Ladies’ nights at bars viewed as rape culture

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Two University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill student DJs have stirred up the conversation surrounding rape culture on college campuses by publicly opposing ladies’ discount drink nights in bars.

“The way night club culture works right now, it is almost inherently sexist,” senior UNC-Chapel Hill student Trevor Dougherty said in a podcast.

The Daily Tar Heel, the student newspaper at UNC-Chapel Hill, reported Aug. 16 that Dougherty and fellow DJ Rob Sekay are speaking out against sexism in bars and clubs through Internet campaigns, a move some Athens and University of Georgia community members view as a source of inspiration.

Lea Ponticelli, co-facilitator of the Women’s Studies Student Organization at the UGA, said the Daily Tar Heel article opened her mind to the possibility of ladies’ nights being sexist.

“I definitely see where they’re coming from,” said the senior sociology and women’s studies major from Marietta. “Doing a ladies’ night definitely has that sexist connotation because it’s only the women who get the drinks, but also [they] attract the men to come hit on the really drunk ladies.”

Sally Sheppard, executive director of the North Georgia Cottage, a sexual assault resource center located in Athens, said this is a “new and innovative approach” on how to lessen incidents of a drug-facilitated rape.

“If the ladies’ night revolves around women getting cheaper drinks then it is a way to perhaps lower inhibitions of females that could put them in a situation where they may be a victim of sexual assault,” Sheppard said. “But what it really comes down to, to me, is that women should be able to drink however much they want, whenever they want, wherever they want and sexual assault not even be on the radar as something they need to look out for.”

In the Daily Tar Heel article, Sekay said ladies’ nights in bars objectify women and open up the possibility of sexual assault.

“I don’t think a lot of women really realize that they are actually the product being sold,” Sekay said in the article. “By advertising ladies’ night or by offering no cover to women, that tells the male audience that this is where all the women are going to be. And not only is that objectifying the women, but it’s also commodifying them as well, which is pretty harsh.”

Claire Frost, secretary of WSSO, said while it may be profitable for businesses, ladies’ nights can be negative in the larger scope of things.

“It definitely brings in the men, and the ladies, and it’s great for the businesses and to get the word of mouth out there, because who doesn’t want discounted drinks?” said the senior marketing and international business major from Marietta. “But at the same time if you take a step back and look at it on paper, you do have to think about it in the big picture.”

Ponticelli said she is not sure that a boycott of ladies’ nights would be effective in Athens, but she said awareness at least gets the conversation started.

“I don’t know if it’ll make any changes, but I think it’s clearly making people talk and that’s the first step to creating change,” Ponticelli said. “So that’s impressive alone.”

Steve Novak, manager of Allgood Bar in downtown Athens, said ladies’ nights have advantages for both men and women.

“The principle behind it is that the guys go where the girls are,” Novak said. “So, in a sense, it does make women part of a marketing tool, but at the same time the advantages for the women, I feel, are also big.”

Jazzmen Williams, manager of Uptown Bar, which opened this past week, also said ladies’ nights offer business perks, and plans to host them in the future.

“From a business standpoint, having ladies’ nights bring in the women to the bar, and substantially more men will follow,” Williams said. “This produces numbers for us, because more drinks are sold. ‘The more women, the more men, the more money’ is the way we look at that.”

However, Frost said the problems lie not in the ladies’ nights themselves, but in the events that tend to transpire because of them.

“If drinks are half off for all girls, then they’ll probably drink more because they don’t have to spend enough money,” Frost said. “And when you start drinking, things change, and you can be taken advantage of. But that’s not to say you can’t have a nice night out with discounted drinks.”

She said ladies’ nights can add a facet to rape culture, especially on a college campus.

“I feel like that’s the culture of rape here, where the first question isn’t ‘What happened? How are you feeling?’ to the victim, it’s always the victimization — ‘How short was your skirt?’ or ‘Wow, you had 10 drinks in two hours, what were you thinking?,’” Frost said. “And of course it’s not that every guy on campus is out to rape women, that’s not what we’re saying at all. It’s just the fact that it can cloud the picture.”

Sheppard said this is the culture she would most like to see changed.

“What I’d like to see done away with is the culture where women need to monitor what they drink because sexual predators cannot monitor their actions,” Sheppard said.