needed comfort to many. But that was yesterday.

What about tomorrow?

Wouldn’t it be a sight if every person who found this murder – and the 28 before Stephanie’s – an insufferable blight on our psyche and safety, marched in every major city demanding a tightening of laws? Check the #OneEveryThreeDays hashtag and see how many men of position charged with sexual assault, have walked free on bail recently in Australia. Legislation was changed due one man’s death due to a King Hit – ads telling guys not to engage violently with other men – but only the sound of crickets is heard on the news and in our timelines about our shameful tally of female deaths.

Look around at what wallpapers our lives and stories; females (girls and women) demeaned as mere sexual objects, whilst males are hailed as heroic through their hyper-masculine toughness. When females are deemed, through representation, as less worthy and merely objects – violence and murder becomes easy (and even condoned to an extent) by the silent society that lets it all slide.

Let’s not forget those first 28 women:

Image from 'REAL for Women'

Image from ‘REAL for Women’

and of course, Stephanie.

Stephanie Scott

Stephanie Scott

May she – may they all – Rest in Peace.

Paula x

PS Up for a kick-arse march? Let’s fill the streets like they do overseas when a few people are killed by terrorism. THIS is terrorism – by our own.

* There has been some confusion about the actual tally. For those using the Destroy the Joint tally, this includes women killed by other women (three this year). This is not to diminish those deaths in the slightest (in the same way that male violence against males is also not to be ignored) but as Male Violence Against Women is the issue that needs a searing spotlight, I use the tally linked in the piece as it follows the #countingdeadwomen campaign of the UK, started by Karen Ingala Smith. Only male murdering female)
Notice the UK tally stands at 25 and they’re three times the population…

My 8 year old gets it.

March 18, 2015

This morning, on my way to school with my 12 year old, I was talking to her about how frustrated I was that over the last two weeks or so, there has been constant reporting on how one man followed another man back to his place and stabbed him to death. Every night, another report about the case. I commented to my daughter that there should be more reports about the 24 women who have been murdered so far, this year (11 weeks) – two murders per week here in Australia.

As we were having dinner tonight The Project DID do a story (we both shot a look at each other), discussing that although the numbers of murders have come down in general of the years, it is a different and alarming story when looking at the increasing statistics of violence against women – with murder obviously being the worst outcome but that a very high percentage of women (87%) experience abuse at least once in their lives; whether it be verbal, physical, at home or out in the streets. The discussion also mentioned how the conversation has to be turned away from victim blaming – although nothing was said about the fact that it predominantly occurs at the hands of a male.
As a society we seem to tip-toe around that glaring fact. Why? I don’t know. Maybe it’s because the discussion generally gets sidetracked with the #NotAllMen arguments and what we should really be dissecting slips away again.

After the story wrapped up, the panelists had a discussion and one of the females said that it angers her that when she goes out into the carpark, she doesn’t feel safe. I can relate to that. Another panelist brought up victim blaming again, saying how we shouldn’t be discussing this issue with statements such as, ‘She shouldn’t have been out getting a taxi at 2am’.

At this moment, my eight year old daughter – who just caught that last sentence – said something along the lines of, ‘But she should be alright because the taxi driver is with her.’

I responded, “These sort of things can happen anywhere and by anyone. What happens if it’s the taxi driver that hurts her?”

She said, “Well then it wouldn’t matter if she got the taxi at night or in the day because that person is a bad person and would do it anyway. So people shouldn’t say that about what time it was.”

Exactly. My eight year old makes a simple deduction – bad people will do bad things regardless, so it’s not the victim’s fault. I was chuffed with her simple logic.

I started to think about what she said in terms of ‘bad people’. If, statistically, violence against women – all violence, actually –  is predominantly done by men (in the United States 90% of murders are committed by males) – how are we to curb this? I’d say that making ‘jokes’ about it, is not the solution; in fact it’s incredibly damaging.

After dinner, I opened up my laptop and lo and behold, one of the most disgusting and dangerous slogans Wicked Campers have (which I thought they had removed) is still being used (Seen in Darwin on Feb 25 2015):

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When violence against women is used as a joke, it only does two things:

1. Creates a sense of permission to feel that women are lesser beings to be violated and hurt – and for the wrong person (like my daughter mentioned) – enact on those sentiments;

2. It creates a sense of dread and fear for women to navigate through this world.

Question #226: Can we please acknowledge that none of this is a joke?

Simply, we are fearful. Our daughters are in danger because society keeps claiming Freedom of Speech, over their – our – safety.

Just last year, a Townsville woman (irrelevant) posed for this image that was for her step-mother’s car – again claiming it was a joke:

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How is it funny to depict a woman tied up with a shovel to bury her? How can we have no compassion for the way this image may trigger women who have endured being tied up – terrorised – trapped – powerless?

