Around 18 months ago, teacher Paula Orbea's then eleven year old daughter spotted a 'terrible' slogan on a van.
"In every princess there is a little sl** who wants to try it just once."
Paula's daughter was very distressed by the slogan, posted on a Wicked Campers van. Posting about the van on her Facebook page, she got a predictable amount of pushback from male commenters.
"It's just a joke," they said. "Don't you have a sense of humour?"
But Paula – who does have a sense of humour, just low tolerance for horrendously sexist slogans – did not take it as a joke. She began a change.org petition, which garnered 127,000 signatures and generated 133 articles worldwide. The petition inspired Greens Senator to put forward a motion to the Senate to condemn Wicked Campers, a motion which received a unanimous vote of approval.
And John Web, the owner of Wicked Campers, committed to changing slogans of an 'insensitive nature'. It looked like change was finally coming.
But it hasn't. The Wicked Campers are still out on the street, parading all sorts of offensive statements. And, worse, many are hijacking traditional children's images and superimposing sexist messages onto them.
There are sexualised Lego figures. A 'slutty' Barbie. A picture of the Wiggles getting stoned. Snow White smoking a crack pipe and snorting cocaine.
I get that these images are funny to the backpacker twenty-somethings who hire the vans. I get that they are not necessarily concerned with feminism, or rape culture, or child rearing.
But these slogans aren't appearing on walls inside backpacker hostels, where only young adults can see them. These slogans are on vans which drive all around the country. They park at beaches. Near schools. In suburban areas. And outside playgrounds.
Blogger Eden Riley posted a video just last month of a Wicked Campers van depicting sexualised Lego figures with the words 'Virginity is Curable' painted on the back. The van was parked outside a playground where her young son and his friends were playing. The kids had read the slogan on the van, just as Paula's daughter had eighteen months ago. Kids all over Australia are reading those slogans. Their eyes are drawn to the images of the Lego figures, the Wiggles, the Disney characters, the Barbies.
An official complaint about Wicked Campers was registered with the Advertising Standards Bureau and it was upheld. But Wicked Campers didn't comply with the ruling. And there is no current regulation to enforce the decisions of the ASB, so they will not be penalised for doing so.
One mother, Christine King, has started a petition to take to the Attorney General in Queensland. She wants the AG to have powers to enforce penalties for those who don't comply with ASB rulings, so as to exert further pressure on Wicked Campers to remove the offensive slogans.
At this point, the onus is on John Webb to change the culture of his company, and voluntarily change the slogans on his vans. John Webb is a father himself. Unfortunately, as of yet, that has not been motivation enough. Christine's petition may give him the motivation he needs.
If you are concerned about your kids' seeing the Wicked Camper vans, please sign the petition here.
It's hard enough raising kids in this climate without having to explain sexualised Lego figures or cocaine-snorting Disney figures outside playgrounds.