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Student disc jockeys campaign against sexist bar culture

Rob Sekay (left) and Trevor Dougherty, seniors, are two student DJs who oppose local bars having ladies’ nights.

Rob Sekay (left) and Trevor Dougherty, seniors, are two student DJs who oppose local bars having ladies’ nights.

The UNC seniors, who have made names for themselves at bars and clubs like Pulse Nightclub  and Cat’s Cradle , are joining other student DJs to speak out against discrimination in bars and clubs.

The movement is targeting the practice of offering free or discounted admission for women, which they believe is demeaning to female bargoers.

“I don’t think a lot of women really realize that they are actually the product being sold,” Sekay said. “By advertising ladies night or by offering no cover to women, that tells the male audience that this is where all the women are going to be. And not only is that objectifying the women, but it’s also commodifying them as well, which is pretty harsh.”

Dougherty decided to become vocal about the issue after an incident at Fitzgerald’s Irish Pub  in April. A female patron complained when the DJ played the popular song “Blurred Lines” by Robin Thicke, which has drawn criticism from feminist activists who say the song promotes rape culture .

Dougherty helped orchestrate a small boycott of Fitzgerald’s in April, but he said that isn’t the goal of this movement. The DJs have agreed not to play during any nights that offer different admission rates to men and women.

“As performers and as people who live off of this night scene, boycotting clubs would be boycotting ourselves,” he said.“The biggest thing I want would be to start a conversation with the people who control the night culture in Chapel Hill.”

Sekay said he plans to start a web campaign highlighting some of the sexism he sees in nightlife and approach venues to see if they might engage in this discussion.

“I think that they would be willing to work with us as long as we come at them with an open expression of dialogue and we’re not hostile,” he said.

Pulse Nightclub owner Richard Sergo is one such person who is on board with the DJs’ campaign. He has worked with Dougherty, a resident DJ at Pulse, for almost three years.

“We’ve noticed that, basically, whether or not we do a ladies night or just a regular night, the turnout was the same, if not better,” Sergo said. “(Trevor) talked to me about how Pulse would feel, essentially making a commitment to divert from that practice in our official Pulse events, and I don’t see why that would be a bad idea.”

Rob Davis, the former general manager of the Henderson Street bar Recovery Room and the new general manager of the Franklin Street bar The Deep End , said he sees no problem with charging lower cover prices for female patrons or students.

“For us, it’s just purely from a business standpoint,” he said. “If girls are in your bar, guys come in. The DJs might have a problem with it, but the guys don’t.”

Davis said his main concern is providing a positive environment for UNC students, which is why Deep End often charges a lower cover for students who present a UNC One Card.

“I just want a place where students and locals can come and feel safe and have fun,” he said.

The Deep End doesn’t host specific ladies nights. The bar often offers discounts on covers for women. Dougherty said the practice creates a meat market in bars and clubs and draws attention away from what nightlife should be about.

“These nights are about the music and the party and the experience,” he said. “The hookup culture people might enjoy, but that’s secondary.”

But Davis said he doesn’t know of a bar in town that would survive without promotional nights or cover discounts.

“When our customers start complaining, I’ll do something. But until then, everybody’s copacetic with it,” he said.

Dougherty and Sekay said they want to encourage students to speak out about what they want from Chapel Hill bar culture.

“Franklin should be run by the opinions of students,” Dougherty said. “And we have that power.”

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