Famous for wrong reasons

A hip burger bar is under fire for its attitude to women, reports Clare Speak

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The blogger who forced a newly opened burger bar to redecorate its women’s toilets and admit it had “got this one wrong” has said its misogyny does not end there.

Almost Famous, which also has restaurants in Liverpool and Manchester, had to hastily remove a wall design with messages like “my boobs are too small” and “why can’t I be thinner?” from the women’s toilets after food blogger Helen Graves wrote a post entitled “Fries with your misogyny, Madam?” that sparked outrage online.

Graves also contacted the restaurant to complain, and the next day a photo was posted on the Almost Famous website of the designs being removed, along with an apology to customers.

“I’d visited the Manchester branch before and been offended by the derogatory terms for women on the menu, such a ‘slut sauce’ and ‘bitch juice’,” Graves told The Big Issue in the North. “But I hadn’t noticed the wallpaper as I didn’t go to the loo. Then my friend visited their new branch in Leeds and e-mailed me about it as she was so upset.”

The blog post got a big response, with many commenters expressing their shock at the messages. In Leeds city centre, too, people were unimpressed.

“Who’d put that up on a wall in the first place?”

“I’m glad they took it down. Who’d put that up on a wall in the first place?” said Leeds University student Dana, 20, adding that she was “really disgusted” by one message in particular, which read “Laxatives are definitely the answer”.

“Personally it wouldn’t bother me, but if younger girls saw it, that’s just really irresponsible,” she added.

Gemma, 26, who works for an advertising company based near the restaurant, said: “If this is their marketing strategy, it’s terrible. It just shows that misogyny is still so common in Britain, it’s seen as normal and acceptable that businesses even include it in their branding.”

Graves said: “It’s clearly part of a marketing plan that someone has thought about. This is rolled out in all their restaurants and I think it’s an attempt to appear edgy or cool. They must be fairly dim though to think that flaunting this kind of attitude is either of those things.

“It smacks of desperation to be noticed for the wrong reasons. They should be noticed for the food.”

Graves, who noted that the food was “not very good” on her visit, also pointed out that Almost Famous isn’t the only restaurant around with this “dude food image”. Nor is it the first burger joint to anger its female customers with dodgy toilet decor.

London restaurant Flesh and Buns came under fire for its “hipster sexism” last year when Guardian columnist Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett found that the women’s toilets were covered with violent cartoon “tentacle rape” images from Japanese manga porn.

A young female employee said she was behind its toilet design

The restaurant’s management said its idea to cover the toilet cubicles in violent porn was supposed to be “tongue in cheek”. Cosslett described the restaurant as “rock ‘n’ roll macho misogyny” with “sweaty, glorified street food”.

A young female employee at Almost Famous said she was behind its toilet design, explaining that it was “all of my own insecurities, and some that others proffered”.

She said: “It was actually a fairly huge release and fun to do. It also asks at the end why we care what people think, and should we care what people think. It wasn’t meaningless drivel written by a man.”

But Graves said the misogyny at Almost Famous doesn’t end there.

“When it comes to decorating their restaurants, video advertising on their website or naming the dishes on their menu, they never miss an opportunity to either sexually objectify women or use derogatory terms to describe them,” she said.

The menu at Almost Famous has been changed significantly since Graves visited the Manchester branch last year. The delightful-sounding “bitch juice” cocktail remains, but there is no longer any “slut sauce” on the burgers.

“Slut sauce was only ever on our temporary menu when we were operating as a pop-up, and has never appeared on our permanent menu,” said Lucy Noone, marketing manager for Almost Famous.

Noone declined to comment further.

The statement on the restaurant’s website read: “The designs in our female toilets have caused upset and we are sorry. Almost Famous is a young company, we take risks, but we got this one wrong.

“We want to stress our intentions weren’t to offend. The designs were created by a female employee to voice her own and other women’s insecurities. We accept we didn’t communicate this properly. The designs are currently being removed from all of our restaurants.”

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