I’ll leave you with a post showcasing advice for lads – that includes the following image; amongst other ‘hilarious’ sentiments towards women.

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Whilst these types of expression are continually given oxygen to forge perspectives and attitudes, I’m afraid the future is looking bleak for females. One only need look at what’s happening right now – two women a week are being murdered by men.

Question #227: Can a moral line be drawn? 

Or is it just business as usual?

Deep Breath

Today a good friend of mine ripped out the article from her local Inner West newspaper and sent it to me. It echoes an article I shared last night on social media, about the fact that Wicked Campers is seeking council approval to open a depot on Church Street in St Peters, Sydney. This will mean that, being near a primary school, children will regularly see some of the more unsavoury and insensitive slogans that Wicked Campers pride themselves on. Local parents aren’t happy; well the mums taking a stand in the picture definitely aren’t.

 

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Eight moths ago, when I ran the campaign asking Wicked Campers to remove misogynistic and degrading slogans, there was outrage – OUTRAGE, I say – coursing through the Internet like hot lava. It spurred a little bit of hateful debate but for the most part, a sense of solidarity prevailed from both sexes; agreeing that Wicked Campers has some pretty offensive and degrading slogans driving around our public spaces. So much so, The Senate unanimously voted to condemn them and Wicked Campers themselves promised they would remove ‘insensitive slogans’. Their word; insensitive.

So with ALL that – where are we today?
Despite having broken their promise, showing their complete contempt, Wicked Campers are business as usual; having franchises throughout the world and will (possibly) soon be getting cozy with one of the Inner West’s communities of Sydney. Many have asked me how these things are possible and it reminded me of a quote form the film V for Vendetta:

‘How did this happen? Who’s to blame? Well certainly there are those more responsible than others, but again truth be told, if you’re looking for the guilty, you need only look into a mirror.’ V

All I can say is; The standard we walk past, is the standard we accept.

This Wicked crusade has been a fascinating, albeit depressing, social experiment in my eyes. July 2014? Fury and lividity. Fast forward six months, when I wrote of their contempt and loss of integrity – all I heard, was the sound of crickets. Few shared the update and when I contacted some of the news people who originally reported on this important ‘hot’ issue with fervour and expressed their equal indignation, I received a tepid response; with some referring it on to others, who never called me back. No stories were run. As a collective, Australia went on as a bystander again.

I don’t get it. Was all of that bravado over the exact slogan my daughter saw? Because there are terrible ones that are still out there, right now. I’ve recently updated the last post with recent sightings from around Australia – sometimes seeing the same van at different corners of the country. Appalling vans, like the following, and more:

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Question#224: Is this the standard we want to teach? 

And as for the absence of male voices and faces in the fight against all this; I believe that as a society – and more importantly, as a culture – we are not only teaching our youth that perspectives like these have our permission to advertise themselves, we are also teaching our youth that because males aren’t standing on an equally visible, vocal platform – it makes it doubly OK. 

When it comes to battles asking for a little more humanity, women hold the front line. Without resorting to blood-shed, women put them selves ‘out there’ none the less; feeling fear and vulnerability, and risk crossing paths with threatening and violent Internet trolls. Due to this campaign, I received two violent messages from the same person (amongst others) and had a Wanted style poster made of me – falsely identifying where I lived. Imagine if he had been right.
The irony? He published under an alias. Coward. (I know his real name, though.)
Neither Facebook nor the Police did anything. And here I was naively thinking it was against the law to threaten someone. With proof, no less.

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Lastly, noone – especially the women who publicly question – actually wants any of this. I put up an update because I thought people would want to be informed; you know, considering that initial reaction. But I’m tired. I’m tired of the walls and the apathy. I’m tired of feeling helpless because problems like this can’t be solved with just the ideas of a few – it needs people power to make change occur. And people power is simply doing something. Anything. Regardless of who one is or what position one holds. This includes John Webb, owner of Wicked Campers. (It’s never too late, John).

And to be clear – this is not about burning this business to the ground nor using threats or violence – it is about finding a solution to the problem, and that problem is that certain slogans need to come down.

Question #225: So what can YOU do? 

Write, call, gather, talk – whatever.
Down to earth blogger and all-round amazing human, Eden Riley, was active and did it her way; numerous people have written to me, telling me they have contacted camp sites to enquire about their policy regarding Wicked vans – some sites don’t let the vans in, if they have offensive slogans. Let backpackers know this. Others have written to their political reps.
And today I applaud the women who are going to tackle the fight at St Peters. I’m with you wholeheartedly.

[Insert own action]

Deep Breath.

Paula

Finding Mr Grey.

