The Pink Boots Society in the US has said it has nothing to do with its apparent Hong Kong affiliate, and has urged the public not to support – or donate to – their anti-domestic violence beer range.
Last week, HKFP reported on how the Hong Kong chapter of the NGO – which seeks to support female brewers – was behind a controversial domestic violence awareness campaign. Promoted as a “drink we wished we didn’t have to serve,” the alcohol line was launched in time for the UN International Day for Elimination of Domestic Violence against Women.
The products were “brewed to tackle domestic violence against women,” according to promotional material, but were deemed “misguided, unethical and dangerous” by an academic in women’s studies.
“Pink Boots Society does not have a Hong Kong chapter and is not affiliated in any way with this group or its campaign,” the US society said in a statement sent to HKFP. “Pink Boots Society does not endorse the campaign, and we ask our members and broader community to refrain from promoting or donating to the campaign.”
Inspired by the Bloody Mary cocktail, 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 designs for cans 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 of four domestic violence support groups.
However, the “donate” button was not launched when HKFP checked last week, and the website – “bloodywomen.co” – had been removed from public view entirely by Wednesday afternoon, along with social media posts.
In a response to HKFP, Pink Boots Society Hong Kong said they were a genuine group of local female beer brewers and their chapter was set up in 2007. The group is referenced on the official website, but is not listed as an official chapter.
The Hong Kong group said it had interacted with international affiliates on several occasions, such as on panel discussions and brewery collaborations and has received an educational scholarship. “Whilst the Hong Kong Chapter has been highly active, there does, however, seem to have been an unfortunate administrative error on the part of the HK Chapter in keeping affiliation records with the US updated,” a statement to HKFP said, adding that they admitted the Bloody Women campaign did not have prior approval from the US.
The group said the campaign was never a commercial activity with financial benefit to the brands involved: “This is currently being addressed with the global organisation and no way detracts from the genuine nature of the campaign, which is to raise awareness of the issue of domestic violence in Hong Kong and to best help its victims.”
Despite the US group urging the public not to support the campaign, a spokesperson for the Hong Kong group said the website was “put on hold” until the appropriate permission was obtained: “[T]he campaign has not been withdrawn – why would a worthwhile cause be?”
‘Trigger the trauma’
Last week. the convenor of University of Hong Kong’s Women’s Studies Research Centre and associate professor in law Puja Kapai told HKFP that “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.”
“Alcohol has been used by perpetrators both to excuse their violent conduct and to blame victims for giving mixed signals,” she said.
In response to HKFP’s enquiries, Stella Lo of Pink Boots Society Hong Kong 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.
If you are suffering from domestic violence, regardless of your age or gender, contact the police, Harmony House (click for details) and/or the Social Welfare Department on 28948896.
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