Bada Bing controversy symptomatic of larger, systemic misogyny

After students launched a petition and boycott protesting Bada Bing nightclub’s series of proposed theme nights, the club opened its doors sans theme for a preview party on Saturday Feb. 8. While controversy amidst the campus community was enough to eliminate sexist, heteronormative and otherwise derogatory promotions like “Mobsters and Mistresses” and “Hawaiian Luau” for now, these themes are merely symptoms of the much larger American party culture. Bada Bing is the product of practiced advertising strategies by manager James Spero, an experienced nightclub promoter. The nightclub recognizably draws its name from a Mafia-operated strip club on HBO’s “The Sopranos.” It even uses the fictional club’s logo on much of its social media, depicting the silhouette of a naked woman with her back arched and hair flowing.

Spero carefully constructed a façade of glamour for Bada Bing. His promotions include exclusive VIP guest lists, he has recruited a group of student promoters to hype the venue and he’s even installing a fog machine to achieve a “dark and seductive,” New York City-style vibe that will supposedly attract college students.

He told Livingston County News that he opened club promotions in Florida with a whipped cream bikini contest and “toned it down” for the Geneseo audience. Bada Bing posted a three-minute promotional video of the Feb. 8 preview night on its YouTube channel, and many of the shots were close ups of women’s bodies omitting their heads and faces as they danced.

Despite the petition, Spero said, “depending on my mood, I may stir the pot; I might start putting [the theme ads] out again.” He’s trying to sell us a controversy.

Spero’s hypersexualized ad content purports themes that are already associated with collegiate party culture. Greek organizations at universities across the country have received heat from major media about derogatory party themes like “Creepy Guys and Cutie Pies,” “Presidents and Interns” and “CEOs and Corporate Hoes.” While intended to be humorous rather than overtly sexy, these party themes and others like them are nearly on par with Bada Bing’s degrading promotions in their marginalization of women.

Stereotyping is further personified in the popular Twitter account @SUNYPartyStory, which allows students to post their most outrageous party photo each week, followed by a vote for the winning image. Female students are often depicted naked or engaging in sexual acts in photos captured – and often photobombed – by male students. Images of male students more commonly represent drunken injuries and crazy stunts. Students share their photos on a platform followed by over 64,000 people, raw and overt in their uncontrived sexism.

Bada Bing is different in that the sexism drawing so much opposition is totally staged and supposedly fun. But what woman really wants to “dress provocative enough to catch the eye of a taken man” or become one man’s property for the night by getting “lei’d,” as the advertisements promote? Who really wants to bare all for a string of Mardi Gras beads or “flash the cashier for free admission”?

Bada Bing’s promotional flyers read like the auto-tuned radio ads for trashy clubs in my hometown. Spero isn’t the first person to use these derogatory marketing strategies, and he won’t be the last because, controversially sexist or not, they get people’s attention.

It is encouraging that Geneseo students are taking a stand to demand that female students aren’t subjected to Bada Bing’s sexist promotions. Whether the controversy will result in the full elimination of such themes at the Bada Bing or even more packed crowds of eager students at the Inn Between Tavern will become clear with time.