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This Initiative Trains Bouncers To Spot Sexual Harassment In Bars And Clubs

Julie Freeman Julie Freeman - Staff Writer

handbook for the feminist bouncer trains staff to recognise dangerous situations for women in clubs

Inspired by the #AskForAngela initiative, this handbook aims to help venue staff recognise potentially dangerous situations in bars and clubs.

Following Sarah Everard’s tragic death earlier this year, countless women have come forward to share how unsafe they feel on our streets at night. How the mutual feeling of vulnerability and helplessness when walking alone is hard-wired in our brains, forcing us to implement certain habits — such as faking a phone call or scrambling for makeshift self-defense weapons in our pockets — almost on autopilot in what should be safe, everyday situations.

Besides worldwide protests, many initiatives have since been brought to life. ‘Ask For Angela’, a campaign started by the Lincolnshire County Council in 2016, pioneered some of the concepts we see today: Supported by the Metropolitan Police and recognised in venues across London, #AskForAngela is a codeword for customers to discreetly signify an uncomfortable or potentially unsafe situation to staff.

Elisa Ghysels, a London-based art director and feminist performance artist, however, raises a good point: While the #AskForAngela initiative is helpful and necessary, not everyone is in a position to ask for help. Her project, ‘Handbook For The Feminist Bouncer‘, aims to take away the responsibility from the vulnerable, instead training venue staff to recognise certain situations as they unfold. A detailed illustrated handbook as well as posters for the venue and badges for the staff offer crucial tips and signs to look out for.

Elisa explains: “Bouncers are in a prime position to spot dangerous situations and assist womxn when they need it. They just need to be sensitised and talked through some things in order to become better allies. The handbook’s aim is to is to give bouncers pointers and tools to most efficiently make sure that womxn are safe in their establishment and look out for dangerous situations.”

The handbook walks staff through various scenarios: they are taught to keep an eye out for visibly drunk women leaving the venue with a man, and to stay alert when a man orders drinks for someone else at the bar, to name just a couple of examples.

In preparation of bars and clubs fully reopening post-lockdown and late nights on the town becoming more frequent again, the project hopes to contribute to a safer environment for women to enjoy themselves. For more info on the ‘Handbook For The Feminist Bouncer’, visit Elisa’s Instagram page.

Meanwhile, this lovely London bakery is on a mission to empower women.