PORT MOODY (NEWS 1130) – Several Metro Vancouver pubs and restaurants have removed a number of cocktails off their menus after receiving complaints about the name of one drink that’s been described as misogynistic and sexist.
The owner of the establishments, the Joseph Richard Group, is also apologizing, saying it wants its guests to feel welcome and included.
The name of the controversial drink: “Redheaded Sl#t.”
It’s a popular American cocktail made with Jägermeister, peach-flavored schnapps, and cranberry juice. But when Angela Woolf saw it listed on the menu of the Livelyhood pub in Port Moody on Father’s Day, she was taken aback.
“I just think that using a derogatory term to address a group of people is not okay,” she told NEWS 1130. “Name of this derogatory drink makes it seem as though women are less then men. It’s misogynist and it’s sexist.”
She wrote on Livelyhood’s Facebook page to say she found the name offensive to women, sparking a debate in the comments section, some agreeing with Woolf and others suggesting the name is not a big deal.
“People just brush it off as no big deal but in fact, if we just keep allowing it to happen, we continue to perpetuate misogyny and sexism,” Woolf told NEWS 1130. “The only way to get rid of it, is to call it out and fix it. So yes, I agree it’s just a name but you know, it’s not a very pleasant name.”
When NEWS 1130 reached out to the Joseph Richard Group for comment, it quickly removed the cocktail — as well as a number of drinks that it said could be found offensive — suggesting it was a move that was already in the works.
“We have over the last year been very diligent in making sure that new menu items are named in a way that are not discriminatory or offensive,” Karen Renaud, director of marketing and communications, said in an interview.
“When it comes to the shot list, it was also up for discussion and something that was going to be put on an agenda to be discussed and this now being brought to our attention, that it actually has offended somebody is very … well, disappointing.”
Renaud says nine of the company’s restaurants had the drink listed on their menus. Other cocktails removed include Liquid Cocaine, Sicilian Kiss, and Irish Car Bomb.
“I am pleased to say that those items that could potentially be offensive or come off as socially unjust or discriminatory are now gone from the shot list,” Renaud added. “We all feel badly if anybody is offended in coming to any of our locations. We want people to feel welcome and included.”
Just a name?
While some argue it is just a name, Mona Gleason, an educational studies professor at UBC whose expertise includes the history of gender, says what we name things matters.
“It really connects to the way we think about people and so I think the fact that that more people are willing to sort of stop and question the validity of something like an alcoholic drink named after a very pejorative term for women, that, to me, is incredibly important,” she said.
“It could be considered particularly problematic when these kind of almost joke, jokey kind of names for drinks, really tap into something that’s a little bit more serious, which is gender inequalities between men and women, the relationship between alcohol, and, you know, sexual abuse.”
But she points out there is also another way of looking at the name, as some feminists push to “take back” historically offensive labels.
“Just as the LGBTQ community has taken back words, like queer, you know, there’s this notion that you can take back, women can take back words that were once associated with very, very pejorative things,” Gleason added.
“There’s definitely two sort of streams of thought around whether a drink like this is something that can be at all seen as, you know, empowering women, or at least women owning their own sexuality. And then the other side of the coin, which is women being made to feel like second-class citizens.”
Jonathan Ichikawa, a philosophy professor at UBC agrees the criticism is appropriate.
“That particular word has a lot of baggage attached to it, you know, it’s a pejorative, and it’s roughly it’s attaching a certain kind of negative social value to female sexuality,” he told NEWS 1130.
“There’s a lot of association of female sexuality with consumption, and, you know, instrument, instrumental use, and the like. These kinds of sexual names have been popular with cocktails for a long time. And I guess that’s not surprising, you know, the history of cocktails, goes back to times when, you know, these kinds of issues were much less prominent in the feminist consciousness.”
Industry having more conversations about drink names
This isn’t the first time a drink name has proven to be controversial. A few years ago, Vancouver-based brewery Parallel 49 changed the name of its “Gypsy Tears” beer to “Ruby Tears.”
Jeff Guignard, executive director of BC’s Alliance of Beverage Licensees, says conversations about drink names have been happening more often in the industry.
“I’ve gotten more emails and more comments about this in the past year than I had in the previous years. So I think we’re just in a moment where people are paying more attention to those kinds of things,” he told NEWS 1130.
“Not with the standard drinks, I mean no one is going to complain about an Old Fashioned, but if you have a drink that has a gendered title into it or has a nationality put into it, like something like an Irish Car Bomb, for example, these drinks all have history. They all have reasons they were named that way. But we are in space right now where all of society is realizing that kind of stuff.”
Guignard hopes if someone has a concern with a menu item, they approach a manager to let them know instead of blasting them on social media, adding most in the industry are receptive to feedback.