A controversial video has sparked a protest from angry students who are urging Leeds bars to take a stand against sexual harassment. Juliette Bains reports.
TODAY, (October 17) Scores of students will take to the streets to protest over what they say is a ‘despicable’ video promoting a clubnight in Leeds.
The ‘Freshers Violation’ video sparked outrage after including footage of what has since been dubbed ‘rape banter’.
Students at the University of Leeds were furious after the video – promoting student night Tequila – featured one male clubgoer saying: “She’s going to pay for the drinks, pay for the taxi, and then she’s going to get raped.”
Young female clubgoers were also asked how they would “survive violation” and were told by the interviewer there were ‘violation cages’ inside the club.
The video was taken down hours after it was posted on YouTube and Facebook by Tequila UK, which hosts the event at Mezz bar in Leeds city centre, and an apology was issued.
But today at 11am, demonstrators will gather outside the venue in a bid to put a stop to the clubnight, which has been running for 21 years.
Freya Potter, 20, is one of the co-ordinators at the Leeds University Union (LUU) Feminist Society and helped organise the protest.
She said: “This is an issue that so many people on campus and in Leeds feel so strongly about. Tequila crossed a such a massive line.
“It has caused a really big reaction from both men and women so we want to get people out doing something proactive.
“This level of reaction could send a really big message out to Tequila and other clubs in the city and we want to say that this kind of thing is completely unacceptable.”
Emma Friend, LUU’s equality and diversity officer, said: “Trivialisation of sexual violence should not be tolerated and Tequila’s decision to use it as an advertising tool is despicable. It’s great that so many people feel strongly about this and are taking action.”
Demonstrators at today’s protest will also be calling on all nightclubs in Leeds to adopt zero tolerance to sexual harassment policies, similar to the one adopted by LUU.
Speaking yesterday, the manager of Mezz bar, who did not want to be named, said he was aware of the protest, adding: “We are not involved in the marketing of Tequila.”
No one at Tequila was available for comment yesterday. But in a letter written to the LUU Feminist Society, Tequila UK said: “We have been made aware of the protest [...] and we would like to thank you for your intelligent and rationale approach.
“We respect your right to protest and will whole heartedly sign a pledge to implement a zero tolerance policy to sexual assault and not to glorify or promote rape in our marketing and club nights.
“Our choice of the word ‘Violation’ in the title to the event has been used by us for the past 20 years. It can certainly have sexual connotations but, as defined in the Oxford English dictionary, it also has a number of other less inflammatory definitions.”
They added: “We have always been a risqué, naughty and mischievous night but we are certainly not promoters of rape. In order to avoid any further confusion, we will be changing the name of the Freshers night in future years to something more appropriate.”
In a statement issued last week, a spokesperson for Leeds-based Tequila UK also condemned the material, labelling it “deplorable” and “completely despicable”, adding: “We wish to apologise unreservedly. We want to assure you, we are listening and are putting procedures in place to change our policies.”
Tequila UK, which was set up by students 21 years ago, recently contacted LUU’s Feminist Society to organise a meeting, which has been scheduled for next week and also said they are keen to work with a local rape charity.
Despite the apology, the video has ignited a wider debate, locally and nationally, about the trivialisation of sexual harassment and sexual violence.
Freya added: “It is a cultural thing that’s happening around the country. If we say to Tequila that this type of thing is OK, bars and clubs will start thinking this is how they have to cater to the student demographic. We have to make a stand at this point before it gets worse.”
Fellow Feminist Society member Cassie Sivapalan said: “This is an extreme but not an unusual example of a rape culture that is damaging our ability to deal with rape as an issue.”
Alice Smart, LUU’s education office, said: “Tequila’s promotional video is an extremely worrying example of the endemic lad culture that students are subjected to.”
Speaking to the YEP recently, Catriona Palin, from Support after Rape and Sexual Violence Leeds, said: “We are often told by those we support that attitudes held by society around rape can make it harder to seek help.”
She added: “This includes the trivialisation of rape and the acceptability of ‘rape banter’ such as that displayed in the promo video.”
To contact SARSVL, call 0808 802 3344, text 07797 803 211 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Over 3,230 signatures on petition to stop clubnight
A petition to ban the Tequila clubnight has received over 3,230 signatures in just a matter of days.
The petition, which was launched by the Leeds Student newspaper, aims to put a stop to the clubnight held at Mezz bar in the city centre.
It was set up shortly after the ‘Freshers Violation’ video was removed from YouTube and Facebook by Leeds-based promoter Tequila UK.
Editor of Leeds Student, Rehema Figueiredo, told the Yorkshire Evening Post: “We are really pleased with where the petition has got to.
“We’re trying to get to 5,000 signatures so that it’s representative of the student body.”
She added: “We will present it to the council and to Mezz to get them to stop hosting the night.”
Despite Tequila UK saying in a statement that they would make changes to their policies, the student newspaper doesn’t believe it’s enough.
Rehema added: “We think any night that was hosted by the same people, in the same venue, on the same night would eventually slip back into what it was in the past.”
Student Jennie Pritchard is also from the Leeds Student newspaper and helped to start up the petition.
She said: “The ‘Freshers Violation’ video promotes rape and violation of women.”
She added: “It is disgusting.”
The petition is called ‘Mezz Club, Leeds: Stop hosting club night Tequila’ and has been set up at the website www.change.org.
On the site, the petition states: “The company’s recent ‘Freshers Violation’ video promotes rape and the violation of women.
“This petition urges Mezz Club to stop hosting a night which glorifies sexual assault.”
Thousands of people including students, graduates and parents from Leeds and further afield have added their signatures to the petition and their comments are available to view online.
To see the petition, visit: http://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/mezz-club-leeds-stop-hosting-club-night-tequila