Humorless prigs 1; Tucker Max 0

Chicago won't stand for bus ads offering "funny" tips to would-be sexual predators

Published September 18, 2009 3:19PM (EDT)

I'm inclined to agree with Sady Doyle that protesting professional asshole Tucker Max "makes him seem far important than he actually is." But sometimes, raising a ruckus about his deliberately offensive stunts can be both appropriate and effective.

In my hometown of Chicago, CTA buses have been running mysterious ads that say, simply, "Deaf girls can't hear you coming" -- which turn out to be part of a campaign for the new film based on Max's memoir, "I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell." On Wednesday, the Chicago Tribune's Eric Zorn saw one of the ads and blogged, "It reads like a helpful hint in a predator's handbook and strikes me as being in very bad taste. But perhaps I'm missing something. Anyone?"

He wasn't missing anything. Two Shakesville contributors noticed the same ad and had similar reactions. Guest blogger Elena writes, "it made me feel unsafe just reading it -- just knowing that some advertiser somewhere is writing an ad targeted to rapists, or would-be rapists, with the added disgusting bonus of combined disability fetishism and ablism." And regular contributor Paul the Spud, a social worker who counsels sexual assault survivors, says in an open letter to Mayor Daley, "I find it appalling that the CTA would accept such an advertisement to be placed on the side of public transportation. Does the CTA really think it is acceptable to force their customers to be confronted with an ad making light of rape on a daily basis? Does the CTA think it is acceptable to make light of the hearing-impaired?" Meanwhile, a letter to the editor of the Chicago Reader notes an equally charming ad for the film, which reads: "Strippers will not tolerate disrespect ... HAHA, just kidding." Says Reader reader Leah Pine, "I am outraged that this foul message is being endorsed and publicized by my city. It is not funny -- it is abusive, and it must be removed from the buses. CTA authorities should be ashamed."

Of course, this kind of outrage is red meat to Max and his fans, who thrive on angry letters and blog posts that treat his "jokes" with total seriousness; the time-tested  "lighten up, loser!" defense is quite effective at obviating any need to acknowledge charges of a) misogyny or b) really not being as funny as you think you are. As Doyle wrote, "Being hated is a part of his act. He's a self-described asshole who succeeds by getting people to agree with him ... And for his fans, knowing that he's picketed by feminists -- feminists! Dreaded nemeses of parties and good time! -- isn't cause for concern, but a ringing endorsement." Indeed, the first three comments on the Reader blog post are from apparent Max fans:

You are fucking retarded! Why are you offended? Was your mom a stripper?

Strippers show people their private parts for one dollar. They're not exactly paragons of respect.

Men can be strippers too, Leah Pine you fat cow. Now shut your damn pie hole, and make me a sandwhich.

So yes, feminist outrage (not to mention plain old decent human being outrage) has the unfortunate side effect of fueling Tucker Max fandom and keeping his name in the press. But sometimes, it also serves its purpose. Zorn reports in an update to his original post that according to a CTA spokesperson, "the transit agency agrees that this sign along with a similar sign referencing 'blind girls' violates CTA guidelines, and that the private company to which the CTA outsources its advertising program has agreed to remove them." It's impossible to say whether the removal of the ads will hurt the movie, but at least Chicagoans won't have to look at rape jokes on their way to work anymore. Score one for the humorless prigs! 

By Kate Harding

Kate Harding is the author of Asking For It: The Alarming Rise of Rape Culture--and What We Can Do About It, available from Da Capo Press in August 2015. Previously, she collaborated with Anna Holmes, Amanda Hess, and a cast of thousands on The Book of Jezebel, and with Marianne Kirby on Lessons from the Fat-o-Sphere. You might also remember her as the founding editor of Shapely Prose (2007-2010). Kate's essays have appeared in the anthologies Madonna & Me, Yes Means Yes, Feed Me, and Airmail: Women of Letters. She holds an M.F.A. in fiction from Vermont College of Fine Arts and a B.A. in English from University of Toronto, and is currently at work on a Ph.D. in creative writing from Bath Spa University

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