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Hate crime or highway humour?

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On a recent Sunday a friend and I were driving back from a camp weekend toward Ottawa in his car. We were on Ontario’s Highway 7, with a shiny white Dodge Ram truck driving immediately in front of us.

Across the back of the truck I noticed a line of very well-kerned type, appearing to be part of the pickup’s original branding. But as we came closer I was able to make out the message, and was really taken aback: “Dodge the father, Ram the daughter” was the proud message emblazoned across the width of this guy’s ride.

We were behind him for over 20 minutes before the truck turned off down a side road, and a lot passed through my head during that time.

It really angered me that this guy would find it so clever to emblazon his precious pickup with a message that incites violence against young women.

I imagined how awkward it would be if I were driving behind that truck with my daughter in the passenger seat, having to quietly stare with her at that tailgate for 20 minutes.

My friend and I chatted about whether it’s legal to drive down an Ontario highway sporting such a hateful message. What if the message incited violence against aboriginals… or Gypsies… or house pets … would it be any different? Do our young women not deserve protection and respect?

An internet search for this phrase demonstrates that in fact there are many versions of this bumper sticker slogan for sale, most not so finely crafted, many lewdly illustrated, and from outlets of the calibre of amazon.com no less.

Whatever designer did such a fine job of making this message look perfectly “on-brand” can pat himself on the back for being very clever, but far from wise.

It’s our responsibility as professionals to use our power to share the best knowledge and wisdom our society has to offer.

I do realize there are a lot of horrible things available online, but does our society not have a higher standard for what you can shout out typographically on our roadways?

Is such a message allowed on our highways? What messages should be allowed on our roads, our lawns, our shop windows?

Where do we draw the line between hate crime and a blogger with no sense of humour?

What say you, AA19874?

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Reviewed September 3, 2013


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