Scrolling through your social-media feed is often a rage-inducing exercise in 2017, but over the weekend, I came across a photo a friend took that really had me seething. In fact, it had everyone who saw it seething.
It was a photo of a Toronto billboard advertising Jack Astor’s new fishbowl-sized cocktails. Two are pictured in close proximity with the caption, “We like ‘em round and big.”
Jack Astor’s has built its reputation on being obnoxious, but in a clever, good-natured way. That’s why, in addition to the donkey, the “tor” on its signs flicks on and off—so everyone can see that the restaurant is a “Jack As___s.” Isn’t that smart?
What doesn’t come across as smart is the choice to run this billboard at a time when women are coming forward to tell their stories of sexual abuse and sexual harassment. It’s offensive to objectify women on the best of days, but to do so in the current cultural climate is tone deaf and disgusting.
Jack Astor’s has not commented on the billboards, and the company has begun taking them down in Toronto this week. But this type of sexist double standard for women isn’t a new issue for the restaurant chain. In 2014, an ad campaign for its patios referred to the women who patronize them as cougars. In 2016, an employee was sent home for wearing her hair pulled back in a bun instead of straightened and loose. And let’s not forget the dress code, which requires female wait staff to wear high heels and short skirts. In 2015, a petition of more than 30,000 signatures asked the company—and similar restaurant chains—to do away with it. The response from Jack Astor’s, according to the CBC, was that there was the option to wear yoga pants instead, however female wait staff told the Marketplace team they felt enormous pressure by management to wear “sexier” clothing.
Jack Astor’s is a major player in the restaurant industry, an industry that has come under fire recently for its toxic, misogynistic culture. The company could be a leader in fighting sexual harassment and sexism in the workplace. Instead, it runs ads like this one—ads that help create an environment where women feel they have to take harassment without complaining or risk losing their jobs or their tips.
There’s a segment of the male population that’s feeling alienated right now. They’re feeling like the world has gotten too PC, and long to go back to the days when they didn’t feel constantly under attack. Jack Astor’s isn’t a stupid company. It’s likely they’re using these ads as a dog whistle for those bros, signalling that their restaurants can be a “safe space” for dudes who are tired of change.
We get it, dudes. Women are tired, too.
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