February 15, 2015

A while back, I had a chin wag with students about the fine line that is present in many a discussion about females – in that case, their dress. A recent example has been the great deal of to-ing and fro-ing over the release (on Valentines’ Day, no less) of the film, Fifty Shades of Grey. The argument surrounding this narrative has been bugging me in a similar way the aforementioned discussion with my students did. 

My understanding of this issue can be put into two simple points: 1. The books sold like wildfire and seemed to have predominantly titillated the ‘housewives of suburbia’ who saw a love story with consenting adults and 2. It brought to the fore, many psychologists, feminists and survivors of abuse, who have presented an alternate and more dangerous perspective; one that looks at a male grooming and trying to utilise complete control of a naïve female; a demonstration of psychological and physical domestic abuse.

I have not read the books and even wrote post at the end of 2012, asking those who had read 50 Shades to write their thoughts, without judgement from me; because I support women and fight for their complete agency to choose and participate in this world with freedom and safety. This novel is simply a great example of where – if anywhere – the line gets drawn between ‘sexy’ and ‘sadistic and sociopathic’. The issue of choice and consent is also smudged for me when grooming is involved as that’s what grooming does – trick people (and children) into thinking something’s OK, when it’s not.

The prevailing argument in its favour is that it’s just a fictional story and is just a fantasy. I completely understand this perspective and think, each to their own. If the sexual escapades of this novel pushed the saucy buttons of women worldwide, then I say, whatever floats your boat. The pro-50 Shaders seem to be more about the steamy, naughty, forbidden [insert own adjective] sex, not so much about the screwed up male (due to his prostitute [of course] mother) ‘discovering’ himself emotionally and physically through Ana.
But the two issues are married together – the psychologically disturbed man, comes with the sex.

So having heard all the arguments in various articles about this relationship and its representation of varying abuse, I simply want to ask:

Question #222: Why him?

Maybe there are women who want to escape their predictable sex lives and find this story does in fact help them do just that. But what about the man himself; not just his skill with a whip?

Maybe there’s also a secret want to have a rich and ‘powerful’ male be a dominant figure, in his expensive suits and play/torture dungeon.
Maybe women like the idea of ‘fixing’ a damaged male – that love will 
conquer all. That if she stays, he’ll get better – even if it means enduring a controlled and abusive existence .

Is that it?

What if Christian were, let’s say, a newsagent, would there be as much sexual excitement in finding one’s own Mr Grey?
In terms of the story, the sexual awakening would be the same for Ana, wouldn’t it?

What I’ve heard, from friends who have already gone to see the film, is that the sex wasn’t as ‘good’ as in the novel but found other differences. This is from a friend of mine in her 20s:

‘I found it uncomfortable to watch but didn’t find it uncomfortable to read. I’m not easily phased but it was unpleasant. Personally I enjoyed the development throughout the series. It was an interesting read. But seeing it in film was sort of next level. It was basically porn. The sex scenes were not overly graphic but the violence was too much. It made me feel sad.’

Isn’t the following image from the film, eerily similar to the very real Julian Blanc many found to be abhorrent in his behaviour towards women. The thought of being grabbed by the neck chills me. That’s because I have been grabbed like that. But it’s still not the reason all this bothers me.

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On one hand, Rosie Waterline wrote the following review for Mamamia, where she was shaken by what she saw and left the cinema nearly in tears, through to Mia Freedman’s review with her opposing take. One quote stood out in Mia’s piece, that came from a friend of hers:

‘If some women view Christian as a catch – that’s disturbing but it’s their call. The value of the books and the film is the accompanying conversation about what a healthy relationship looks and feels like. A healthy relationship doesn’t involve your partner dictating what you wear or eat. But the author isn’t writing about a healthy relationship! It’s the story of a messed up relationship!’

The first line encapsulates the problem for me – Christian Grey is being touted as a catch and someone to be dreamed of, despite being in a ‘messed up relationship’.
One example (of many) is this bus stop advertisement, of which I got a photo:

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This poster grooms – just like Christian Grey – for selfish reasons.
And that’s what bothers me at the core. How this narrative is being sold.
I think it’s dangerous for those – especially our youth, without the experience to know differently – to believe this is a relationship to aspire to – because it has sex in it that supposedly pushes the boundaries of pleasure?

There are adults who enjoy this story; those who enjoy BDSM (even though many are saying it does not accurately portray BDSM correctly); and that’s fine.

But ultimately there’s one thing that seems to be agreed upon:
It’s not a healthy relationship.

Question #223: So why is it being romanticised?

That’s grooming.

