Recently, the “best student bar in the West End” attempted to get in on the Fifty Shades of Grey hype by offering “free gaffa [sic] tape with every pint”. The chalkboard on which this unconventional freebie was advertised enthusiastically proclaimed: “THAT’LL SHUT HER UP! Pints from £2.80- that’s a lot of tape!!”.
Although it remains unconfirmed as to whether Alfies Bar was disposed to supply actual gaffer tape to its customers, what can be confirmed is that the bar needs to rethink its marketing strategy. The Women for Independence group were the first to condemn the bar, with Glasgow Women’s Aid and the deputy Labour leader Kezia Dugdale deeming the sign “offensive”, “outdated”, and “disgraceful”.
The Fifty Shades franchise has already faced heavy criticism for romanticising an abusive relationship. We certainly don’t need a self-proclaimed ‘student bar’ making a joke out of violence against women.
The bar is not only jumping on the Fifty Shades bandwagon, but hiding behind it: imagine this board had been put out five years ago, before the Twilight fan fiction took off on its misogynistic assault on bestsellers lists across the globe and put BDSM well into the public consciousness.
Imagine how much more widespread the furious backlash would be without the context of this worldwide franchise. We cannot let E.L. James’ glorification of domestic abuse carry this despicable and dangerous piece of marketing over our heads. Making the loose connection between a problematic franchise and the act of physically restraining a woman to “shut her up” continues to hold up gender stereotypes, and is inherently threatening, regardless of its claim of being just a “bad joke”.
The bar initially responded by telling those criticising the sign to “get a grip”, following up with an apology that accused those offended of being “childish” and “hysterical”. It then attempted to defend itself by saying that “a number of female patrons share the view that the image is a joke” (because all women are a homogenous group that think and act as one).
To further invalidate its non-apology, the bar continued to post memes poking fun at its adversaries, quoting “#FREESPEECH” – ok. Freedom of speech does not mean you can say whatever you want without consequence; it does not mean you are exempt from criticism or backlash, it simply means that you cannot be “censored or restrained” by the government. Additionally, the correct way to convey regret and remorse is not to shift the blame away from you and onto those who took offence, then continue to do what you were called out for.
A final word of advice to Alfies Bar: sack your social media guy. And ‘albeit’ is one word, not three.
[Ciaran McQueen – @]