I am a humourless, man-hating feminazi. I’m only like this because I can’t get a shag. I can’t take a joke. I need to get over myself, get back in the kitchen and make a man a sandwich. I thought I’d start this post with all the predictable responses to save people from posting them at the end.
So what’s got on my dour, un-bra-fettered tits today? Well, it’s this. I saw this billboard, driving down the A41 in Hendon yesterday and nearly rear-ended the car in front. And then I drove on, huffing and swearing, quite unable to believe what I had seen.
It’s an energy drink. Honest. Like Red Bull. Conceived by “entrepreneur” Jonnie Shearer in 2004, he came up with the idea when he was hanging about his parents’ house after leaving college. “All my friends were working in the City, and I was in my old bedroom, launching a drink called Pussy. They thought I was an idiot,” he says. Not much I can add to that. He says the idea was inspired by Richard Branson’s Virgin brand, and indeed, his project has seen investment from two of Branson’s children, Holly and Sam. Until now, the drink has been on sale in celebrity members’ clubs (I’m assuming of the type Prince Harry might visit), where posh boys get to guffaw hysterically at the amusing name. But now they’re going mass market with it, and it’s on sale in Selfridge’s (!!!), via Ocado and in Tesco. Yes, you read that right. Tesco.
Advertising agency Beattie McGuinness Bungay must have been a bit flummoxed by the brief, and I can just imagine the to-ing and fro-ing that went on, trying to find a way to sell this. In the end, they’ve gone for the tagline, “The drink’s pure, it’s your mind that’s the problem”.
Author Laura Kemp, on twitter, saw it too –“Toe-curling advertising campaign by @PussyDrinksHQ . Giant billboards featuring the word ‘pussy’ make me want to VOMIT.”. When I agreed, she said, “I hate it because it makes me feel a prude and I'm not. Partic shit as son just starting to read.”
I, like Laura, am no prude, but to say that there’s no problem other than in our minds is disingenuous in the extreme. Because the word pussy, used in its public and colloquial sense, is always degrading and negative. A man who shows less than masculine qualities is a pussy. A woman can be referred to as pussy, reducing her to the only body part the speaker considers to be of use. And don’t give me wide-eyed nonsense about the word referring to cats. No one uses it in that sense, any more than we refer to happy people as “gay”. I can’t think of a way you would say it publicly that wasn’t prurient, sniggering and demeaning.
But there is little or no point in protesting – we’re getting this product and its campaign as a fait accompli. It’s on the shelves in our supermarkets and on 48-sheet billboards over our thoroughfares. Imagine the hundred and hundreds of people in the marketing and advertising agencies, the buyers at Tesco, Ocado and Selfdrige’s, the media salespeople who sold that billboard space, who all said that this was okay.
Well, I’m saying it’s not. It’s not okay, and it’s not funny, and here’s why. It’s not funny because Laura will have to explain to her small son why there’s a giant billboard saying “Pussy”, and what it means. It’s not funny because the vast majority of people in the drinks aisle in Tesco will be women, and often women with children. It’s not funny, because Beattie McGuinness Bungay’s “classy” advertising campaign absolves them of responsibility – but every female bar worker, till operator and waiter will have to put up with the smutty jokes, innuendo and harassment that will come from the kind of sophomoronic boys that will buy this product. That’s the reality of a drink called Pussy. It’s my problem? It surely is. This is gaslighting on a massive scale, and it stinks to high heaven.
One monkey, one typewriter, seldom Hamlet.