 

‘Wicked Campers Owner, John Webb wishes to acknowledge the prevailing community opinion by REMOVING the slogan in question and making a commitment over the coming six months to changing slogans of an insensitive nature. Bear in mind however, many of the images presented in the media of our vehicles are from up to 8 years ago, and the vehicles simply do not exist anymore.’ (From Press Release: July 16 2014)

I have to say, now that the commitment John Webb made in his Press Release expires today, I was probably the only chump who actually held hope that he and his team – including Ross Dudgeon, who wrote and spoke to me on John Webb’s behalf six months ago – would keep their word. It appears, however, that their ‘concern’ for what a great deal of people perceived as crossing-the-line, was a mere flash in the pan to divert any more attention toward the business and its practices because, the simple fact is, their promise has not been kept.

I contacted Wicked Campers a few weeks ago but they have not responded to me in regards to this matter. The campaign I initiated six months ago, which started with my 11 year old seeing a very offensive sloganattracted world-wide attention with 133 articles written – had a Change.org petition won in 4 days with 127, 000+ signatures – inspired Greens Senator, Larissa Waters, to put forward a motion to the Senate to condemn Wicked Campers, which received a rare, unanimous vote – but, regardless of all this, Wicked Campers have still decided to discard their own commitment to change.

Over the last few weeks, more and more people have been coming forward with images of Wicked Camper vans, that have been photographed around Australia, and they’re not impressed. The most frustrating component continues to be the fact that parents find themselves powerless when their children read aloud inappropriate slogans they sight and then scramble to try and create a ‘child-friendly’ explanation; as well as the fact that a wider community – outside the tiny 20s, backpacker demographic Wicked Campers aims at – are also not wishing to read them either.

Let’s not forget that this violation of the public space, encapsulates the biggest problem. Noone is denying that people can’t share a ‘joke’ amongst themselves, but it is the intrusion and face-rubbing of these ‘jokes’ in the common spaces of society, that infuriates a large portion of people. It must also be made clear that this does not mean that Wicked don’t have any vans with good slogans – on the contrary, there are some good ones out there with beautiful art work.

But that is not what all of this is about.

** Addition: On April 24 2015, John Webb released the following Press Release. Please note the dripping contempt of this person.

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So let’s have a look.
[I have been updating this post with photos sent to me from around Australia as they come. I recently put up the latest batch sent by the public from this year – 2016]

** Addition photographed at a Splendour in the Grass carpark Byron Bay, NSW, 22 July 2016. Splendour in the Grass made a commitment to tape over – or deny entry to – any slogans that would be deemed inappropriate for its all-age event. This one either slipped through the cracks or the commitment was not honoured. This slogan is pretty anti-woman.

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** Addition photographed in the Garden City Westfield’s carpark QLD, 20 June 2016.
So – according to Wicked – either way, women are ‘f**ked’, right?

** Addition photographed at Noosa National Park QLD, 16 June, 2016.
More objectification of women’s bodies.


** Addition photographed in the carpark of tourist site, Sky Tram, Blue Mountains NSW, 17 April 2016
This doesn’t even pretend to be clever – just hyper sexualising females, diminishing any respect that can be held. 

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** Addition: photographed in Byron Bay NSW, 14 April 2016
Simply against females.

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** Addition: photographed in Queenstown Tasmania, 3 April 2016
It’s not shower with your neighbour’s son, now is it?

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** Addition: photographed Brighton, Victoria 30 March 2016
This is an appalling example, where not only are women being objectified through the hyper-sexualised image of spreading her legs – they are referred to as GIRLS.

This slogan does nothing to lift the respect for women and girls as being here for any other purpose except to be viewed sexually. This slogan forces those who read it to visualise a sexual mental picture with a female and this company perpetuates this toxic attitude through their public travelling billboards.
ENOUGH. This is misogyny.

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** Addition: photographed Easter Saturday 26 March 2016 on the Tasmanian Peninsula with an 8 and 10 year old asking questions.
The disturbing thing about this van is how the slogan on the back is coupled with a male sculling alcohol with the tag, Gone Drinking – a pissed male talking cunnilingus; not a good combination to advertise in this current climate.

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** Addition: Filmed in the Blue Mountains 9 March 2016 in front of a park with children.

** Addition: photographed 5 March 2016 – Melbourne, VIC

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** Addition: photographed 29 Feb 2016 – Byron Bay, NSW
When you see the definition of the word – it is one of the worst slogans on the road. I spoke with a young adult recently about this word and she said she knew what it meant because young males seem to be using the term often.
PS On 16 May, the Chief Censor of New Zealand banned this slogan as it was seen as ‘an expression of misogyny that degrades and dehumanises women.’ If this slogan is seen on the streets of NZ, John Webb will cop a $200, 000 fine. Australian Censorship Board cannot do the same, therefore this van is still on our streets.

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** Addition: photographed 27 Feb 2016 – Lawson, Blue Mountains, NSW
Bitch is a hugely used derogatory slur against women – or men who are being put down by being compared to women. Plus wrong use of ‘your’.

