A marketing and advertising company in Waco, Tex. really wanted to drum up some new business, you know, make a splash. Most likely, there was a strategy meeting at which Hornet Signs’ owner, Brad Kolb, petitioned his crack creative team for some ideas. Maybe someone said tentatively, “We should all wear funny hats, like, everywhere,” but that idea was roundly rejected. Maybe some other someone then said, “Let’s use the INTERNET to, you know, make gifs of cats holding up our signs.” No, no — Hornet Signs needed to show the public how realistic its signs are, how they have depth, contour. Hornet needed to not just interest or entertain people — the company needed to alarm them, to spread panic across the Texas highways, which is how the “woman bounded in the bed of a truck” pickup truck tailgate decal was born.
The decal has attracted nothing but negative attention since local media got wind of it earlier in the week, though Kolb insisted to KWTX, “I wasn't expecting the reactions we got, nor do we condone this by any means. It was more or less something we put out there to see who noticed it.” Condone what, exactly? Violence against women? Kidnap? Rape? Wait, so you’re saying that this tailgate decal — that an employee had to slap on a truck and drive around with to “gauge how realistic [Hornet Signs’] decals are” — isn’t somehow an ad encouraging people to go forth, kidnap, and be prosperous? What you’re really saying, then, is that Kolb is just a sensationalistic asshole who mistakenly believes an image like the one on his company’s tailgate decals is provocative when, really, it’s just a graphic testament to the casual, callous misogyny that tries to assert some kind of ownership over women’s bodies.
By all accounts, Kolb has provoked exactly the reaction he no doubt was looking for: people have noticed, word is spreading, and the police have yet to get involved, although some alarmed Waco citizens have called the authorities (manufactured panic, which, notes The Frisky’s Julie Gerstein, said authorities must LOVE). The decal hit the streets a month ago, and, despite the ire on Hornet Signs’ Facebook page, Kolb claims that the bound-woman decal has done precisely what he wanted it to do, i.e. increase orders for more truck stickers.
That’s how utterly mundane this all is — quite likely, Kolb doesn’t really believe he or the people at his company did a horribly misogynistic thing. They’re just trying to grab some attention so they can peddle some stickers, even if their stunt has been done before, even if the public hates them for it. The stunt’s mundanity, though, is what makes this kind of thing so insidious. This decal is an act of visual violence, evidence of a misogyny that has blossomed like a cancer in someone’s worldview, eroding all empathy to the point where the image of a woman bound in the bed of a truck elicits only dumb snickers of, “Heh, heh — I’ll bet this’ll sell a whole mess of [insert stupid, useless thing that no one wants].”