Keyboard activists

Imants Latkovskis

Ashton Lane Grosvenor Radio

G1 Group, one of Scotland’s largest venue operators and a trendsetter of Glasgow’s nightlife, has recently come under attack over a series of scandals.  After a few tumultuous months, some activists have taken to Facebook and Twitter to start a boycott of the company’s venues.

Firstly, the Shimmy Club gained notoriety for installing a two-way mirror in the wash-up area of female toilets, allowing guests of an £800 function room to spy on the female patrons “as a bit of fun”.

One month later, another G1 nightclub, the Polo Lounge, came under attack after bouncers refused entry for a disabled man and his partner, claiming that the nightclub didn’t have disabled facilities. Calling it a violation of the Equality Act, the patron decided to make a political statement by getting out of his wheelchair and crawling inside the club. He was later removed by the police.

Another month later, the G1 owned Radio bar in Glasgow’s West End received no end of complaints after a pub quiz participant brought attention to a Monday night pub quiz that consisted of offensive material, including the headline-making question “Is it rape if you kill her first?”

Three scandals in three months might seem purely coincidental for a large company that manages over 45 venues, but activists are claiming that they are three too many and have taken it upon themselves to stage a boycott against all G1 venues. A Facebook page, a Twitter profile and a WordPress site have been erected to warn potential customers of “how little respect [G1 Group] have towards women and those with disabilities”.

All good things come in threes, so the creators of the page also threw in some racism with a 1999 article claiming that the owner of G1, Stefan King, dumped a girl he was going out with because she was black. Are the G1 really such fiends? Or is the whole situation just an unfortunate coincidence? Well, neither.

The calls for a G1 boycott exist for two reasons. First, people make generalisations. They see G1 as some sort of a Leviathan with a singular identity, which is constantly overseeing and approving what its constituent parts are doing, going out of its way to promote unfair treatment of women, those with disabilities, and, apparently, non-whites.

Secondly, people, especially students, simply love to protest. Students love taking a stand on current issues, and more importantly they are infatuated with the idea that their actions have real consequences. Some of them jump on the next bandwagon so quickly that they already have an arsenal of slogans left over from the previous one. The twitter bio blurb for Boycott G1 actually says “smashing patriarchy”.

In reality, all three of the above scandals reflect three decisions made by individuals. Somewhat lousy decisions, of course, but individuals nonetheless. It is highly unlikely there was an official memo going around containing quotas of how many people to offend.

To sum up, managers of Shimmy wanted to be edgy but didn’t quite realise that infringing on people’s privacy might make a lot of people angry. Bouncers at the Polo Lounge did not want to take personal responsibility over possible incidents in premises that have zero disabled access, and so the customer was asked to leave because he made a scene. And the quizmaster at Radio thought that crude humour would get laughs. And he was rightly fired.

The calls for a boycott are actually quite misguided, as there are no real demands being made. Instead of petitioning to have more disabled access across G1 venues and a greater oversight of quiz content and structural features, activists are saying that G1 should be avoided, and I am paraphrasing here, ‘because they are bad – sexist and prejudiced and therefore bad’.

Assumingly, every single person who works for them represents G1, so this must mean that giving money to them would be giving money to sexism and prejudice.

What the would-be boycott boils down to is the identity that people ascribe to companies and how fragile a good name can be. G1 Group did play their part in bringing this disrepute upon themselves, not least by providing contradicting information on the spy mirror, denying allegations and deleting complaints from their Facebook page. However, the claim that the whole company holds sexism and prejudice as some sort of a company value seems fallacious.

Furthermore, if you really want to “smash patriarchy”, I don’t think depriving a few coincidentally G1 owned nightclubs of your weekly going out money is going to cut it. I’m afraid you’ll have to get a bit more creative.

By the way, for some perspective on the matter, there was also a two-way mirror in the urinal area of the Polo Lounge, which never made headlines and was quietly taken down after the incident at Shimmy. But I suppose men are just immune to objectification.