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** Addition: photographed 27 January 2016 – on Princes highway, leaving Pambula NSW.
…because ‘landing’ on men is all women are good for, right?

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** Addition: photographed 17 Jan 2016 – Wentworth Falls, Blue Mountains, NSW

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** Addition: photographed 18 December 2015 – Hobart, Tasmania
This is a slogan that passive-aggressively tries to silence and throws everything into the ‘it’s a joke’ department.

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** Addition: photographed 12 April 2015 – Bruny Island, Tasmania

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** Addition: photographed 12 April 2015 – Gold Coast M1

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** Addition: photographed 21 April 2015 – Ballina

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** Addition: photographed 25 March 2015 – Broadway, Sydney

Side of van:

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The back (for the number plate):

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** Addition: photographed 1 March 2015 – near Hobart.

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** Addition: photographed Feb 25 2015 – Darwin
I have a BIG PROBLEM with this following slogan. Today is the 18th March and we have just heard of the 24th woman murdered in Australia so far this year – 2015 is 11 weeks old tomorrow. That’s 2 women a week over last year’s one. There is some buzz in the media about this statistic wondering why it’s happening. Well, of course, there are many factors that contribute to the perceptions of women in a society but they all play a role.

This van PARTICIPATES in perpetuating a toxic and violent perspective about women.
SHAME ON YOU, WICKED CAMPERS!

** Addition – yesterday, the 9th April, the 29th woman was murdered due to male violence, in 2015 so far. That’s jumped from one woman a week to #OneEveryThreeDays – just one year to the next. This is an emergency.

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** Addition photographed 12 February 2015 – Blenheim, New Zealand
I have included this photo because the slogan perpetuates a very dangerous perspective about women in this current paradigm. THIS COMPANY HAS NO INTEGRITY!
It reads: ‘I’ve often wanted to drown my troubles, but I can’t get my wife to go swimming.’

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** Addition: photographed 6 March 2015 in a Big W carpark; Ballarat VIC.
It reads – ‘Your thighs won’t touch if my head’s between them.’

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** Addition: photographed 7 March 2015 – Eildon Road, St Kilda Melbourne

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** Addition: photographed 24 Feb 2015 in a Coles Supermarket carpark, Port Adelaide

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** Addition photographed 20 Feb 2015 – Seacliff Esplanade, Adelaide

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** Addition photographed 2 Feb 2015 – Surfers Paradise Queensland.
This one is ABHORRENT and I’m not speaking about the spelling mistake. I have been informed that an abused girl burst into tears when she found herself behind this van. Not insensitive enough?

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** Addition photographed 9 Feb 2015 – Main Beach, Queensland + Dec 27 2014 – King Georges Rd Sydney

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** Addition photographed 23 Jan 2015 –  Robina, Queensland

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** Addition photographed 1 Jan 2015 – near Movieworld in QLD

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Students of mine, sent me the following two images they saw on their travels:
Photographed in October 2014 – Canberra.

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*** ^^^ So much for getting rid of misogynistic slogans. ^^^ ***

Photographed in Jindabyne in August 2014.
This one may have been sprayed over as I sent the image to Wicked Campers. Without the clear image of the number plate, however, meant it made it harder to locate.

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The slogan below (taken on the 26th December in Sydney) actually comes from a cigarette ad from the ’70s (an ad I’ve shown students when we were studying sexist advertising from the days of yore) but most would not know this fact. Those reading this would assume the ‘money-shot’ from porn – ejaculating in a woman’s face. Abhorrent misogyny.

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** Addition seen on the 26 Feb 2015 – West Melbourne.

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‘Slut’ – that derogatory term applied to females, now attached to a child’s toy:
(Image from Instagram site)

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The van below caused a mother, Christine King, to contact Wicked Campers due to the fact this particular van was parked outside a busy cafe area in Brisbane in November – at the school pick-up time – the main part that was visible to her and her kids (as seen from her photo below) said: You’re F#ckin’ Out! I’m F#ckin’ In!
I was under the impression that the use of the word ‘fuck’ is not permitted in public advertisements and yet… voilá!

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Then there’s what’s actually written on the back of the same van:

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Wicked Campers brushed Christine off when she contacted them, so she registered an official complaint to the Advertising Standards Bureau – which was upheld – but again, Wicked Campers have failed to comply to that ruling.

Christine also wrote to Brisbane City Council, the State Premier, the Police Commissioner and Police Minister and all have come back with the same conclusion – outlined succinctly by her local MP Aaron Dillaway. He wrote:

‘Under the current system, outdoor advertising relies heavily on self-regulation, and those who refuse to comply are not penalised. For this reason, the Attorney-General announces that he is committed to exploring options to properly enforce the decisions of the ASB, which raised in the HCSC report.’

