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Writer, Retreat Leader, Resource Creator
Since posting the letter below on here and on Facebook, I’ve received a lot of support, a lot of links of people who are organizing by writing letters and letting Toyota and others know their views, and a few emails from kindhearted folks who wonder if I just can’t take a joke.
I appreciate humor in advertising. I miss the days of the good Superbowl commercials–remember those? But I do not find humor in relating a certain economic status or certain ownership of a vehicle to coolness and putting others down. In this economic climate where more and more people are eating at soup kitchens and having to go to the local food pantries to stock their own kitchens because they can’t afford food, where people are being foreclosed on and others have to give up their cars because they can’t afford the payments, it is a commercial in poor taste.
Along with economic hardship, the issue of bullying which has been made known through widespread media coverage comes to mind. I never experienced bullying as a child the ways others have–I was not picked on because of my sexual orientation or my gender or my ethnicity. I was picked on because of my wardrobe. I was picked on for not wearing BUM Equipment sweatshirts when they were the rage. I was picked on for not having the right shoes. I was picked on specifically for looking like, and I quote from a confiscated note in my 7th grade science class, “Salvation Army’s clothing model.”
I didn’t grow up with much, but I always felt I grew up with enough. I had a roof over my heads and parents that loved me. We didn’t have cable, we didn’t have any extras, but we had enough. Sure, some of my clothes were from Goodwill. Some of my clothes were given from other families. Most of my clothes until the 6th grade were actually made by my mom, and after that, most were probably bought from LaMonts (now out of business) or Sears or JCPenny. But I was picked on for not having the “right,” trendy clothes.
Now, I don’t feel I was scarred for life–if anything, that experience made me more aware as an adult of what we teach our children and how quickly we are to judge others based on their outward appearance. But throughout middle and high school, I felt terribly inadequate. When other girls carried Esprit canvas bags to school, I had a generic bag that looked similar, but didn’t have the label and I felt ashamed. I felt less than acceptable to others, and others did treat me that way. I remember once sitting in the hallway at lunch time, sophomore year, where the other “popular” kids were, and being asked, “why are you sitting here? You don’t belong here.”
We all know this kind of bullying goes on. Of all forms of bullying, insulting others due to economic status has gone on perhaps longer than any other form (I have no evidence to back that up, just recalling Biblical stories, folk tales and Jane Austen novels where economic status was used to insult or block another person from being accepted). For Toyota to engage in this form of bullying is just another notch of ugliness.
As for the term “lame”–I know I have used it in a derogatory way in the past. I thought nothing of it. I really didn’t think of it as insulting those who were disabled. However, as I have come to known people of all different abilities, I recognize that using the term “lame” is similar to using the term “retarded.” It’s using a term to describe someone’s physical condition in a negative way. It’s simply not acceptable. And in this Toyota commercial, it was so not necessary.
I don’t have any great insights on how to stop this kind of bullying and insulting, all I know is that I don’t want to buy products from companies that think it’s funny. I’d rather support companies pushing a healthier attitude of sharing and caring. Or, at the very least, I’d like to see truly funny commercials again.