A new advertising campaign featuring a drag queen urinating has drawn accusations of stereotyping transgender people.
One of the advertisements by Adelaide-based alcohol company VOK Beverages for Bearded Lady American Bourbon, described as “brave and edgy” in a VOK press release, shows a man in a dress using a urinal and the tagline ‘Stay Strong’.
The majority of the campaign, launched on Saturday December 1 and featuring a series of visual advertisements, is being shown outdoors, in print and online, but the urinal advertisement is only being featured in Zoo and Maxim magazines.
Transgender Victoria spokesperson Sally Goldner said the advertisement conjured up transgender stereotypes, comparing it to a controversial Libra commercial that aired in January only to be withdrawn following widespread accusations of transphobia.
“It’s definitely not ideal. Because it’s not a full TV ad with dramatic music it’s less intense, but it’s still incredibly stereotypical in the facial expression and stance that the person is using. It’s careful enough that it’s harder to pin down,” Goldner told the Star Observer.
“It’s an obvious attempt to appeal to the bourbon-barn market who read men’s magazines.”
VOK marketing manager Chris Illman defended the advertisement.
“The feedback we’ve got to the campaign has been positive in most circumstances but obviously there are certain people out there who haven’t necessarily warmed to it,” he said.
“It was a disruptive strategy to try and break into an established market – in no way have we tried to be controversial in doing that. Where offence has been taken, it hasn’t been intended.”
When asked about the decision to confine the urinal advertisement to the pages of Zoo and Maxim, Illman claimed it was “simply because of the – some would say – controversial elements of the campaign”.
“Most parts of the transgender community have taken it in a lighthearted way but there are some who will be offended by it, so we’ve kept that particular ad to a very small media area,” he said.
Another of the campaign’s advertisements features a short-haired female customs officer about to perform a cavity search.
Melbourne drag queen Miss Skye High, who poses in the urinal advertisement, joked on Twitter that she considers it “one of [her] finest moments ever”.
“Personally, that gives me confidence that it should be taken in a lighthearted way rather than literally,” Illman said.
“Can’t keep everyone happy.”