Dillaway also wrote to the Hon Jarrod Bleijie – The Queensland Attorney General and Minister for Justice – and below was his response.

King, Christine. 08.12.14. Ministerial Response RE Outdoor Advertising

In short, consequences are being looked into for those who breach ASB rulings, but for now, Wicked Campers continues to ride the loophole they have always exploited.

This exploitation has allowed the following, appalling slogan to exist (even though the ASB found the play on words to be sufficiently clever to not uphold a complaint against it); saying a woman can’t wrestle + you should see her box (vulva). Just take the word ‘but’ out and this becomes something more sinister. Why anyone would write that a female can’t wrestle in these contentious times of domestic and social violence against women – is beyond me.

** Addition 13 March 2015 in Melbourne

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Finally,  I saw on the Instagram page of one of the artists, (from November 2104) that the van with ‘Random Breast Test’ had been sprayed over by a disgruntled person (something John Webb said people could do in his Press Release:

‘In the spirit of being ‘actionist’, Wicked Campers also invites anybody who feels strongly offended by a slogan to either paint or tape over it.’

:

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Well, redo they did – the van below being seen on Jan 2 2015 near Kings Cross, Sydney – which makes me wonder why Wicked Campers didn’t respray it with something else – AS THEY PROMISED.

Question #221: How is it possible that these vans are permitted on the streets with NO consequence?

No other platform is permitted to do the same – so why are Wicked Campers?

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This is now my next step and am currently working toward there being a consequence.

I cannot speak for anyone else – but I am more incensed now than I was six months ago.

Misogyny aside, I will leave you with these other slogans which demonstrate the gutter level of ‘humour’ they can utilise – ones generally obsessed with sex.

** Addition Jan 25 2015
Seen just before Christmas 2014 in Coffs Harbour:

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** Addition Jan 24 2015
Seen on 23rd November in Coffs Harbour.

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A video blog from a few weeks ago by blogger Eden Riley describes the fury she had when her 6 year old son read out the following slogan:

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Caption on the back reads: ‘I know the perfect place for us to dry hump”.
Image from Instagram page.

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Mia Freedman of Mamamia saw the following van in a Woolies carpark in a holiday coastal town, on Boxing day.

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The remaining images are from the Wicked Campers Instagram page – all posted in the last few months.

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Note the comments written about this van. In Bondi; late September 2014.

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I also want to add, that as a parent, there are a whole lot of other perspectives that I want to navigate my children through, at the age appropriate time. One of these is the issue of drugs and there are also many WC vans that also make reference to drug taking.
I found the following (from their Instagram page) to be in ridiculous poor taste, as well as one that would particularly draw the attention of children:

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People power must prevail as these perspectives are breaking Community Standards but being thrust into our public sphere regardless.
I am working on getting legislation passed to hold those who don’t take down advertisements deemed inappropriate by the Advertising Standards Bureau. I’ll need your support.

I would like to importantly add – that this needs to be tackled without any threatening comments or violent threats to anyone at Wicked Campers. That solves nothing and creates more of the same.

I will keep you posted from my end.

Paula.

Location: Coles – one of the major Australian supermarket chains.
Area: Magazine Section
In the past I have merely done this:

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But today – Wed 7th Jan – I decided I would say something, when I saw this on the second lowest shelf:

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I wrote to Coles to explain my experience in one of their stores:

In my visit to a Sydney Coles store this afternoon, I went past the magazine section and saw Zoo magazine (imaged attached) on the second lowest row – small child height – next to Peppa Pig. I asked a worker who was in the same aisle, who I could talk to about it and he directed me to go to the front desk. My children and I had a few items to buy so I asked the employee serving us in the express lane. I believe she was in a managerial position as she was making announcements over the speakers to coworkers. I explained what I saw and she said that everything had to be placed where Coles says and that there was nothing employees could change in terms of an item’s location – in this case, to put Zoo magazine high up (top) on the shelves. She showed me an example of this with a nearby drink refrigerator; pointing out the sticker which clearly indicates EXACTLY how it must be stocked. She also explained that a recent visit from the person who checks that it’s done properly, was VERY unhappy because it was incorrectly stocked. We – the Coles manager and myself – then moved to the magazine section and when we looked at the labels along the shelves (indicating where every magazine should be) – not one magazine was in its correct place. She removed the magazines and I trust (and hope) that the Zoo magazine ended up being placed high – if it has to go back at all. It would be fantastic if Coles takes the lead and sees the good removing magazines like Zoo from sale would do. It takes a village to raise a child and supermarkets – like Coles – are a part of that village. It also takes integrity. Consumers who want to see sexually, objectified women can access it everywhere – but it feels culturally oppressive when a magazine, sporting the image of a sexually objectified woman on a cover that matches its contents, is being sold at a supermarket chain, like Coles – placed low on its shelving. There were multiple copies of the magazine behind one another, so it was purposely placed there. Do you think it would be possible for Coles to stop selling Zoo magazine and any other magazines of its type? (In this particular store the only objectifying magazine that was on sale was Zoo, so I don’t know if there are others). Thank you so much for your time and consideration, and look forward to hearing from you. Paula Orbea

