Like a piece of meat

A Las Vegas burger joint invites customers to take a bite out of a tender, juicy ... woman

Published October 8, 2009 12:09PM (EDT)

Where are the young feminists when you need them? After reading Jezebel's coverage of a T-shirt so offensive it made me do a spit-take, I really had to wonder. For those who haven't been following, here's a brief summary: At Houston Memorial High in Texas, it's traditional for seniors to sell a sexually explicit "underground" shirt in anticipation of the big football game against their rival, Stratford. And while I don't imagine previous years' offerings would make my heart glow with joy, this year's model really takes the cake. It depicts -- get ready for this -- a woman having sex with two horses. And guess what else? Not only has no group of students risen up to oppose the shirts, but a gaggle of Memorial High students (male and female) actually responded to Jezebel's post by accusing the bloggers of being -- what else? -- humorless feminists. Because, hey, who doesn't find graphic depictions of bestiality hilarious?

To be totally honest, I can empathize with the Memorial High kids. I went to a high school with a similar T-shirt tradition (although ours left a lot more to the imagination), and while I wouldn't have been caught dead in one of them, I wasn't exactly organizing a movement against them, either. In the war zone that is high school, you've got to choose your battles.

Still, in light of the Memorial High T-shirt saga, it was comforting to receive a tip from a reader who spotted some campus feminism in action. It seems that the Burger Grind, a restaurant and bar in Las Vegas, has a great new marketing scheme. They've taken a hot, naked lady (you can call her "Juicy Lucy") and partitioned her up into sections ("rump," "rib") like a cow on its way to the slaughter. (Check her out here -- and also note the classy whip-crack sound that welcomes you to the joint's website.) The slogan? "After a hard day, unwind with something tender."

After University of Nevada, Las Vegas campus newspaper The Rebel Yell published the offensive Burger Grind ad, graduate student Anthony Guy Patricia contributed an op-ed denouncing the decision to run it. As Patricia rightly points out, the ad "connotes that women are nothing more than 'tender' things for men to eat after said men have had 'a hard day' and need to 'unwind.'" (Personally, I think it works on another level, too: Might the Burger Grind folks be comparing the comfort of their sandwiches to the nurturing arms of, say, a sex worker?) He concludes:

While Las Vegas may well be a city in which women are exploited in all sorts of ways for the amusement, titillation and the kicks of men in our patriarchal and misogynistic society, the university is no place for such demeaning, degrading and disgusting portrayals of human beings as featured in the ad for The Burger Grind Bar & Lounge.

While Patricia, whose piece ran earlier this week, doesn't seem to have gotten a public response from The Rebel Yell yet, his op-ed has created conversation. A spirited (and generally civil) debate has developed in the over 100 comments the piece received. Other local publications have picked up the story, too. (The funniest response so far comes from the progressive Las Vegas Gleaner blog, which says the ad "is guaranteed to appeal to customers, provided the restaurant's target market is psychotic women-hating serial killers who eat their victims' body parts.") And meanwhile, another student has organized a Burger Grind boycott.

Of course, misogyny in Vegas is even less surprising than teenage boys' penchant for degrading sexual humor. But that's also what makes the response from UNLV students so encouragin. It turns out young feminism is alive and well -- and living in Las Vegas, of all places.

By Judy Berman

Judy Berman is a writer and editor in Brooklyn. She is a regular contributor to Salon's Broadsheet.

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