• Manila Times columnist breaks ‘Rape Shirt’ story


    “It’s not rape. It’s a snuggle with a struggle.”

    These statements that struck a columnist of The Manila Times as outrageous and downright offensive had been emblazoned in bold letters on T-shirts that are sold in the teen wear section of the country’ largest retail chain.

    Shocked, angered and incredulous over how this apparently virtual endorsement of rape was cavalierly marketed and passed on as dark humor not to be taken seriously, The Times entertainment columnist Karen Kunawicz immediately voiced her protest through a post in her Facebook account on Monday.

    Kunawicz, who pens the Fan Girl movie/TV/stage review column for the paper, spotted the rather offensive suggestion at SM Megamall in Mandaluyong City. She snapped a photo and quickly uploaded the image on the social networking site.

    But while an unidentified SM Supermalls official took immediate action the next day, informing Kunawicz that management had pulled out the T-shirts carrying the statements from all of its 46 department stores nationwide, it was too late. More than 4,000 enraged netizens had reposted the photo overnight, creating an uproar.

    International online news sites, among them Straits Times Singapore, The Independent UK, News Australia and Buzzfeed UK picked up the story and published it in their respective websites.

    Local and foreign news agencies tried to contact Kunawicz for comments, but the writer chose to keep quiet. She said she was amazed over the lightning speed social media can raise an issue and arouse public consciousness.

    The popular writer recalled the chain of events that led to what is now dubbed the “rape shirt outrage.”

    “I saw [a]T-shirt [bearing the statements]on the third floor of [SM] Megamall, where they sell clothes for teens and kids. It was displayed in a section devoted to graphic and message T-shirts. This was 8 p.m. Monday.”

    While she regards herself as a normally calm individual, she confessed the sight of the T-shirt “shook” her.

    “The post immediately received a very strong response [from thousands of Facebook users],” she continued. “It was something I knew I could discuss with my contacts, but eventually, some of them went ahead to inform SM Supermalls about the T-shirt.”
    Indeed, someone had to be made accountable.

    With the retail chain’s assurance to Kunawicz that the product had been removed from their department stores, it duly issued an official statement in its Twitter account (@smsupermalls) with the following explanation: “We’ve been informed via social media that we might be stocking a T-shirt with a message that we too find unacceptable. We are investigating on how it was even displayed and will be pulled out immediately.”

    Shortly after, another tweet was posted, reiterating, “We do not tolerate such actions. SM does not support such irresponsible and malicious acts that mock important and sensitive social issues. We have immediately pulled out all the T-shirts of the consignor that distributes them, and we are investigating why it was included in our delivery of assorted T-shirts.”

    Kunawicz’ Fan Girl column for Life & Times section comes out every Friday. Besides her reviews for film, television and theater, she has been writing her views on pop culture for the paper since 1999.


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