The following is a cartoon I’ve seen cross my Timeline from time to time, which asks a crucial question:

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Right? Another moment worth noting, was the response the managerial employee gave me when I was suggesting the magazine shouldn’t really be sold there in the first place. Her expression was one of raised eyebrows, looking at the cover, coupled with an expression (small smile?) that suggested it ‘wasn’t that bad’ – and said:

“I reckon you see worse on TV.”

“Yes”, I agreed, “but that’s a whole different issue.”

I don’t understand that kind of statement as an argument; that there’s something worse. There’s always something worse, and then something worse than that. And then worse than that.

That sort of statement argues that one shouldn’t stand and confront the ‘small stuff’ – like the soft porn industry, in this case; an industry that is heavily guiding younger and younger people toward an ocean of porn online (including terribly violent ones) – because there are *other* problems deemed more important for an activist attend to first…generally something in the ball park of, ‘Stop ISIS’ or ‘Get the girls from Nigeria back’.

What I find curious is how people who do *nothing*, suddenly presume themselves the Traffic Cops of Activism. In this case, the Coles employee removed the magazines, for the sole reason that they were in the wrong place. If it were to turn out that the Zoo magazines’ location – assigned by Coles – is smack bang in the middle of them all, I know that this employee would have put them in their ‘rightful place’ – as that is her directive. I’d like to add that this employee was courteous and professional in her conversation with me and that I appreciated her attention on the matter.

As I think of Maria in The Sound of Music teaching the children (through song, of course)about starting at the very beginning, as it’s a very good place to start – so must we. That is the only way change can truly occur – by getting to the roots of behaviour and action.

So have a look for yourselves – in the everyday world you and young people reside and ask:

Question #220 : What’s going on at ground zero?

What lessons and attitudes are being taught through consumption? Well, the selling of ‘soft porn’ (aka porn culture) in supermarkets is one thing, wouldn’t you say?

Deep breath.

PS This is the response I received from Coles:

Dear Ms Orbea

Thank you for your letter regarding the sale of magazines in our Coles stores.

Coles aim to provide customers with a wide range of products that appeal to a broad range of consumer tastes. We are very aware of our responsibilities in relation to the display of various magazines in our stores and we must comply with the guidelines set by the Classification Board and legislative requirements regarding the selection and placement of various magazines.

Magazines such as Zoo and FHM, do not have a classification rating, as set by the Classification Board, and form part of our men’s interest range of magazines.

Coles only sell magazines that are unclassified and to help ensure a comfortable shopping experience for all customers, these particular men’s magazines must be placed in our reading centres within our stores and are not to be sold from the stands next to the registers.

We are sorry to hear that you find these magazines offensive* and have forwarded your comments to our Merchandise Team so that they are also aware of your concerns.

Once again, thank you for taking the time to contact us. We appreciate your feedback and look forward to your future custom at Coles.

Regards

Patrick Chylinski
Coles Customer Care

*[Doesn’t sound like an apology]

My friend Lily Munroe – who was my partner in crime in launching our campaign against the positioning of Lads’ Mags in newsagents, petrol stations and other similar establishments a year ago – is writing an Open Letter. Still a work in progress.

Part of her letter, however, looks at the intimidation and threats women who speak up receive online and she asked me if I were willing to share any.

I was never going to publish these, but I did keep the most horrible comments made by the same man, in response to the Wicked Campers campaign back in July.
Why did I keep them? Because I’ll never forget how they originally made me feel – but the re-reading of them, on occasion, lessens the impact of those sentiments and helps me strengthen and arm myself against any future expressions of deep hate.

I publish them today to help a worthy cause – which I will keep you updated on.

During that campaign, I received over 300 (mostly positive) comments on this blog, and I responded to just about all of them. Only a few were missed because I couldn’t keep up with the incoming flow, but a few I barred from publishing because they merely insulted and didn’t contribute to the discussion. But the following thoughts – from the same man – were pure venom.

As I was reading this first one, I reached the end of the second paragraph and thought – ‘Isn’t that what I did?’
And then the penultimate paragraph knocked me for six:

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Then he followed with this:

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A myriad of responses may come to your minds as you read these, from: ‘Suck it up, he’s just a troll’ to maybe understanding how it must have felt to ‘hear’ those words – but all I have is how responded.

It was deeply alarming to me – especially how he imagined my brains being blown out in the first comment. It made me catch my breath as I read it, even though a few had had a fair go at it – but this one was different. There was so much hatred in his words. It upset me.

