Paperchase: now catering for sex offenders?

// 27 April 2011

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x5irc.jpg [Image is a photograph of a greetings card taken in a shop. The card has multi-coloured text, saying “I’m already visualising the duct tape over your mouth”.]

Oh Paperchase, what were you thinking? You stock birthday cards, Christmas cards, anniversary cards, every kind of card I could need. But this one, seen by @jocaulfield – really, what were you thinking?

I have no idea who the target audience is supposed to be, because all I can think of is that it’s a perfect card for a stalker to send to their victim. Admittedly it could also be used by kinky folk planning their next play session, but other than that it just screams sex offender.

How would you feel, as a woman, to receive a card like that? What if it was anonymous? Or would it actually be worse if it was signed? If I got that in the post I’m just not sure I would see the funny side, if there even is one. I am pretty sure I’d feel scared and intimidated and threatened.

I can’t find it for sale on their website. It might be there, but even working out which category of card it would come under is baffling me. Get well soon? Sympathy? Engagement and wedding?

The presence of this card means that Paperchase does not feel like a shop I want to go into any more. It does not feel like a safe place, nor a place that I would like to give money to. If you want to let them know what you think of this card, you can do so here.

Photograph by, and hat-tip to, Jo Caulfield.

Comments From You

Annie // Posted 27 April 2011 at 6:57 pm

“How would you feel, as a woman, to receive a card like that?” Terrified. Devastated. Probably afraid to leave the house for a while.

That card is unbelievable.

B // Posted 27 April 2011 at 7:07 pm

See I’m into some kinky stuff at times and I read some slightly dodgy stuff too – but duct tape over the mouth???? That’s just disturbing and really horrible, and not something I’ve ever come across in any of the kinky stuff I’ve read, which makes it even more disturbing.

I think men receiving it wouldn’t be far behind in the ‘disturbed’ stakes. But who would send it to a man?

Jennifer Krase // Posted 27 April 2011 at 7:15 pm

So this card showed up first on my facebook feed and then on twitter, and honestly- with all the jokes (some funny, some downright annoying) I get about being a ~loud American~ from friends I thought the card was in poor taste but admittedly a little funny.

I think the impact of the card depends entirely on the recipient and their history with the giver- like almost every verbal and written communication EVER- but I can see the potential for major offense and perhaps worse.

However I doubt that was what the makers of the card had in mind- precisely because I’ve been known to receive similarly “shut up” themed jokey comments from people in real life. I don’t always find them funny, but I also don’t find them oppressive or catalytic for danger. It’s a tasteless card but I imagine it has roots in something a lot more innocent than how it’s been received.

Paperchase should stick to what it’s good at in the stationery department- artsy, cute, and the occasional Edward Moncton cars.

Sue Henderson // Posted 27 April 2011 at 7:24 pm

If I received that my initial reaction would be to wanna rip someone’s head off. It’s horrible. Absolutely vomit inducing :(

angela // Posted 27 April 2011 at 7:28 pm

I’m already visualising loads of people not spending any money in Paperchase.

Joanne // Posted 27 April 2011 at 7:46 pm

I’ve emailed Paperchase about their product and suggested they make a donation to a suitable organisation for survivors. I used to work there a long time ago. Now embarrassed.

Kit // Posted 27 April 2011 at 8:05 pm

They’ll fix it when it twitter explodes with anti-Paperchase sentiment again.

Would love to know what the card designer and supplier was thinking when they came up with that and then said “hey Paperchase, this will be great among your cute and artsy cards and notepads”.

I might like it from my SO if I’d broken my jaw and they wanted to give me a geeky “fixed with the magic of duct tape” kinda get well card. And even that’s a stretch here :/

lzbl // Posted 27 April 2011 at 8:31 pm

‘How would you feel, as a woman, to receive a card like that?’

Er, absolutely fine? Not everyone is going to find this disturbing. My duct tape lives next to my bed for a reason.

In addition to which, it is gender neutral and could just as easily be sent by women to men.

Laurel Dearing // Posted 27 April 2011 at 8:46 pm

I think Jennifer Krase has a point, however, i think something which is such a personal joke really should be something which is very much between them, and i would expect DIY or at least customised on something like that. i dont see how it can be such a running joke for people as to need to be catered to a mass audience. surely as far as jokey cards go, rapey jokes are not exactly shopper friendly.

Quiet Riot Girl // Posted 27 April 2011 at 8:51 pm

‘Admittedly it could also be used by kinky folk planning their next play session, but other than that it just screams sex offender.’

can feminists ever mention kinky people in mainstream culture without then referring to ‘sex offenders’ or perverts or violence or rape?

Really that is what offends me not this card.

Like many cards, I’d not find it hilarious or even that sexy. But I dont think my mates/lovers would chose it for me. People have different humours and ideas of what’s funny/appropriate.

Mary Tracy // Posted 27 April 2011 at 9:13 pm

Contacted!

Here’s what I sent,

“To whom it may concern,

I have recently been made aware of a card design that is available inside your stores which contains a deeply distrubing caption. It reads “I’m already visualising the duct tape over your mouth”. I find this card offensive, violent and distressing, enough to make me think twice about entering the store. I fail to see the purpose it would serve as a card of any type.

