December 20, 2014
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 Because I’ll never forget how they originally made me feel – but the re-reading of them, on occasion, lessens the impact of those sentiments and helps me strengthen and arm myself against any future expressions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:
Then he followed with this:
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 I 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.
July 18, 2014
To begin I would like to express my awe at the overwhelming and resolute support I received during the last six days, due to the petition I initiated. I am truly humbled.
I want to quickly address a few points, as I need to sit down and have a moment of normalcy again. The last six days have been a surreal mix of many emotions.
I started the petition for one reason only – to remove slogans, like the one that upset my 11 year old daughter, from the outside of Wicked Camper vans.
And they have complied.
Have they had a change of heart? Well, that remains to be seen.
But, as I wrote in my penultimate post – we must judge people on their actions.
Only time will tell – so give them time.
Under the law of Freedom of Speech, Wicked Campers are not obliged to take down any of their signage – which is why they had chosen to continue practising as they were, despite numerous attempts from the Advertising Standards Board to have offensive slogans, deemed to have crossed ethical and community standards, removed.
But this wasn’t about the law – it was about the standards we hold as human beings.
Thanks to the staggering amount of people who supported this campaign – 127 752 signatures – in such a concentrated amount of time, we were able to send a clear message that this sort of signage was in fact not a standard we were willing to accept.
* For the clichéd response telling me (us) to ‘not buy it if we don’t like it’; I answer you with the fact that the ONLY person who doesn’t see the signage, is the driver him/herself – it’s the public that has it rammed in their face, regardless.
* For those who have said there are far more important issues to fight for – like the horror in the Gaza strip (for example) and where the petition for that is; I answer you in two ways.
Firstly, calling out misogyny is a paramount issue to fight.
Females around the planet are being sexually assaulted and murdered for the simple fact that they are female. This wouldn’t be happening if they were respected. One woman a week dies from Domestic Violence in Australia and a slogan that says ‘a wife is attachment you screw on the bed to do the housework’ degrades females to nothing more than that and it is hateful.
I also believe many slogans demean males too. Grooming males to believe they’re mindless and sex-obssesed, do no favours to our boys and, in turn, our girls. Slogans such as the following are disturbing – both the visual and what it’s saying:
We would never see, ‘We’re here for your sons’ because we all know what the slogan above means.
Secondly, if one feels that there are issues out there worth fighting for and that a petition will do something, then by all means, create one.
I found it incredible that people provided me with a list of issues I *should* be fighting for – basically saying I shouldn’t be bothering with my daughter’s emotional response to the slogan she saw, but rather appease strangers and their vocal outrage that I had the gall to do it over other issues.
To you I say – Do something about it yourself. I did this for my daughter.
* To all those who said I gave Wicked Campers free advertising, I say to you that it is an irrelevant argument.
My motives never were, nor do they continue to be, about bringing down Wicked Campers – it was to remove certain morally offensive slogans. In fact, if this petition causes the company to reevaluate their business model to better fit the ethical standards of society – well, wouldn’t that be the best victory of all?
Only three days after releasing the petition I received a personal email from Ross, a representative for Wicked Campers, apologising to my daughter and myself. He wrote:
I wish to commend you on your campaign, I believe you’ve carried yourself with poise and intellect and kept your side of the discussion civilised (where others have resorted to physical threats)
I would like to say at this point, that anyone who writes to someone, saying they wish to incite violence against them (or anyone for that matter), is abhorrent and goes against the spirit of this petition.
I have also received graphically violent death threats due to this stance and it’s quite distressing and completely unnecessary. Noone deserves that.
Wicked Campers also included the following press release; sections which have now been used in a number of articles outlining the commitment they are making to do as the petition asked. This is the full statement:
Statement: John Webb on behalf of Wicked Campers Australia
First and foremost, we sincerely apologise for any distress that has been caused.
Anybody who is familiar with our brand would probably know that we are strong proponents of free speech and pushing the limits of humour – we are a ‘cash for chaos’ kind of company.
As is often quoted ‘A sense of humour is a sense of proportion’. And in this instance, we admit that we have taken things out of proportion and out of the realms of what is considered to be ‘socially acceptable’.
We are a small company, with eclectic, creative and multi-cultural staff. It is impossible for us to conceive that a throw-away message written on a van could have such far-reaching implications for the community at large.
Over the past few years Wicked has supported numerous charity endeavours including:
Free hires for Returned Servicemen & Servicewomen (2011 – 2013)
A Mardi Gras float for the Metropolitan Christian Church Sydney to promote social & religious acceptance of homosexuality in the community (2014)
Support for the ‘Free to be Kids’ Charity, whose goal is to facilitate child centered community development in Kolkata with the aim of improving the community’s capacity to protect children. Wicked Campers have donated over $70,000 to this organisation in the hope of improving the welfare of children in India (2012 – 2013).
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.
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.
Mr Webb implores everyone to also focus their passions and energies on a worthy cause such as funding for women’s refuges and shelters around Australia.
“If everyone who signs this petition were to donate to a worthy charity – even just $10, we’d be closer to achieving something truly positive from this campaign.
It is easy to get caught up in the news cycle and the mob-mentality of the internet, but the fact remains, the world’s problems will still exist next week, long after this has blown over. Don’t forget the cause – it’s still there, hidden amongst the memes and useless drivel that pops up in your feed.
We’ve given and we will continue to give – so if you give to a women’s refuge or charity this week, send us the receipt and we’ll write you a personal apology for any offense that has been caused”.
Wicked Campers would also like to commend all petition signers for their passion and commitment to the cause – and their openness to actively working with us towards a compromise. Again, we apologise for any distress that has been caused.
For receipts for donations made, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Owner – Wicked Campers
Lastly, what is very important to note, is that this victory happened because ultimately, my daughter and I were respected throughout this journey – by everyone; the populous that cared more than it didn’t and joined the fight; the reporters – ALL of them (I thank you all for that, I still feel honoured to be asked); to being listened to by the business itself and even had a motion passed in the Senate.
In four and a half days.
We just achieved a really good thing. We stood up for a better standard.
My daughter is so happy…in her 11 year old way.
Thank you everyone. Thank you very much.