I also had a man in Queensland make a ‘Wanted’ poster of me, lifting an unclear image of me (lucky) incorrectly identifying where I lived (lucky) and saying that if anyone saw me around, that I needed to be ‘taught a lesson’.

Question #219: Imagine if I hadn’t been ‘lucky’ in the first two instances?

I would have been in real danger. Well, I already was, a little.

When women who ASK for something better – not abolished; just better – like getting rid of some particular slogans off a camper van or asking one retailer to remove the horrible game GTA5 from sale in their family store – the bitterness and rage that comes cascading down is something to behold.

And all because we dare to ask.

BUT – more and more articles are being written about misogyny, more conversations are being had and some campaigns are even being won – which is bloody brilliant.

Greens Senator Larissa Waters wrote this piece titled, Australian women can’t and won’t be silenced. She references my petition against Wicked Campers and how it inspired her to take it to The Senate. The motion she put forward, condemning Wicked Campers, was voted on unanimously – just four days after the petition was launched.

Activism works – even though, you might get winded from time to time.

A great way to work those abs, though, right?
Each ‘hit’ will only make one stronger.

Deep Breath.

As some of you may be aware, Target Australia was petitioned, in the last week, to take down the video game Grand Theft Auto 5, off their shelves. The attention was drawn from an advertisement from Target, placing the game on the same page as children’s toys.

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Survivors of violence, Nicole, Claire and Ket, started the petition due to the graphic sexual and violent nature of the game – most notably towards prostitutes – which cements perspectives of violence against women.

I felt it was important to share the petition because even though I don’t own the game, YouTube was dutifully able to provide me with a sick commentary of how to pick up a prostitute (woman). Of course, one can choose whether or not they’re going to run her over after the first-person sex, set her on fire and finish her off with a blast from a machine gun.

Yesterday, Target Australia listened, agreed and stopped the sale of the game in its stores; demonstrating integrity with their business standards.
I believe it was the right thing to do.

With emotional issues such as this, many choose to clutch the time and tested clichés of yore. In this case, those who oppose Target’s ultimate decision have two common arguments:
1. It’s just a game
2. Parents are to blame for children having it

I’m not going to go into the first point because the reason/s why a person chooses to play this game is a whole different kettle of fish. I’m not a psychologist nor a judge and it would be going down Alice’s rabbit hole for me to try and understand it.
The second point, however, is where the crux of this lands with me.

The main argument is that this is an R-Rated 18+ game and that the simple solution is that parents should not buy it for their children.
Yes. This is true – BUT, it’s not the simple solution.

Parents are always the easy target in arguments like these, but to be fair, the common cliché has lost its potency in this day and age because of the context of the world we’re living in. We are ALL being bombarded with a pornified and hyper-sexualised world and yet somehow, it’s up to the parents to ‘simply not buy it’?

I think this has become very difficult for parents; to actually deal with the pressure of filtering the ever-encroaching, adult world for their children. To do this successfully, though, one would have to be next to their child at every given moment and that’s impossible – and quite frankly, who would want to raise their child like that anyway? Not me.

As a parent, I am very aware of this paradigm and am doing my utmost to help my girls navigate through it, regardless of whether it’s aimed at them or not (and more often than not it isn’t – but they’re still being exposed anyway). My last post gives examples of the child exposure to this game – and it’s widespread in Primary Schools.

What we need is for the adult world to meet us half way and in my mind, Target Australia has now done just that.

They are a family store and being a family store means it comes with responsibility.
If they had ultimately chosen to keep stocking R-Rated games, then they would have needed to create a section where children can’t access the products; making it very clear it’s for adults only. Ultimately, though, what family store would want to attract attention to the fact that they sell products for adults only?

You’re more likely, as a parent, to be shopping with your children in a place like Target, Big W, K-mart (who should also follow suit and not just this game but all R-Rated games), as they sell children’s toys near the games section. To a child, one ‘game’ is the same as another, so:

Question #218: Can we just have some space that’s safe for kids?

Sadly, we have the fact that many young (predominantly male) children are actually playing this game and although it’s easy to pass the buck on parents – it’s not always their fault.

This decision makes it easier for the parents who are not aware of the game and its pretty horrible contents and who simply don’t notice the rating. We are human, after all, and not noticing a rating when your mind is full of a million other things, is far more forgivable than the bigger picture of all this.

And for all those who cry foul about not having their violent, porn games available in every store they want – at their fingertips – I ask them to step away from their own sense of privilege and think of reducing the temptation of having something rated strictly unsuitable for children, in a place frequented by children. It’s at their fingertips too.

UPDATE: Kmart have in fact now followed Target Australia’s lead and have also pulled Grand Theft Auto 5 from sale. That’s two.

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