“When the soul of a man is born in this country there are nets flung at it to hold it back from flight. You talk to me of nationality, language, religion. I shall try to Fly by those nets.” 
James Joyce

Filthy and Nasty

Filthy and Nasty

Filthy McNastys is the latest Northern Irish establishment to find themselves caught out on social media.

The Belfast bar, part of the Filthy Quarter and operated by the Bachus Group, is currently looking for new staff and had been promoting a job posting on Facebook this week.

A screenshot of the job posting, taken from Filthy McNastys' Facebook page 22/11/2017

A screenshot of the job posting, taken from Filthy McNastys' Facebook page 22/11/2017

The posting reads:

“We Are Recruiting!
Must be hardworking, enjoy a nice soup for lunch & have a sense of humour! Recruiting for;
Floor Staff.
Bar Staff.

To Apply, Call Into Our Open Day In The Front Bar Between 3-5pm Tomorrow! (22nd November)”

Attached to the post was a photo of a black leather sofa in a nondescript room, with a camera placed on a desk.

Anyone with a passing interest in internet culture will recognise the image as one of a "casting couch", a well worn porn trope that has featured in countless videos.

You don’t have to have actually watched any porn to have seen the
memes. It acts as a sort of shibboleth, letting those who are in on it share a snicker while leaving out the prudes who don't get it.

The videos work on the premise is that it's a sort of look behind the scenes of porn production, with the young, usually female, actors having to somehow prove to the casting director that they want the job.

Here's the problem though: the "casting couch" idea isn't just a fantasy from porn. It's real. In the fallout from the Harvey Weinstein allegations, stories have come out about this sorry tradition in Hollywood. While not always involving a dirty leather sofa and a filmed audition, the idea that you have to sleep with producers or directors in order to get a part is well established.

Funny then that, in this particular climate, Filthy McNastys would chose to illustrate their job posting with such a lame joke.

Considering the very real harassment that bar staff, and particularly female bar staff, encounter from both customers and management on a nightly basis, it’s insensitive at best and offensive at worst

A recent TUC study found that “67 per cent of women in hospitality and leisure reported experiencing some form of sexual harassment compared to an average of 52 per cent.”

Indeed, what message does the job posting send to potential applicants? If the new hires at Filthys do experience sexual harassment at work, will they be comfortable speaking to their bosses about it? Hospitality workers are less likely to come forward with complaints of sexual harassment. This type of joke on a job posting shines a light on what creates an environment that make women feel unsafe to speak out.

Taken at face value, the job posting is suggesting that applicants will have to prove they want the job somehow, with the implication of sexual favours. Taken less literally, there is still the idea that any staff will have to be seen as attractive enough for the job. This is of course a common occurrence in the hospitality industry, but that doesn't make it OK considering how prominently women are objectified in all aspects of their lives.

Of course, it's just meant to be a joke. It's always just a joke. Ribs and Bibs tried that excuse, as have countless other bars and pubs before them. The text in the job posting even says that applicants "must have a sense of humour". But having a sense of humour at work is code for being able to put up with some banter. And banter is often code for sexual harassment.

The hospitality industry needs to ensure that its workers are looked after. No one should have to put up with sexual harassment at the workplace, least of all from their employers.

It’s not just a joke.

Hard borders, harder questions

Hard borders, harder questions

Leap and the nets will catch you

Leap and the nets will catch you