Speaking up to protect women: Canberra takes a stand on Wicked Campers

Canberra is continuing to show leadership with a commitment to challenge attitudes that underpin domestic, family and sexual violence against women. It is well known that sexist and misogynist attitudes, such as those casually displayed by Wicked Campers, play a large part in this kind of violence. According to Our Watch, the most consistent predictor for support of violence by men is their agreement with sexist attitudes.

That’s why I’m pleased and relieved that my colleague Shane Rattenbury, as ACT Minister for Justice, Consumer Affairs and Road Safety, recently took a stand against Wicked Campers and the attitudes they promote—outdated attitudes which have no place in our community, harm our women and distort the perspectives of our men. From now on, vehicles de-registered in other states for bearing offensive slogans like those displayed on Wicked Campers cannot be registered in the ACT.

There are currently no Wicked vehicles registered in Canberra and these laws will help keep them out. These arrangements will support Queensland, whose parliament passed a law in mid-February to de-register vehicles with "inappropriate" words or pictures if the messages were not removed. Tasmania and Victoria have also signalled their intentions to follow suit, and adopt similar laws to the ACT.

It is my hope that these collective efforts will soon mean that no woman or girl will have to see or accept offensive vehicles in Australia again. I often visit my daughter and granddaughter in Byron Bay, where Wicked Camper Vans are a regular sight. I have always been horrified and repulsed by them, and concerned that my granddaughter will normalise their violent, misogynist, racist and homophobic attitudes. In particular, I worry about the negative messages she and her friends may internalise about being female and the standards of behaviour from men they may come to accept.

Sexist jokes reflect and reinforce sexist attitudes. They excuse and perpetuate the gender stereotyping and discrimination against women that underpins violence. And if no one speaks up when a sexist comment or joke is made, it sends the message that this behaviour is ok.

So we are speaking up and taking decisive action to protect women. Across the nation, as many as one in three women have experienced physical violence and almost one in five have experienced sexual violence from the age of 15. There can be no doubt that slogans and images suggesting kidnapping, gaffer-taping and taking advantage of women who are intoxicated are promoting sexual and general violence against women, as well as insidious misogyny. I don’t think Canberrans want to see this misogyny here on vehicles.

While it’s important to protect freedom of speech, it’s not ok to encourage men to think that women are on this planet only for their benefit and enjoyment. If we want to live in a society that is peaceful, respectful and places value on the safety and the bodily integrity each of us has a right to, then we must take a stand against the type of attitudes Wicked Campers represent.