On October 26th, a new Sheffield restaurant opened with a menu including a burger named after Harvey Weinstein, the Hollywood producer recently at the centre of a sexual harassment scandal. While Sheffield Hallam Students' Union (SHSU) welcomes the restaurant's decision to alter their menu in response to the understandable criticism they received, we also believe the matter demonstrates continued lack of awareness of how sexual assault 'jokes' trivialise - and contribute to - a very serious societal problem.
Randy's, the restaurant in question, issued an apology on November 1st that asked people to "accept [their] sincere apologies and understand that [they] are guilty of nothing more than poor taste." Though the apology and menu change are a step in the right direction, it is both shocking and disappointing that a business could have considered it an appropriate marketing strategy in the first place - and 'poor taste' seems an insufficient explanation.
Research has shown that jokes around sexual assault help to normalise the issue and can become a stepping stone to more serious actions. And with a recent study showing that up to 62% of university students have experienced sexual violence, the fact that Randy's was particularly targeting students with this questionable marketing is a cause for even greater concern.
SHSU holds policy on Zero Tolerance of sexual violence, stating our belief that “objectification, fetishisation and stereotyping of women do lead to a culture of sexual harassment and its normalisation” and resolves to work to “promote the Union’s stance on sexual harassment". We hold additional policy on consent education and affirm our belief that “as a Students' Union, it is our responsibility to look out for the students of our university” and that we should "do as much as we can to protect our students and reduce the amount of sexual violence around the city.”
SHSU Women’s Rep Gabby Willis notes:
“By naming a burger after a famous alleged abuser, Randy’s have directly contributed to the culture and miseducation surrounding sexual violence in our society today. This is not only insensitive to survivors of sexual violence, but also belittles our fight to have sexual violence and misogyny taken seriously.
“Whilst we are glad that Randy’s have planned to rename the burger, it remains a fact that something like this should never have happened in the first place. This is a clear example of the rape culture, normalisation of abuse and miseducation about sexuality and consent prevalent in our society."
SHSU’s Women’s Rep and Welfare Officer will be reaching out to the management team at Randy's to offer to meet and help them gain a better understanding of these issues, so they can pursue a more sensitive marketing strategy in the future. We would also like to encourage our entire student population to reassess their own use of “sexual banter” and to educate themselves by talking to the Women’s Rep or Welfare Officer, and following existing and future campaigns from SHSU.
Below is an example of Women’s Rep Gabby Willis’ work on preventing sexual violence: