Wicked Camper’s slogans offend a lot of people, but they’re making money so why should they care?
Imagine picking up your 11 year-old-daughter from an outing with her grandfather and being told that on the drive over she saw a van that said all little girls are sluts who want to try it just once.
I don’t think it would matter if you were a father or a mother, a single parent or a step-parent, a gay parent or a straight parent. I think you’d wish right then that you were having any conversation but the one you’re about to have.
Maybe I’m wrong. I’m not a parent. Maybe there are some of you who would shrug and say, “That’s nice dear.” I kinda hope, if that’s you, that you aren’t in the majority.
If you’re thinking it’s unfortunate that some people are rude enough to expose the world to nonsense like that, but hey, freedom of speech includes painting your own property so whatcha gonna do, here’s the twist – the message this young girl read was painted on the rear end of a rental van, and it was part of the rental company’s branding. The message actually read:
“In every princess there is a little slut who wants to try it just once.”
If you think you’d be okay with your 11 year-old daughter or son reading that while driving down the highway (or anywhere else) let me share with you just ONE reason why I wouldn’t – it sends an undeniable message that every girl who wants to try “it” is a slut.
So boys, you now know that if you’re doing “it” with a girl who wants it, you’re having sex with a slut. And girls, if you should ever think you’d like to try “it” you know what that means. And parents, your daughter is now wondering if she is a slut and just doesn’t know it yet, and your son will never look at “little princesses” quite the same way again.
In this case the 11 year-old’s mother has taken to social media and her blog to protest against the advertising that got her daughter’s attention. She tried to file a complaint with the Advertising standards Board, but learned that a complaint could only be filed if you witnessed the incident first hand. So her daughter insisted on filing the complaint. She wrote:
“I am a little girl and I am not a slut.”
Good thing she doesn’t believe everything she reads. Or maybe she doesn’t identify as a princess either.
Having read Paula’s blog (which I strongly urge you to do if you’re interested enough to have read this far, because her story articulates the finer points of this issue clearly and eloquently) I did a little reading on Wicked Campers, the rental company whose tagline reads, “We believe in the experience!”
They have separate sites for the continents where they operate, so I perused the image galleries for the Australia, North America, and UK locations. Lots of pictures of camper vans. Amazing artwork, edgy with a nod to pop culture and it’s icons, but no objectionable rear ends in sight. Some of the galleries featured customer photos, which included some tasteful nudity, some barnyard cuties, (not in the some photo) and lots of happy campers – literally.
If the Facebook Pages maintained by the brand were made into movies they’d be rated R. Among the photos of their campers I found slogans that were, to my mind, demeaning to men and women both. Would you head out on your next road trip in a van that proclaims to the world:
“Women fake orgasms because they think men care.”
“Nice legs. What time do they open?”
“My mouth is missing you and wishes you were in it right now.”
I don’t know if you can request your slogan when you reserve your vehicle, but if so, I wonder which vans get the most requests.
The company representative that Paula quotes on her blog states that their target market is males between 18 and 30 years of age. So now we know what they believe that demographic finds attractive. Clearly, the experience they provide their customers is suitably “wicked,” but what about the experience their advertising forces on other drivers?
The representative (who, according to Paula, became more sensitive to her concerns as the conversation progressed) also insisted, “Wicked Campers aren’t out to make women inferior.”
Which leads to the question I want to pose to you; “Does it matter what a brand’s intentions are, or should Wicked Campers change their tune just because people are offended?”
I can believe they didn’t set out to imply that women are inferior. As creative as this company’s model may be, they didn’t create the cultural icons they portray on their vans, nor did the slogans originate with them. They’re the same tired old jokes that have been setting women off for decades. And the company’s response to one irate female isn’t creative either. It’s pretty much the same response that has always been offered when someone (it isn’t always a woman) is offended or concerned about the message being sent; “You’re overreacting. Relax, it’s just a joke.”
But these jokes aren’t being told in private company, or at the neighborhood bar. They aren’t part of a movie or TV show, or even a Facebook page that you, as a parent, can censor. They’re cruising down the highway in front of your car and you can’t turn them off, tune them out, or change the channel. And neither can your kids.
Granted, if the slogan is on a t-shirt worn by the guy in front of you in the checkout line you can’t keep your kids from reading it. If their best friend’s older sibling tells them the joke during an overnight you can’t keep them from hearing it. But you can discuss it as just one person’s point of view. Company advertising implies (I think) a level of credibility that isn’t there in a t-shirt or a off-color joke. Even when we’re young we know that companies only advertise what they believe we want, so if a company uses that slogan in their advertising, doesn’t it suggest that it’s acceptable, even attractive, to a large segment of the population?
Where is the company’s responsibility? Are they only accountable for what they intended to do? Or should we hold them liable for the impact their choices have?
In this case, Wicked Campers doesn’t seem to care. When Paula and her daughter checked previous complaints and rulings recorded by the Advertising Standards Boards they found several complaints already outstanding. Ultimately, Paula has started a petition at Change.org to get Wicked Camper to “eliminate all misogynistic and degrading slogans and imagery” from their advertising.
As much as I would personally love to see Paula’s petition serve its purpose, I’d love even more to believe that it wouldn’t be necessary. As Wicked Camper’s representative pointed out to Paula in the conversation she reported on her blog, “If you have a problem with Wicked Campers DON’T HIRE ONE.”
We vote with our spending choices, clearly, this advertising IS attractive to their target market. There ARE people who like driving down the road in a van that proclaims, “Good girls get fat, bad girls get eaten.”
Far more than what that says about a company like Wicked Campers, I have to ask, what does that say about us?