Booty Call: A feminist review

I ended up at The Garage’s “Booty Call” last night, following an outpouring of fem-rage across twitter and facebook at the advertising campaign shown on the left. A woman out in Glasgow one night had spotted the flyer and become upset at the objectification of the women in the advertising campaign, the linking of a clubnight with the sex-industry and the implication that the sex-industry was “sexy”, rather than for sad losers who either cant get a shag without paying someone, or who choose to pay someone to fuck them because they like the control and dominance that gives them over women’s sexuality.

She alerted other feminists to this imagery, and we started giving feedback to the Garage, via their facebook wall.  The initial response from the Garage was dismissive, deleting all criticism and banning several commenters.  We then moved to twitter, using the hashtag #smashbootycall.  If one lesson was learned from the Hetherington, it was that if they try to silence you, don’t go away quietly – escalate like crazy.  And so we did.

Passing by the Garage on Friday night on the way to meet friends , I started wondering if it was as creepy an environment as the flyers suggested.  Over drinks, I suggested that we went along to find out.  You’re serious, aren’t you” said one.  I just smiled.  The other woman in the group flat out refused recounting a number of stories of being harrassed and touched up in nightclubs, including one incident where a man had put his hand right up her skirt and another where a bouncer had come to the defense of a man that she had challenged after he had touched her up.  “You will get sexually assaulted in there, you know that don’t you” she said.  I acknowledge the risk, but hell its not exactly something that would be unusual is it, being wantonly in possession of a vagina and all.  Eventually I persuaded someone else to come along with me, and off we set.

A thankfully short queue, saw us in to the club quite quickly.  My bag was searched, while my male companion was body searched.  All the men were body searched, but I didn’t see any body searches of women, but the bag search was done by a female bouncer, so presumably such may occur on occasions.Getting there at 11.59, I got in free, halving the entrance fee with my trusty companion. Yup – they are still going the “girls” get in free shite.

I’ve never been to the Garage before, so we had a wander round.  There was a middle bar, with karaoke, a downstairs dancefloor and the main upstairs cavernous dancehall with a spectators balcony.  The first impressions I got was how male the gender balance was.  Despite women getting in free before 12, approximately  two thirds of the clubgoers were male, which quite surprised me.  The other thing which struck me, being of the vertically challenged variety, was how tall the women were.  Dotted among the men were these 6ft amazonian women, which I had to crane my neck to see.  I remarked on this in wonder to my companion, who pointed out that it was their shoes….and indeed when I looked down massive platformed high heels seemed to be the footwear of choice for almost every woman in the club.  I have nothing but admiration for anyone who can take more than three steps in such footwear, it is truely a skill which has been mastered (and they did look quite amazing) , but at the same time they also looked like the kind of thing that you could break your neck in – especially if you needed to move away from something/someone quickly.

The middle bar was quite fun.  A female DJ was running karaoke, and while the participants were almost universally terrible, it was none the less a good atmosphere and the dreadful attempts at singing only added to the lighthearted ambiance.  I didn’t stay long there, but it did strike me that not only were most of the performers male, but that men took up considerably physical space, occupying the main area, while the women clustered at the edges.

We went upstairs to main dancehall, and within five minutes saw the first bit of harassment.  A woman sitting in a booth, giving off clear but silent “don’t touch me” messages was getting her thigh felt by the man sitting next to her.  He was paying her no attention, talking to another man, while running his hand up and down her thigh.  Every time she edged away a little, he edged a little closer and her discomfort at the situation was plain to see.  As in the middle bar, not only were there considerably more men than women, but again men took up far more space than the women, in sprawling groups with expansive movements, while female groups stuck in far tighter huddles.  The other thing which struck me was how “white” the clientele was.  At that point, I hadn’t seen anyone non-white in the entire club.

We went to dance. The space that the men took up was obvious on the dancefloor.  Despite the lethal footwear of the women, it was men who trod on my feet, who crashed into me, whose dance movements resulted in me getting whacked in the face once and narrowly avoided getting whacked about four more times.   After a short time another couple started dancing next to us.  While they were dancing the man kept insisting on touching the woman, who repeatedly kept pushing off his hands and insisting that she didn’t want touched, including a very clear “No” that could be heard above the music.  Eventually she left the dancefloor with her male companion in tow, fairly obviously feeling pressurised and uncomfortable with his actions.

