On not walking past

Jen Thorpe
Jen Thorpe

By Jen Thorpe

It’s Sunday. I go to a mall to get some art supplies. It’s an ordinary mall, outdated even, with strange linoleum flooring and an assortment of second-hand stores and haberdasheries  It’s the type of mall your gran goes to for wool, or other assorted items needed when growing older.

So imagine my surprise when I walk past a new framers and see the worst poster I have ever seen. It’s A3 size and pale pink: the sort of pink you see on little girls birthday cards, or pregnancy cards. It’s amongst a host of other coloured posters all with sayings made up by the framers’ staff. The font is serif, bold and large. The content of this particular poster is so shocking that I scream ‘WHAT!’ very loudly, causing my boyfriend Mike to come spinning back to see what has happened to me, concern etched on his face.

“Keep calm and slap that bitch hard” is what the poster says.

I don’t even give Mike a chance to comment on it himself. He’s shaking his head and following me, as propelled by rage and shaking with it, I go to the door of the framers and bang on the door. It takes a few times for them to hear me because they’re drilling and building what I presume are the shelves where all the marvellous frames will go.

A middle-aged, dark haired, white sweaty man comes to the door smiling. He thinks I’m about to ask when they’re opening, his eyes are filled with information just waiting to come out for potential customers. I don’t give him the chance.

“I’m incredibly offended by your poster. It is ridiculous that you would ever think something like that was funny. We live in South Africa for heavens sake – we have such high levels of violence against women I can’t even begin to understand why you thought this was OK. I mean, come on, every eight minutes a woman is murdered by her intimate partner. What were you thinking…”

He interrupts me, his smile is gone and in its place is a rather stern frown.

“I’ll take it down. You’re the first person to say anything.”

I walk away, still shaking, unable to really focus on art supplies and trying to choose a pen unsuccesfully. When I walk back, the poster has been taken down. I go back to say thank you, he says “It’s a pleasure.”


5 thoughts on “On not walking past”

  1. I can’t help but wonder, how many people saw it and weren’t offended, and how many were but didn’t feel like they could say something.


  2. I don’t get it, how is this picture linked to violence against women?

    I would have personally interpreted as possibly referring to any human being that has caused grief to myself as the “bitch”. Or is the word bitch in the real world ONLY ever used in reference to women? Is it possible that someone such as yourself could perhaps manifest much of the worlds sexism in your own minds where perhaps it does not even exist, nor is the intent? Did it ever come to mind that perhaps at the time he was not thinking about violence against women at the time that he put the picture up? Did you explain nicely to him why it might have been taken the wrong way by many? How do you think you left this person feeling after the encounter? Do you think he felt enlightened or did this “middle-aged, dark haired, white sweaty man” go home feeling embarrassed and belittled by some snappy middle aged blond girl. Does the fact that he was white, male, middle aged, or sweaty even make any difference to the story? Would initiating dialog with the man regarding the potential negative message of the picture have perhaps planted a seed far more productive and infectious than the humiliation that will probably only last a few days? Just some thoughts.



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