I am a regular customer of the company, as I thoroughly appreciate to find products that are not available elsewhere. However, I am extremely disappointed to find that this kind of message is considered appropriate by the designers.

I would strongly advice you to re-consider your decision of making this card available. You can find a photo of the card I’m referring to on this link:

(link to The F Word)

Thank you”

Izzy B // Posted 27 April 2011 at 9:24 pm

I’ve emailed a complaint. To be honest I’m *almost* amused by this, in an if-i-didn’t-laugh-i’d-cry way. I mean, what were they THINKING?

B // Posted 27 April 2011 at 10:23 pm

Seriously Jennifer Krase? Because to me it is about equal to ‘I’m imagining the sound of the baseball bat cracking over your skull’. Because it sounds like a prelude to serious violence to me.

Telling someone to shut up is one thing – even if it’s done in a mock-threatening way. Duct tape over the mouth is an entirely different and far more disturbing level to me.

Hannah // Posted 27 April 2011 at 11:59 pm

I’ve emailed Paperchase before about sexism in their advertising, and on another occasion about plagiarism of images, and they’ve been unhelpful.

This example is perhaps a bit more extreme (I can’t imagine what they were thinking with this card) so perhaps they’ll pay more attention.

Jennifer Krase // Posted 28 April 2011 at 5:29 am

@ B … yes, REALLY. I don’t think it’s in good taste. I didn’t deny anyone’s experiences by leaving my comment, it was an honest interpretation of that card. Which, i’ve said repeatedly here and on twitter (you can check) is TASTELESS. I believe I said I would shit kittens if a friend gave it to me.

I think it’s an extreme jump to say “Paperchase is catering for sex offenders’. I think it’s pragmatic and reasonable to say “Paperchase needs to rethink its approach to humour and realise that people are more likely to find nefarious uses for this card than an Edward Moncton card about a chicken in a bra”

Sorry my initial reaction wasn’t feminist and outraged enough for you. I didn’t clock an intent or meaning for this card because, as numerous people have pointed out… it kind of doesn’t, in the words of James Brown, fit the brief.

Clara // Posted 28 April 2011 at 7:49 am

I am a “kinky person” and I can assure you that if my boyfriend presented me with that, we wouldn’t be making with the kinky (or the sexy, or the cuddly, or maybe even the conversationy) for a while after. It’s just profoundly creepy. Even if your sexual partner gave it to you, it’s been dreamed up by people who don’t know you! It’s impersonal! It’s DISTURBING!

Josh // Posted 28 April 2011 at 10:13 am

Yes, this card is bad taste and In my opinion not very well thought through on Paperchase’s part but I think that the insinuation that they are ‘catering for sex offenders’ or that this card is facilitating stalkers is a little extreme, obviously if you received it from a stranger it would be disturbing and sickening, but I think that if someone is stalking you they probably wont be stopped by a lack of widely available greetings cards.

Jennifer Krase // Posted 28 April 2011 at 4:05 pm

Well, apparently I wasn’t supposed to reproduce the response from Paperchase- but they’ve pulled the card and apologised, according to their reply to my complaint.

rawkabilly // Posted 28 April 2011 at 5:31 pm

Holy shit, this is EXTREMELY triggering for me as a victim of sexual assault in the past. I’m just imagining all the harassment this could lead to, with rapists sending this to their victims as a reminder of what they did or something… or a misogynist giving this to the female they hate or their wife in order to assert their “females should be seen and not heard” bullshit..

.. in what situation is this card ever okay? Even the people here who say they’re kinky have said that they wouldn’t give it to anyone and it’s kind of creepy. Who exactly was the target market for this?

Mary Tracy // Posted 28 April 2011 at 10:51 pm

Paperchase replied that they had received complaints over this particular card, that its message was “asking someone to shut up” and that they’d be removing it from their stores. I don’t believe that last thing, they probably say it to everyone who complaints over anything.

The point is that this card is extremely violent for a “mainstream” “public” environment. And so it acts to reflect and perpetuate the idea that violence is ok.

B // Posted 29 April 2011 at 10:29 am

Jennifer Krase, my response was a bit personally critical, I’m sorry about that. I fully agree with your second paragraph, as it happens.

I’m very glad to hear they’ve pulled the card.

Jennifer Krase // Posted 29 April 2011 at 10:41 am

Well, someone should go back and check Swindon Paperchase to make sure it’s been removed, then.

@B it’s cool, I’ve had a shitty week but thanks for the apology. I think we are more on the same page than not.

Mobot // Posted 30 April 2011 at 12:03 pm

Not adding much to the discussion here but I agree with Jennifer Krase… The card was ill-conceived and stupid, but I also read it as meaning ‘shut up’. Which is not exactly a positive message but I think context is important. My close friends and I wind each other up a bit like this quite often because we know it’s not meant and it’s safe. But I admit, we don’t need mass produced cards with creepy connotations to have a private joke! It’s a shame that it’s a wider culture of sexual violence, misogyny etc. that make what was probably an innocent (but crap) attempt at a joke so distressing for a lot of people.

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