"Feminism" and "Misogyny" Are Banned Words on TripAdvisor

In Depth

If you witness a restaurant owner committing sexual harassment, you’re allowed to post about it on TripAdvisor — as long as you don’t use any pesky words like “feminism,” “misogyny,” or “International Women’s Day.”

Christina Fowler and her husband, of Bedfordshire, England, wanted to go out to eat last Sunday. While driving around, they found an independent pub called The Bell. The food was reportedly great, but what she and her husband saw just before they left put her off ever coming back:

While waiting for our bill I saw the owner come up behind a waitress (think John Travolta at the Oscars) and bite her on the shoulder. It looked like a playful bite, not painful, but still a bite. The waitress didn’t even smile, let alone laugh. A few minutes later, I saw the owner approach the same waitress and slap her across the bum with a napkin. She spun around, at which point he pursed his lips and made kissing noises to her. Again, she wasn’t playing along or laughing, but seemed almost resigned to the attention. It was clear to me that she didn’t appreciate this type of treatment from her boss.

In one of the only positive uses of an online restaurant review site I’ve ever seen, Fowler went on TripAdvisor and wrote about her experience using words like “feminism,” “misogyny,” and “International Women’s Day.” Just one problem: those words are specifically banned by TripAdvisor due to a site-wide ban on “political language,” which is a concept I wasn’t familiar with (although it supposedly met the initial review and was only removed afterwards). After Fowler removed the offending language,* the review was back up.

For whatever it’s worth, a manager (who inexplicably refers to herself as a “manageress”) for The Bell responded on TripAdvisor accusing Fowler of being “bigoted,” called her “drama-focused” and childish, and twice used the word “feminist” (or “feministic,” because sure, why not just make up words) as an insult.** She also didn’t deny that the incident took place, which is pretty telling.

I’m not entirely sure how to feel about this. If the policy is applied equally (e.g. anyone who tried to write a screed using a laughable term like “misandry” would also find their review cut off), it does make sense — some websites want to keep any discussion of political topics away from their space, and I’m not unsympathetic to that. It would be one thing if it was a website that dealt with political topics, but a restaurant review site is another story entirely. It’s also not as if this policy is new. As the review went back up as soon as the particular words were removed, TripAdvisor doesn’t seem to have a problem with Fowler having told the story of what she witnessed. To their credit, TripAdvisor also has a sitewide ban on any sort of “hurtful descriptions” or “unnecessary name-calling,” which means the bullshit that regularly flies on Yelp wouldn’t work there.

Still, there’s always the fact that both sides don’t have to be presented simply for the sake of balance if one of the sides is clearly hateful and laughably inaccurate (as would be the hypothetical MRA in the last paragraph). So it’s tough to say which is the correct call here.

* Insert your own joke here.

** The last sentence of the response reads, “You clearly have issues addressing something when you find it necessary to put the most boring, inaccurate and feministic views on a public forum.” I’m almost as offended by the lack of an Oxford Comma as by whatever the hell that word salad is trying to convey.

Image via Gil C/Shutterstock.

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