After a while we moved to the downstairs dancefloor – and hell – this was pretty good.   Far more space, a female DJ and more mixed crowd, both in terms of gender and ethnicity, gave it a much more inclusive atmosphere.  For all the heightened sexual vibe present upstairs, downstairs was a far more healthy sex-positive space.  The unwanted touching and male space invasion observed upstairs was absent and while there were couples snogging in quite a number of the booths,  and around the edges of the dancefloor there wasn’t the invasive male presence that seemed to dominate upstairs.  Not only that, but my pal got hit on by another bloke, which quite surprised us given that the Garage is primarily a straight club with a strong heterosexual norm.  The whole atmosphere was just so much more relaxed, sensual and inclusive than the white het-male dominated space we had just left.

Booty call was being heavily promoted throughout the club, with quite a number of posters up on the walls and in the women’s toilets.  To the Garage’s credit, they had changed almost all of the advertising to the new theme, except on a video being played in a number of locations through the club, advertising its nights, which still used the sex-industry inspired advertising when promoting Booty Call.  This video is well worth comment.  The ratio of males to females observed in the club was completely reversed in the video with far more women featured than men.  Not only that, but the women in the video were presented in a heavily objectified manner, flirting with the camera, suggestively sucking straws and pouting, while the men were presented in active roles, including being featured taking pictures and imitating filming.

There was a visible security presence throughout the club, with bouncers positioned at the edges of dancefloors and on the balcony above the main hall.   While this demonstrates a commitment to ensuring their clients safety, I saw no female bouncers which would have given me more reassurance that there was an approachable presence to report sexual harrassment and unwanted touching to, and that it would be taken seriously by someone who understood women’s concerns and most probably had experienced such themselves.

We went back upstairs to the main hall to dance again.  On the dancefloor next to us, a woman had been hoisted onto the shoulders of one of her friends.  While she was up there, a nearby man made a great performance of trying to lift her skirt and look up it, to the approval and encouragement of his laddish mates.   So far no personal harassment, but true to form about half an hour before closing, a rather drunken male sidled up beside me, lurking at my back.  I was aware of his presence, and quite uncomfortable with it, but it wasn’t until he started touching my arm that I actively moved away.  He moved closer and then started rubbing my thigh, and trying to reach around.  I moved away further and he lurked at my back for a good few minutes before shuffling off.

While my friend was right – despite being a sober, modestly dressed forty year old, outwith the usual target demographic of sexual predators -  I did experience sexual assault, its by no means the worst club-night I have been to.  Why then the Garage chose to advertise it as a rapey, creepy environment I have no idea.  Despite the “girls” get in free promotion, suggesting that they wanted to encourage more women to come to their club-night,  the gender imbalance suggested that it hadn’t worked in the slightest.  A number of commentators on the Garage facebook wall, pointed out that clubs were, among other things, a venue for pulling and the sex-industry inspired imagery was designed to invoke this.  The gender imbalance meant that if that was their aim, a number of men would go home sadly disappointed and although the odds were better for the women, the sex-industry friendly promotional materials would tend to encourage the creeps that liked that kind of thing – the ones that you avoid like the plague.

To give the Garage credit, they did eventually change the advertising, demonstrate a level of safety awareness through the use of bouncers on the dance-floor and the downstairs dancehall was a genuinely welcoming environment at the same time a greater awareness of women’s concerns and experiences would make the club a more gender balanced environment, eradicate some of the rape culture tolerance witnessed and make it a generally better night out.

Republished in the Glasgow Guardian on 16th April 2012

Leave a comment below, or join the discussion on the or join the discussion on the Second Council House of Virgo facebook page. .
24 comments
Lucy
Lucy

Not once have I been in the garage and the bouncers have done nothing. If something does happen They do their upmost to sort it out. Also you can't make a true judgment on a club by going in one night. Every night is different. I've been in the Garage several times and while being chatted up by men after letting them know Im not interested they understand take the hint and leave. also there are female bouncers around to help. I find it quite disturbing how you just assure the worst of situations. You clearly already had a view of the Garage before you even went so other was like you were looking from things to judge. like the girl moving away from the guy...how do you know they weren't just having a lovers tiff?!. You can't just assume things. That's when trouble happens. I've been to clubs in Glasgow which are far far worse and I also know men ho have been accosted by females.

admin
admin

I didnt see any female bouncers other than on the door. You're right - I had a view of the Garage before I went - the view that their advertising promoted to me.

