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Don’t blame computers for rape T-shirts


stop violence against women, T-shirts, computers, rape cultureA clothing company has come under fire after selling a T-shirt glorifying rape.

The computer says: rape; It wasn’t me, it was those damn algorithms; It was a running script which randomly threw up that nasty word; It was basically beyond our control.

These were the gist of excuses a clothing company gave when a Twitter storm blew up over the sale of a shirt on Amazon’s UK website with the slogan: “Keep Calm and Rape A Lot” – a sick new twist on ‘been there, done that, now get the T-shirt’.

Apologising for the offence caused, a company spokesperson was quoted on ITV news as saying: “Although we did not in any way deliberately create the offensive T-shirts in question and it was the result of a scripted programming process that was compiled by only one member of staff, we accept the responsibility of the error and are doing our best to correct the issues at hand.”

Basically the company is saying that a computer just generates hundreds of random phrases and this time it happened to come up with a really offensive one, which automatically got put up on the website.

Naughty computer!

This is an excuse it just doesn’t wash.

Designer and journalist Martin Belam wrote: “The computer made me do it, is becoming the new ‘dog ate my homework’ of corporate excuses.”

Belam went on to explain: “You don’t get rape jokes at the end of an automated scripting process unless you put in rape jokes at the beginning.

“And one member of staff doesn’t get to put rape jokes up for sale unless you have no editorial process on your products.

“Computers didn’t make anybody do either of these things.”

The excuse also faded when Sky News reported on Saturday that the same company also produced other slogans promoting domestic violence such as: “Keep Calm and Hit Her”, “Keep Calm and Grope A Lot” and “Keep Calm and Grope On.”

These too have now been withdrawn.

As Amazon UK were selling the product on their site, surely they should take some responsibility for the sale of such an offensive product?

Shadow culture secretary Harriet Harman, reported the Independent,  called on Amazon, as the host site selling a T-shirt, to make a substantial donation to a women’s refuge by way of reparation.

The founder of the clothing company who produced the T-shirts later apologised again on the company’s own website – but still blamed computer error.

On a different website forum, a user even came to the defence of the computer, suggesting its “innocence” saying: “Assuming this is a computer generated T-shirt, can anybody be certain that the shirt refers to rape as in forced intercourse”.

And goes on to suggest that the term ‘rape’ or ‘raped’ is just jolly slang for getting beaten on an American football pitch.

This whole argument just too is spurious, because using the word rape so casually – whether on a T-shirt or in the sports stadium – trivialises the offence, and the distress of rape victims.

Some will argue that we should just ignore it and not give the company any publicity.

But without challenge and outrage, these kind of slogans become the norm, just like the T-shirts for children which say: “Your boyfriend thinks I’m cute” and trousers for five-year-olds with ‘bitch’ emblazoned across their bums.

Keep calm? Maybe.

But let’s carry on kicking up one big fuss.

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