How NOT to deal with a PR crisis: call complainants ‘ugly feminists’ & tell them ‘get a life’


Ooops. Bit of a PR disaster going on right now. On Friday I blogged about a T shirt with the offensive slogan “No + Rohypnol = yes”. There was outrage about it on Twitter and the company concerned received numerous complaints.

See https://fwords.co.uk/2011/10/07/another-day-another-offensive-t-shirt-for-thugs-%E2%80%93-and-this-time-it%E2%80%99s-about-how-rape-is-fun/

It seems that there has been a degree of damage limitation: one of those who complained has reported that he has received a written apology. I have not had a reply to my complaint but maybe it’s in the post. Anyway apparently the reply from the company, Chargrilled, says it does not endorse sexual violence, it has removed the T shirt in question from sale and it will be speaking to its product designers to make them aware that “this kind of message is unacceptable”.
Anyway, so far, so good. Someone at the company has had some PR training. However, the good done by that sensible piece of crisis management has been undone by an ill-judged tweet from one Charlie Shiner (Twitter handle @charlieshiner), who is believed to be the founder of the company.

Poor Mr Shiner was perhaps feeling a bit grumpy at being picked on about his T shirt, which he seems to regard as a bit of fun. Rather than leave it to the PR department to handle things, and either maintain a discreet silence or offer an intelligent, thoughtful response, as he should have done, Shiner chose to gob off on Twitter.

“Our T shirts are meant to amuse not to offend,” he wrote earlier today. “We are sorry if you don´t have a sense of humour. Get a life.”

Oops. Bad move. Someone in the company should really have sat on the unfortunate Shiner at this point and taped his hands together to prevent him accessing a computer. But they didn’t and things got much worse.

“Anyone out there who does not like my t-shirts, I really don’t care,” pronounced Shiner this afternoon. “You don’t have to buy them. They weren’t meant for ugly feminists.”

Ah, so they are meant for… other men who think that women are ugly feminists and that it’s OK to drug women in order to get laid?

Silly man. I feel he hasn’t heard the end of this.

97 thoughts on “How NOT to deal with a PR crisis: call complainants ‘ugly feminists’ & tell them ‘get a life’

  1. OBEONEKANOBE says:

    THERE IS A FINE LINE BETWEEN WHAT ONE PERSON FINDS FUNNY AND ANOTHER OFFENSIVE. IS THERE A LIST OF SUBJECTS THAT WE ARE NOT ALLOWED TO JOKE ABOUT?

    1. Sue Fenton says:

      Yes, there’s sometimes a thin line between what’s offensive and what’s suitable material for comedy. Doesn’t the line come where the “joke” goes beyond holding something up to ridicule and starts actively applauding or encouraging that thing? A good comedian could perhaps get away with a joke about rape if the underlying message of the joke was that rape is wrong. But there’s no such underlying message in this particular joke – the T shirt’s message seems to actively approve of – even incite – rape.
      One aspect of comedy is its intent (is offence intended?) and here part of the issue, I think, is the medium. Let’s imagine the No + Rohypnol joke cracked in a pub among friends who you happen to know don’t think rape is acceptable. It might be surprising to hear it, and most of the audience would probably think it at best tasteless, but it would be transitory, and the listener would know ‘they didn’t really mean it’. There would be no intent to offend, beyond one’s own circle – and in turn that circle has the opportunity to show that they didn’t find the comment amusing.
      But stick that joke on a T shirt and stick that T shirt on a random bloke in a pub and the message is completely out of context. You don’t know whether offence is actively intended – you don’t know what was intended by the choice to wear such a message. And the message is being broadcast not in the context of a private joke but in the public arena, with no discrimination as to who is exposed to what quite clearly has potential to upset some people. The wearer might not actually think that it’s OK to drug and rape women but the message he is wearing will be seen by those who do – and it will be taken as affirmation that that attitude is publicly acceptable. It publicises and perpetuates a deeply unpleasant attitude that is still held in some quarters – hence why some men still rape.
      Equally, the people who see the statement so brazenly worn on his chest don’t have the opportunity to respond or show their disapproval that they would in a private context (how many people would be brave enough to challenge a stranger they thought was behaving wrongly in any manner?)
      Attitudes change over time, anyway. There are jokes about race and disability, for instance, that might have been acceptable years ago but that aren’t now. Same with rape jokes. It’s not a case of political correctness or there being a list of what’s allowed and what isn’t – it’s more a case of being sufficiently attuned to social trends and changing tastes to understand that certain humour simply isn’t funny anymore. What sort of man would choose to make such a statement by wearing this product? And what sort of man would choose to make such a statement by manufacturing it?

    2. oli says:

      Ah what a great website. I never knew of this website. Thankyou Sue Fenton to high lighting me to the legend that is Charlie Shiner.

    1. James Law says:

      It does not come as a surprise that people viewing your tedious journalism is an annomily in your otherwise pointless life

Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s