Aldo
Aldo

I think Lucy made a very good point, you are assuming, based on the complains of the night, that because you saw three examples of girls being accosted by guys, almost instantaneously, you judge that the Garage promote this. NO THEY DON'T! I have spoken to many female friends on this matter, and also based from my own experiences (I'm a CPL Regular) they have all agreed that the Garage is one of the Nightclubs in Glasgow that they feel most safe in, due to the fact that they can inform a bouncer if they're being accosted, and the bouncers will throw them out. Also, another thing I'm getting from your argument is that you feel the Garage is a bad place because you thought there was next-to-no female bouncers. I've been there on multiple occasions and have seen many female bouncers and security guards on standpoint. I'm all for gender equality in the workplace, but you're making it out as if to say you wont be happy and the Garage is evil untill they have an entire workforce of all female staff. This is kinda contradictory to you wanting equality for women is it not? Finally, I admire that you went to experience the night for yourself, so I want to set you a wee challenge. Next time you go out into Glasgow town go to the following places: Wednesday: Vice City at Club 520. This club night has women walking around in underwear serving shots. Thursday: Slide it in at Cathouse. This club has a picture of a naked and gagged woman on the flyer, with the tagline of "GIRLS! GIRLS! GIRLS!" Thursday: Poke Me at Campus. While merely being a parody of the Poke function on Facebook, you can imagine the innuendo's they would try with this night. This should give you a taster that this method of marketing happens almost UNANIMOUSLY in nightclubs, so you can have a better idea of nightclubs that do worse, so you can see that the Garage is NOT in the wrong.

admin
admin

Aldo - Indeed I am well aware of the men's rights movement. It is the bastard child of the pro-feminist movement which grew in the 90s. Rather than recognising that many of the issues that men face are byproducts of patriarchy and working with women to end it, they consider themselves hard done by through women's struggles to achieve liberation. Dunno if you have ever met any, but they are generally rape apologists and misogynists.

Aldo
Aldo

Also, if you firmly believe that the sexualisation of women is wrong, would you support this? http://www.slutwalktoronto.com/

admin
admin

Its the sexual objectification of women I object to. The reason that I support slutwalk is because women are often "shut-shamed". The idea for slutwalk came from a police officer suggesting to women that if they dont want raped they shouldn't dress "like sluts". But what is a "slut"? Its a name that is used to suggest that women have breached some "moral code" which says that they must behave in a particular way, and demands "modesty" from them.

Aldo
Aldo

Yes, nice. Someone forms a group to oppose the idea of feminism, because of this, they are now rapists. Wow, brilliant.

admin
admin

No, I said they were rape apologists. People who excuse rapists and disbelieve the victim.

Miszca
Miszca

I can't think of one time I have been in there and not been sexually assaulted, all years ago, but as [admin]'s experience shows, it's still common practice, and the bouncers do nothing. I've seen a girl carried out by 4 male bouncers after she lost the rag at a guy trying to put his hand up her skirt. She shouting at him, and outed him in the middle of the club, yet she was taken out and barred, despite not touching him (I'd be tempted to punch him, and usually a knee in the balls does the trick). They guy was still dancing around hours later, before we left my friend & I drenched him with beer, and vowed never to return to Creepsville. Maybe the other clubs take complaints more seriously, and bar or throw out guys like this, because almost everytime I hear a sexual assault in a club story it's in the garage, or one of the student unions. Rapey advertising attracts rapey guys. I did laugh when [admin] said men outnumbered women there, surely if they want a female- friendly club, they shouldn't be advertising like a free brothel. The gay clubs are full of young straight women all through the week and weekend, and it's no surprise, if a young woman can't go for a drink and a dance without being grabbed at. Last week a friend and I were talking to a mixed gender straight group of 1st year students, who already have deemed the unions, Garage & most of Sauchiehall street "too sleazy" for them.

T. Coles
T. Coles

Just watched the Youtube video. It's hardly an academic study, why did you post it? I don't believe that 'straight white American men are the most demonized in the world', not in everyday society. As a class of people they are the richest and most powerful on the planet. And I don't think there is anything approaching a war on men - but to a group which is used to having the majority of power any move towards 50-50 looks like an attack. Its strange that the facts and figures she uses to show an attack on men is that Lawyers 50 years ago used to be 70% men and now its more like 50-50, or slightly in favour of women. What a tragedy! In general, there is no legitimacy to the video, no citation of facts or analysis beyond bare assertion. What did you hope we'd get out of it?

Sarah
Sarah

Aldo, why don't you start a white-hetero-male-empowerment society to campaign against how hard life is for you all?

