So unimpressed were we by the SU President's appalling tone and ignorant of these issues, that we raised the matter with the Board of Trustees at the Student Union, and submitted this statement - signed by a large number of people who collectively made up members of Bristol Fawcett, Bristol Feminist Network, Bristol University Feminist Society, lecturers at the Bristol University's Centre for Gender & Violence, and concerned individuals.
This is what we sent, in full:
Myself, and the people below, are very concerned about the potential relationship between societies and some media in the Bristol University Students’ Union and the Hooters breast-themed restaurant in Bristol.
We feel it is essential for the welfare of all students and members of the Union that Hooters is placed on the Union’s list of banned sponsors immediately, and that this matter is not deferred until the AGM in February.
We have contacted the staff at ‘Epigram’, as well as [NAME OF SU PRESIDENT], [NAME OF SU MANAGER] and some other sabbaticals at the Union, regarding this, but unfortunately have not yet had a satisfactory response.
‘Epigram’ has recently printed a number of pieces (notably several in the October 25 issue), which are extremely concerning from a sexist point of view, and in turn shows an implied tolerance towards violence against women. While we acknowledge ‘Epigram’ is produced by unqualified students, we also feel ‘Epigram’ should be more aware of the potential influence it has on the entire student body at the university and must therefore be monitored more closely by those with more experience of legal and equality matters.
For instance, one of the columnists in the above issue of ‘Epigram’ states that anti-Hooters campaigners claim Hooters girls are "prostitutes", which is an unhelpful assertion – bordering on libelous; is based on no truth (I would be interested to see in which reputable source she saw this claim, as I've been following this issue very closely and have never heard anyone say this); and perpetuates myths among people who wish to believe feminists are NIMBYs. As such, the writer and editor are responsible for the accuracy of what they print.
Similarly, despite what [NAME OF SU PRESIDENT] has told me (for your information, I am a Bristol University postgraduate, an feminist activist, I have been involved with the Hooters situation since August, and am up-to-date with the academic evidence proving the link between sexual entertainment venues like Hooters and the ensuing clear links to violence against women)… it's not merely a "leap of logic", as [NAME OF SU PRESIDENT] says, for me to say that by ‘Epigram’ printing biased coverage of Hooters and pole dancing, the paper is endorsing violence against women. It is a fact.
For instance, studies this year by the American Psychological Association state:
• Pressure on women and girls to look and behave in certain ways negatively affects their self-esteem and their mental health.
• Gender inequality is reinforced, and hopes for a level playing field are dashed, when women are valued for their supposed sex appeal at the expense of their other attributes and qualities.
• After being exposed to images that sexually objectify women, men are significantly more accepting of sexual harassment, interpersonal violence, rape myths, and sex role stereotypes.
Further research by H Sweeting and P West shows how 33% of young women have mental health issues relating to the increased view of women as only and always sex objects, and Deborah Tolman has referred to the phenomena of young women's self objectification leading to anhedonia (an inability to experience pleasurable emotions from normally pleasurable events).
Professors at Bristol University's Centre for Gender and Violence Research can explain this better than I can, and have put their names to this statement. They are happy to be contacted for more information.
A panel discussion hosted by Bristol University on October 21 discussed how this research relates to the treatment of female staff at Hooters. The paper given by Dr Helen Mott is here: http://nohootersinbristol.blogspot.com/2010/10/statement-from-meeting-on-commerical.html.
To conclude, we feel it is imperative that the trustees of Bristol University Students’ Union consider the following matters with immediate effect:
That Hooters be placed on the banned list by the Union in terms of sponsorship of any club or society, and be banned from any advertising or promotions within the Union, for the reasons listed above.
That the Student Union revisit its equality policy. At present it is seven words long (!) and very open to manipulation. By doing so, the Union would avoid the need to address these issues in the future. That ‘Epigram’ staff, and staff of any Union media, be given instructions from the trustees about the Union’s zero tolerance towards any sexism or violence towards women or men, in order to avoid any future incidences like those which have unfortunately occurred this term.
Thank you for your time,
[SIGNATURES REMOVED FOR BLOG VERSION, DUE TO PRIVACY AND SECURITY REASONS]
(Sorry, there's more... To be continued...)