Update: 9:30 a.m. today: The following statement was issued this morning by senior management at Phoenix New Times and Voice Media Group:
New Times and Voice Media Group sincerely regret the publication in the December 14 print issue of an advertisement that included crude imagery denigrating the #MeToo movement.
After a close examination of the events surrounding the placement of that advertisement, we are suspending New Times multimedia sales manager Andrew Meister and mandating his enrollment in anti-harassment, anti-discrimination and sensitivity training.
New Times and Voice Media Group do not tolerate sexism or hate speech of any kind. We appreciate the diverse community we serve, and we believe our employees have the right to operate in a workplace environment characterized by professional and dignified behavior.
Update, 2:45 p.m. Tuesday: Yucca Tap Room has announced that 'Slowpoke' has been removed from the event lineup and that a portion of proceeds will be donated to A New Leaf. Their full statement can be found on their Facebook page. Original story continues below:
The current print edition of Phoenix New Times, which hit newsstands on Thursday, contains an ad that was placed by an advertising department employee looking to promote his band. Even when viewed charitably, it appears to be ridiculing the ongoing national discussion about rape and sexual harassment.
In theory, the ad is supposed to be promoting an upcoming show headlined by the local band Slowpoke. It shows a road sign with three stick figures in a sex position commonly known as "the Eiffel tower." (That link is to Urban Dictionary; definitely don't Google it if you're at work.) The stick figure being doubly penetrated has a speech bubble saying "#MeToo," a reference to the recent wave of women — and men — publicly sharing their experiences of sexual assault and harassment.
Over the weekend, photos of the ad began circulating on Facebook. A sampling of the comments:
"The only way this could fail harder at being edgy and transgressive is if those stick figures were in blackface."
"Wow, this is fucking disgusting."
"This is incredibly bad taste, and not at all funny."
The editorial and advertising departments at Phoenix New Times are completely separate, and many of us on the editorial side had the same question that readers did: How could this get published?
Here's what we know: The ad was placed and paid for by Andrew Meister, who's a member of Slowpoke and is also in charge of digital ad sales at Phoenix New Times. The band has used this same logo in the past, but "#MeToo" is a new addition.
When asked about the ad, Meister responded, "I don't have much of a comment, other than it was not what my intention was."
What was his intention?
"Not what's going on."
Could he elaborate on that?
Did he anticipate that people would be offended by the ad?
Is there anything that he'd want readers to know?
"I got nothing to say. It was stupid."
Later, he said that he did have one thing he wanted to add: "I do want to apologize, and my actions were very dumb."
Our publisher, Kurtis Barton (who's Meister's boss) said that he doesn't publicly comment on paid ads in the paper. However, as a general matter of policy, New Times doesn't vet ads that have been placed by bands, he said.
Typically, ads only get vetted when there are federal and state regulations involved. For instance, ads for apartment rentals can't contain any discriminatory language that would violate the Fair Housing Act.
This particular ad was not vetted by anyone in the advertising department, Barton confirmed.
Although Yucca Tap Room's name appears prominently, owner Rodney Hu said that he had nothing to do with the ad.
He and his staff didn't see the ad prior to publication, he said. In fact, they only became aware of its existence when people started contacting them to complain about it.
"Our statement is that if we had known about it, we would have never run it, period," he said. "Now it's too late — what are you going to do?"
It's not uncommon for bands that are performing at Yucca Tap Room to design their own ads and flyers, Hu said. When that happens, the bar doesn't take part in the design process or require final approval.
Though some Facebook commenters have asked that Slowpoke be removed from the event line-up, that hasn't happened yet, and Hu didn't indicate that he'd be reluctant to book the band in future.
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"We have a good relationship with these guys, and we just want to keep it that way," he said. "We don't approve of [the ad], we don't condone it, but it is what it is."
For the record, there are a lot of people in the New Times building who don't condone it, either. Arts and music editor Becky Bartkowski shared the following statement:
"I'm horrified that another New Times employee put this ad in our paper. It not only belittles the work of everyone who works to build the paper each week, it spits in the face of each person who was part of the #MeToo movement.
"The writers who contribute to New Times don't think this is okay. Neither do the artists we cover."