George Street bar owner says Kirill event will go ahead despite controversy
Social media outcry will not stop event from happening, says Allure owner Daryl Flood
The owner of St. John's club Allure has no plans to cancel a November event featuring a controversial New York photographer, despite the protest of a local women's action group.
"If a self interest group is successful in banning an event and preventing consenting adults from attending because they deem it offensive, we are moving towards the principles of a totalitarian regime," said Daryl Flood, the owner of Allure, in a statement.
"It's 2015 and we live in a free country where people have the right to decide for themselves. You hate Kirill and think he's tasteless, offensive, disgusting? Then don't go to his website, don't follow him on Twitter and don't go to his events."
A local action group called Smash Patriarchy: An Action Team (SPAAT) launched a petition last week against the Nov. 6 event.
Kirill Bichutsky, who refers to himself as the "Slut Whisperer," takes photos of party-goers at nightclubs across North America, many of which are of naked, inebriated women.
Members of SPAAT say the photographer's work is misogynist and perpetuates slut shaming and rape culture. More than 2,400 people have signed a petition to shut down his event at the George Street bar in St. John's.
Flood said that he understands why some people might take offence with Bichutsky's work, but that shouldn't be a reason to shut down the photographer.
"I believe in free speech and I am against censorship. My hope is there are enough logically thinking people here in Newfoundland that realize how ridiculous this has gotten," said Flood.
"He's a comedian/entertainer that pushes the envelope to evoke responses. It's up to the individual to decide how they wish to interpret it."
Kirill 'not a predator,' bar owner says
Flood also said SPAAT and the media have been depicting the Kirill Was Here events wrongly.
"He is not a predator that preys on helpless females from what I witnessed. People (men and women) literally lined up to ask him to take a photo in his first visit," said Flood.
Back in 2013, Kirill also appeared at Allure. Flood said there was no nudity inside the club back then and absolutly no under-aged girls were photographed without their clothes.
"Most people in attendance that night were shocked to see they were at the same party that was being depicted on the news," Flood said.
"I felt horrible for some of the people photographed — not because I thought Kirill took advantage of them, but because the all the news stations had their photos plastered all over the Newfoundland media. What was meant to be a fun party had turned into a circus."
SPAAT threats could incite violence, Flood says
Flood said that he has been disgusted by the hateful statements directed towards him in the past few days and that he certainly does not support rape.
He said he was alarmed to see that a SPAAT Facebook member suggested the group use "putrid stink bombs" to shut down the event.
"Even if this is a joke (which I really hope it is), it is very suggestive...Anybody reading that could get the wrong idea and it is encouraging violence to achieve their goals," he said.
"The ironic thing is I agree with 90 per cent of SPATT's principles and I was even willing to sit down with them and do a interview until I seen this bomb threat posted on one of their members Facebook wall. How could I trust them to present my words fairly when they are so blinded by hate."
Flood said he will do everything he can to make sure the event goes ahead safely for those in attendance.
SPAAT responds, but won't protest at Allure on Nov. 6
After Flood sent his statement, the action group leading the protest against Kirill's appearance also reached out to CBC News.
"Our objection to Kirill is simple: our city should not support events that encourage violence against women," wrote Carmella Gray-Cosgrove, who represents SPAAT.
"Women's safety downtown is paramount. Kirill's event perpetuates a culture of misogyny and violence."
Gray-Cosgrove said since Kirill recently directed his online followers to the SPAAT Instagram account, many have lashed out at the group, making sexual and aggressive comments towards them.
With regards to the argument that the group's petition to stop the event is a form of censorship, Gray-Cosgrove said people are missing the point.
"We are not aiming to prevent Kirill from saying the misogynist, sexist, racist and homophobic things he says," she wrote.
"What we are saying is that Allure's event and Kirill's photography and online persona perpetuate and normalize misogyny, sexism and violence against women."
Gray-Cosgrove said SPAAT does not plan to show up on George Street on Nov. 6, but will continue to vocalize their concerns on social media.
In the meantime, Gray-Cosgrove said the petition is not intended to tell women how to act, but to draw attention to an event that they feel encourages a certain type of behaviour and attitude towards women.
"We are not saying that women are not entitled to choose to dress how they want and expose their bodies how they want," she wrote.
"We are questioning the misogyny inherent in an event where a man behind a camera uses women's bodies for his own gain. Women do not need Kirill. Sluts do not need Kirill. St. John's does not need Kirill."