About to embark on a move to Germany, airport travel has been weighing on my mind as my departure date gets closer. An organized person might be focusing on practical things like rolling underwear neatly into shoes to obtain maximum use out of every square inch in the suitcase but I am not said organized person. My travel concerns are which vintage suitcase will look best on the baggage claim and which shoes will best compliment the blue bins when going through security. I must not be the only person in the world who is more concerned with the aesthetics of travel than practicality because there is a website entirely devoted to stickers that will “draw attention to your bag and [make] it easily identifiable and sure to make you some new friends.”
“Take a stand against monotonous travel with Suitcase Stickers.”, the Cheeky.com website reads. Running my mouse over the four available stickers, the enlarged images pop up. Three stickers show a suitcase torn away to reveal something “daring” and “risqué”: bundles of money, bags of cocaine, and a plethora of sex toys. The fourth sticker made me catch my breath. Inside the suitcase was a weeping woman bound and gagged. Upon closer inspection I could see that she was an air stewardess and her facial expression is absolutely terrified.
My mind started racing with incredibility that a company was making a $15 profit from this horrifying image of a violated and abused woman. Hadn’t they heard about domestic violence, rape, or sex trafficking? Didn’t they know that this is the reality for thousands upon thousands of women?
Since I have taken a vow of boisterous noise when confronted with injustice I thought I should tell them. I wrote them this letter:
When you created the sticker of a woman bound and gagged in a suitcase I don't think that you were considering the horrifying reality that thousands of women and young girls are trafficked into America every year to become sex slaves. Violence against women isn't cheeky or funny. It's not cleaver or witty to reproduce age old beliefs that women are less valuable than men and that it doesn't matter if they are gagged, beaten, and stuffed into a suitcase like any other object. I'd like to hope you have more educated people on staff who can create products that don't use abused women as the source of a joke.
Please remove this product from your site. And please educate yourself on this issue by visiting sites like www.love146.org and reading books like Sex Trafficking: Inside the Business of Modern Day Slavery by Siddharth Kara.
I felt satisfied with my response but wondered, who else is getting upset about this enough to do something about it? Further investigation led me to news articles that covered these stickers but they managed to completely fail at discussing the abused woman. One news source described it as “luggage porn” which is alarming that when they think of a woman bound and gagged this reminds them of pornography. Focus was more on the offense to airport personnel rather than the offense to victims of gender violence.
What this sticker shows is that violence against women is treated lightly and as a joke. There is a hardly surprising lack of outcry to TheCheeky.com because it’s not just this one website and it’s not just this one instance that treats violence against women as a comical joke at which to smirk or smile. In the undertones and fabric of our society there is a common and widespread notion that women are worth less than men and are valued more for their sexuality than person-hood.
I have yet to hear a response from TheCheeky.com to my email. But I can smile knowing that I will never be silent when violence against women is used for a joke. When I travel to Germany this fall I hope that wherever in the world I may be, in an airport, in Chicago or Berlin, that I always raise my voice for the voiceless.