When edgy becomes idiotic: the Dalston Social poster debacle

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NWA_dalston_social_460A few weeks ago I was walking down Kingsland Road on the phone to my Mum. As I passed by a bar I had never been into I was stopped in my tracks.

“Oh my god” I said down the phone, “hang on, hang on”. Mum thought there had been an accident, but I was actually taking a picture of one of the most shocking posters I had seen in a long time.

Now I may be a professional feminist, but I tend not to get my knickers in a twist about images that objectify women. This is for the most part because it is so ubiquitous and even feminists need a break, so I tend to keep my outrage confined to working hours. But this poster was so violent and horrid that I was completely stalled.

The poster depicted photographer Terry Richardson who has had several allegations of sexual harassment made against him by the models he has worked with. In cartoon format, Terry is pushing the barrel of a gun up the ass of Kate Moss who is naked except for a nude coloured basque. But it’s ok, she’s smiling.

Phone conversation over, back at home and a picture of the offending ad on my phone. Whats a lonely feminist to do on a Friday night than start a social media campaign?!

I looked up both the managers of the club night – Nothing Without Attitude and messaged them on Facebook. Then I commented on their own picture of the poster. After sharing it on my own page, several of my friends commented, but NWA just appeared to be deleting our comments. Not cool.

I moved on to Twitter. I got a couple of big organisations to tweet about it including NIA, who have centres for women experiencing violence in Hackney. They retweeted it and then sent an email to relevant people including Hackney MP, Diane Abbott about the poster. The Fawcett Society and Object UK also retweeted it, they have huge followings and mass tweets to Dalston Social ensued from outraged men and women across the country.

After an hour or so I called Dalston Social to find out what exactly was going on. They seemed flustered like they didn’t quite know what had happened and essentially tried to blame it on this third party NWA. However they did say they had taken all the posters down and would be issuing an apology that evening.

The social media maelstrom ensued and around 11pm both NWA and Dalston Social issued full apologies. Success! Though there are a few areas of learning that I did. The first was that I wish more of the Twitter focus had been on NWA and not Dalston Social as they were the creators of the poster. Dalston Social had an unused twitter account so all the action directed towards them felt a bit pointless and NWA have quite a few followers on Twitter.

Some people questioned re-sharing the image. I can see why, but I knew that I would get a much greater reaction from people on social media if they could see the image, so I would do that again. Finally I was asked whether I didn’t just provide publicity for a relatively small bar in London. Yes, probably but I hardly think there were hundreds of people out there thinking they would definitely go to Dalston Social having seen this poster. Also given they ignored my messages and deleted my comments to begin with, it seemed the only way to make progress was to publicly shame them.

Either way it worked. The poster was taken down and an apology issued. Pretty good going for a Friday night!

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