I recently had a tweet brought to my attention via somebody I follow on twitter. The tweet reads:
“Is it just me or is the use of rape imagery in these minicab calling cards a tad bit inappropriate?”
The card this person is referring to is this (click for larger version):
It’s a mailshot advertising the services of a taxi company, styled as a postcard. The text on the card reads:
You should look just as great coming home as you did going out, so don’t gamble on the weather… GET A DATA CARS MINI-CAB! Cheap, safe, reliable, dry & warm with professional, friendly drivers. Call 020 8850 0000 or better still … use our APP so you can easily book and then track your cab in real time! X”
What this person is trying to say is that the advert is attempting to convey that this woman has been raped – and if you use this cab service, you will avoid a similar fate.
A couple of days later, I learned that the image had been forwarded to Caroline Criado Perez (@CCriadoPerez) and re-tweeted with her adding the comment “Urgh” (See here). C C Perez is now a widely known name with regards to women’s rights and feminism. I disagree with a lot of C C Perez’s methods and attitudes myself but, all the same, she does have a large following on twitter, so to re-tweet this card and agree that it is using “rape imagery” gives this opinion quite a bit more weight, and helps it spread further.
A large number of her followers agreed with this perspective – and those who disagreed were lampooned or disregarded. Caroline herself shut down one discussion:
Follower: “I really don’t see it. She’s fully clothed and holding hem of dress off the wet ground…”
Caroline: “She is clutching her arm as if hurt, seems to have lost her dress – where did it go – and it echoes victim imagery. You seem to be being wilfully blind here. That being the case, I see no reason to continue the discussion.”
(I’ve since learned that the Everyday Sexism project (@EverydaySexism) also helped to spread the image.)
This sort of irresponsible re-tweeting and lack of objectivity (on the part of high-profile accounts, particularly) could very well cause considerable damage to this cab company’s reputation.
The reason I have picked up on this is because I find it to be an excellent example of confirmation bias.
When I (and many others) look at this card, I see a cab company advertising that their car won’t be late – you won’t get caught out in the rain, and you won’t come home looking a mess. Had this card appeared at my door, nothing in my mind would have said “She looks like she’s been raped!”
Yet when certain twitter feminists/social justice types look at this card, they argue that there is an obvious subtext in the image itself which suggests a rape has occurred. They argue that the company are deliberately preying on a girl’s fear of being raped by cab drivers; That the company is saying “Use us! We won’t rape you! But our competition might!” – Not only is this an interpretation but, to them, it was the INTENTION!
That… IS INSANE!
Have we really let this narrative – that “rape is everywhere and everybody is a potential victim” – reach a point where people are getting postcards through their letter box and the first thing they see is rape?!
This woman is caught out in the rain, holding her dress up, and looking in a bit of a poor state. To say it is obvious she looks like she’s just been raped, is to say that you assign some sort of pre-conceived notion of what a recently raped woman might look like. “Well, she looks like my idea of a rape victim, so it’s obvious what the cab company is doing here!”
No! If we followed that logic, then the next time I see a woman drenched in the rain, I’m going to have to stop and ask her “Dear God! You look like you’ve been raped! Are you OK?”
The flip side of this, of course, is that maybe the cab company didn’t do it on purpose. Then the argument becomes – well they should be more careful. They should be able to see how we might interpret their image. They should consider every possible negative way something might be interpreted.
Again, no! This company’s intentions are clear to any rational person. The text on the other side of the card clearly confirms what the company was trying to convey here: A woman caught in the rain.
This rape argument would hold a lot more weight if the woman was bruised, or had a bust lip perhaps. As it stands, the interpretations are entirely without merit.
Data Cars have made it clear that they, in no way, intended this image to come across this way and have apologised via Twitter, stating they will not use the image in future. While they are listening to feedback and acting accordingly (as any good company will do) they still maintain that this is a matter of interpretation.
This may seem like one small thing but, like I say, this stood out as a good example to me – an example of how these people are perceiving the world. They’re convinced that they’re doing good – finding problems, bringing them to light and trying to correct them. But all too often we’re seeing this; people seeing problems where they don’t exist, because this idea of “fixing the world” has taken root and controls their entire perception of it.
This is just ONE example of where this sort of mis-interpretation has been applied when it comes to people like this. Similar lack of reasoning (and disregard of opposing viewpoints) can be seen on a daily basis among these circles – and these are big circles. Influential circles. People who are affecting change and believing it to be for the better. But honestly, it really isn’t. It’s dumbing down the meaning of “rape” into their own trivial and subjective perceptions of what rape is, and where it is represented. That will, ultimately, do more harm than good.