Aldo
Aldo

Wow. I comment on this, stating that I was happy that the writer chose to visit the nightclub and make her opinions based on her experiences and all of a sudden I get attacked. That's mature. In defending the Garage, I have been called an abundance of names, purely for the fact I was standing up for what I felt was right. These names include the following: Idiot, Arse, Pig, Retard, Ominous and Homophobe. All because I defended back. There was no need for these comments. Is this how feminists react when someone disagrees with them? Just hurl abuse at them, call them every name under the sun? Bravo. Maturity. This is why I hate the idea of feminists who take things too far. I'm a firm believer in equality and agree women deserve to be treated in the same respects as what men do, but see when you all begin to give us men "all men are chauvanist pigs" and lecture us about how WE'RE completely incompotent, then you just infuriate people. You say you want equality, but consistently hating on men is not a way to resolve it.

admin
admin

I don't see anywhere at all that you have been attacked. You recounted a tale of sexual assault by a woman, stated that it happened to men too and complained that the media does not focus on this for an unknown reason. I suggested that you and other men set up a campaign against sexual harassment and assault - because thats what we as women do, we set up campaigns (like this one) and seek to highlight it through the media - be that the mainstream media or the alternative media channels (like this one). Sarah suggested that you set up an empowerment society to campaign against how hard life is for you - because that's what marginalized groups do. We recognise that systematic discrimination means that they lack confidence to address issues, they set up self-defense workshops, assertiveness training events and solidarity support networks. If you see the heterosexual male as a marginalised group, which you clearly do from the video that you posted and demanded that we spent a considerable amount of time watching then this is all good advice. Personally I see the het-male as enjoying considerable privilage. Perhaps you should check yours? http://blog.shrub.com/archives/tekanji/2006-03-08_146

Aldo McEwan
Aldo McEwan

But as you duly noted on this, you mentioned that this happens in possibly all nightclubs, not just Garage. I've been to clubs such as Bamboo and Karbon, and even Play (which used to promote a night called Shagtag Tuesdays) and I've seen much worse unwanted touching. It is a sad thought that this happens, but it unfortunately does, and in other clubs too, not just the Garage, which you discussed on your blog. I like and respect that you went to see for yourself what the night was like though, and that your opinions on this matter are actually based from your own experiences within said nightclub, instead of jumping on the bandwagon that many other feminists are doing and just forming opinions based on what they've seen on a flyer, and not actually having attended the night itself.

admin
admin

I'm sure it does, but just because women get assaulted in many other nightclubs doesn't make it OK.

TsK
TsK

Comment!

Aldo McEwan
Aldo McEwan

I never mentioned once that it's okay at all, but I see your point. Can I also take a different approach to this and mention that it isn't only women that get sexually assaulted in other nightclubs, men get it too. It's happened to me before, I was talking to a girl I had met in a nightclub and we were just having some general conversation untill she grabbed me in the balls with a strong vice grip and demanded that I "Fucked her right then and there", which were her words. As you can see from my point, it DOES happen to men as well as women, but the media and everything else doesn't focus on the male part of this as much, and I don't know why.

admin
admin

Perhaps you and other men should start a campaign against sexual harassment and assault in nightclubs?

Aldo McEwan
Aldo McEwan

After reading this, I would like to say thank you for deciding to see for yourself what Booty Call night was like for your own experience. As an MASSIVE campaigner that Booty Call is only tounge in cheek and means no harm to anyone at all, I've respected what you've had to say in this review, based on you having your own experience, instead of what you've seen on a flyer. The Garage prides itself on its very strict security, and will employ these security methods to make sure that everyone has a safe night out, which you got to experience last night, and which I have experienced a lot of times. Even as a male, the Garage is one of the very few nightclubs I've felt safe in, based on their security system. It's very unfortunate to read about the scenes of men trying to get into women (for lack of a better way to put it), but as I'm sure you've experienced before, and what you have mentioned in this blog, the Garage is not the only place this happens in, which does suck, but it's part of today's culture and happens to both genders, and no matter how hard people try, it's something that probably wont go away any time soon. I've also been harrased by girls in nightclubs, so it does happen both ways, which is unfortunate. But finally, I just want to thank you for taking matters into your own hand and going to see what Booty Call is like for yourself, and I'm glad you had a good night there :).

admin
admin

I wasn't an entirely safe experience. As I mentioned in the blogpost, a drunken male started touching my arm on the dancefloor, rubbing my thigh and trying to put his hand between my legs. I also witnessed three other incidents of unwanted touching.

© 2014 Frontier Theme

Page Optimized by WP BTBuckets WordPress Plugin