Tennessee's new DUI campaign is infuriatingly sexist

Jul 15, 2015 at 1:21 p.m. ET

If you haven't gotten your recommended dose of sexism for the day, this should just about do it. Tennessee started a new anti-DUI campaign, and instead of discouraging drunk driving, it's enraging women left and right.

The campaign came in the way of slogans on drink coasters, which I assume the Governor's Highway Safety Office thought was a clever way to get people's attention at bars. Essentially the slogan points to the effect "beer goggles" can have on a heterosexual man and how that's reason enough to not drink too much. The coasters literally say, "Buy a drink for a marginally good-looking girl, only to find out she's chatty, clingy and your boss's daughter." There are so many things wrong with this, I don't know where to start.


Here are my biggest issues with it: 1) Heterosexual men are far from the only demographic that drinks and drives. 2) The women these men are trying to pick up at the bar where these coasters reside will read them, assume the slogan's talking about them, become disgusted and leave. 3) What's wrong with being chatty when you're trying to get to know someone? 4) It's perhaps the most sexist slogan I've ever seen in my life.

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Naturally the Governor's Highway Safety Office is facing a lot of backlash for the offending coasters. Director Kendell Poole, who created the campaign, gave a frustrating defense on the matter.

"It was never the intent of our office to offend anyone. This new initiative was designed to reach the young male demographic, who are statistically more likely to drive under the influence. Well-known adages, like dating the boss's daughter, were used to grab their attention within the bar environment. Our office continually experiments with new strategies in order to be effective with various target demographics, and we will be closely monitoring the results," Poole said in a statement to The Tennessean.

Notice that he said "young male demographic," not "young, straight male demographic." I suppose that must be because there are no gay men who drink in Tennessee. So not only is the campaign sexist, it's bigoted too. While it's obviously trying to be tongue in cheek, the most offensive thing about it is how it seems to downplay a very serious matter — getting behind the wheel drunk. While I'm not always one to advocate for scare tactics in PSAs, in this case, it's one of the few methods that actually gets people's attention.

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Now, I recognize that in a roundabout sort of way this campaign has also garnered significant attention, but for all the wrong reasons. I suppose this is just what happens when a government organization attempts "cool" marketing. They call it "social norms marketing," which basically means they're trying to talk to the people on their level about "normal behavior" associated with drinking. All I can say is, advertising this misogynistic angle of the beer goggle effect as "normal behavior" is just as bad as having no anti-DUI campaigns at all.

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