An academic in women’s studies has called a domestic violence awareness campaign “misguided, unethical and dangerous” for promoting a beer named “Bloody Women.”

A press release for the Bloody Women campaign.
A press release for the Bloody Women campaign.

The Hong Kong chapter of an association of women beer brewers – Pink Boots Society – is behind the charitable campaign. Promoted as “the drink we wished we didn’t have to serve,” the line of beers was launched in time for Thursday’s UN International Day for Elimination of Domestic Violence against Women. The products were “brewed to tackle domestic violence against women,” according to promotional material.

Inspired by the cocktail drink bloody mary, the beer cans are each labelled with a female first name prefixed by “bloody”, such as “Bloody Irene,” “Bloody Carol” and “Bloody Joanne.” A graphic on the campaign website shows can designs that make the drinker appear as if they are clasping a woman’s neck, arm, or back as they swig the beverage.

Each can “features a real life story of domestic violence survivors” and displays on its label a quote from a victim, their “story of hope,” and a QR code to the campaign’s website, which contains contact details to four domestic violence support groups.

bloody women campaign graphics.
Photo: screenshot from the Bloody Women campaign website.

Created by advertising agencies DDB Group and BlueCurrent Hong Kong, the campaign’s promotional material reads: “While the blame overwhelmingly lies with an abusive man, in more than 50% of cases alcohol is somewhere in the picture. As a group of female brewers, Pink Boots Society wondered if it could also be part of the solution.”

The recipes are “crafted to get people talking about the issue of domestic violence.”

‘Stay tuned’ for donations

There is no mention of whether proceeds from the beers’ sales will be given to support victims of domestic abuse or if the campaign consulted relevant advocacy groups. The donation button on the website leads to a page saying that the function is “coming soon. Stay tuned” at the time of writing on Wednesday night.

Photo: screenshot from the Bloody Women campaign website.
Photo: screenshot from the Bloody Women campaign website.

The convenor of University of Hong Kong’s Women’s Studies Research Centre and associate professor in law Puja Kapai told HKFP that the campaign was “misguided, unethical and dangerous.”

“The design of the cans seeks to capitalise on the trauma of victims by portraying them as bloodied and brutalised, encouraging patrons to become ‘consumers’ of domestic violence, and can trigger the trauma of survivors,” she said via email.

puja kapai
Puja Kapai. File Photo: Ellie Ng/HKFP.

“Alcohol has been used by perpetrators both, to excuse their violent conduct and to blame victims for giving mixed signals,” she said, adding that it is unclear if the campaign or the beer cans will ensure that they are “accompanied by a clear and incontrovertible message that one can NEVER use alcohol to excuse violence against women.”

Provoking conversation

In response to HKFP’s enquiries, Stella Lo of Pink Books Society’s Hong Kong chapter said it would “gladly hold our hands up to” naming beers after women and prefixing them with “bloody” if the name stimulates discussion and a debate.

The campaign acknowledged that while alcohol is “often a contributory factor” in about half of domestic abuse cases, its cause is an abusive person and not alcohol itself, Lo said. Women brewers at the association “saw the opportunity for perhaps alcohol to play a more positive role,” said the brewer.

domestic violence
File Photo.

With many victims too embarrassed, ashamed or frightened to speak up, “for the issue of domestic violence to be tackled, it really needs to be talked about,” she added.

“Indeed social settings – frequently where beverage is involved – is often a place where people feel more free to talk about their problems with a [confidante]…Taking that conversation into these settings is what the Campaign and the Beer itself is all about”

Additional reporting: Tom Grundy.

💡If you are suffering from sexual or domestic violence, regardless of your age or gender, contact the police, Harmony House (click for details) and/or the Social Welfare Department on 28948896. Dial 999 in emergencies.

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Selina Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist who previously worked with HK01, Quartz and AFP Beijing. She also covered the Umbrella Movement for AP and reported for a newspaper in France. Selina has studied investigative reporting at the Columbia Journalism School.