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Wicked Campervans – are they too rude?

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Instagram image supplied by Salty_j @ Bondi road

Instagram image supplied by Salty_j @ Bondi road

Instagram image supplied by Salty_j @ Bondi road

Instagram image supplied by Salty_j @ Bondi road

Instagram image supplied by Salty_j @ Bondi road

Ebony Garlett, Reporter

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Is it okay for a campervan that drives around in public to be covered in picture of penises with moustaches, or slogans such as “oral sex makes a great last minute gift”?

According to John Webb and his imaginary animal friends at Wicked Campervans, yes, it is.

According to the people who run the Wicked Pickets Facebook page, no, it isn’t.

John Webb is CEO of the Brisbane-based company famous for the colourful, often rude, sometimes funny murals painted on its vehicles. His animal friends are the monkeys and seagulls he talks about on the company website.

Every now and then controversy flares up about the slogans on the vans and people call for them to be banned.

However, one of the big things is that under 21s can hire these campervans, and up to four extra drivers are allowed, which is handy on road trips with friends. The iconic campervans are also among cheapest on the market, with vans as low as $29 a day. This compares with competitors prices of $35 -$49 a day.

In addition they are pretty lax about licenses, letting P-platers hire vans and not requiring international licenses, as long as hirer’s licenses are in English.

Wicked Campervans started in 2001 and kept costs low by buying second hand vans. The company started with 15 vans in Brisbane (which John Webb claims to have bought from a flock of seagulls for a packet of Dorritos) but now, there are over 1000 in the fleet and the iconic campers can be found in countries such as the UK, Chile and Japan, with a sum of 46 depots around the world.

There are 18 collection points around Australia and NZ, which means you can pick up the vehicle in one state or one collection point and drop it off at another, and that naturally they are found all over the country.

So which state or local government can do something about slogans on the vans that are offensive on the grounds that they demean women or promote rape.

In 2014, according to SBS, a petition with 100,000 names on it was successful in getting the company to remove some slogans from some vans.

Anne McCormack is the head of a feminist group and she runs a Facebook page called ‘Wicked Pickets’ which is still campaigning against the vans.

In 2015 her group tried to invoke Anti-Vilification Law, by arguing that the vans vilified women.

The Law outlaws attempts to incite hatred on the grounds of race, religion, sexuality and gender identity, but because ‘sex’ is not on this list, vilification of women and girls in Queensland is allowed.

The Government justified its position by referring to freedom of speech, and when you think about it, they have a point as the effects of banning references to consensual sex in advertising and art would be massive.

McCormack’s argument didn’t win and so they tried the Queensland Anti Discrimination Act 1991, and again were told that ‘sex’ was not a ground for complaint.

She said that some politicians were sympathetic to the cause, but that they were unable to take action because to take sex out of advertising “would open the floodgates”.

McCormack’s group had a lot of support from all types of people aged between 15 and 72. They collected over 600 signatures calling on the Queensland Premier to do something about the vans.

These actions in 2015 led to some people some people spray painting over offensive slogans on Wicked vans and Webb issued a tongue in cheek press release, in which he rambled on about monkeys and seagulls and threatened to retaliate by reporting vandalism of the vans to authorities.

In his words: “Wicked Campers will no longer permit individuals or groups, to in any way manipulate the artwork or general appearance of its vehicles or property. Any person or persons found to be doing so will be swiftly referred to the police/authorities. It is generally understood that the penalty for such acts is public flogging, but we may be ill-informed in the specifics as our Legal Team consists of 3 crayon-wielding possums and one very good-looking banana.”

This no doubt infuriated McCormack.

She said the worst part of the entire conflict was that “this company is saying it’s doing all this lewd version of ‘art’ in the name of being Australian … they’re saying it’s Aussie humour and if that’s so… this is no Australia I want to be a part of.”

She further explained, “what we were trying to do as a group was to get the government to see that these vans are a part of a hate crime … against women … and were promoting racism.”

The problem flared up again in March 2018, when Paul McCarthy, a shocked grandfather, posted a picture of a van in Byron Bay with the lewd comment “Am I still a virgin if I take it up the ass” plastered on the back of a vehicle.

McCormack agreed with McCarthy. Asked who was affected by the vans she said: “Everyone! Mainly woman and children learning to read, but I should think, it should shock everyone.”

NewsVineWA phoned and emailed Wicked Campervans to see if they had anything to say, but got no replies. So my next move was to pose as a customer and ask through their live chat.

The chat asked for my name, email and mobile number then put me through to a pop up of a woman called Monakes with the title on the chat bar saying “Let’s Talk Dirty!” Instantly I thought it was a virus, but in fact, it was their live chat.

What made it strange is the fact there was an image of an attractive woman with a low top showing cleavage who I was supposedly talking to.

So if the sexism wasn’t evident enough before, it had become very evident now that the entire set up was bordering on pornographic. But it’s also interesting that none of the really controversial vans with naked woman or body parts is pictured on the website.

Wicked Campervans have previously told the media “we don’t set out to be controversial,” yet the vans are out there, shocking, funny, cheap and hard to get rid of.

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About the Writer
Ebony Garlett, Reporter
Ebony is an enthusiastic young broadcast journalist who loves sports, cats and enjoys delving into the world of sci-fi with a vast board game collection. She is currently interning at ABC Perth and loves getting around the local happenings of her community. Related
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Wicked Campervans – are they too rude?