When Christina Fowler of Bedford, U.K, chose to post a review on TripAdvisor of her March 8 dining experience, she quickly discovered that the words “feminism” and “misogyny” are not welcome on the site — regardless of the content of the review. As outlined by the Telegraph, the review of The Bell at Westoning in Bedfordshire has triggered something of an uproar among the parties involved, and the TripAdvisor community as a whole.
Titled “Great food with a side of misogyny,” Christina Fowler’s original TripAdvisor review — as published by the Independent — included thoughts on the quality of the food served, but focused heavily on the fact that she witnessed an incident that she felt demonstrated misogynistic behavior on the part of the owner — something that particularly caught her eye, given that it was International Women’s Day at the time.
“Today, on International Women’s day, I saw the pub owner bite a young waitress on the shoulder which she tried to shrug off but then appeared to complain to her fellow waitress. Five minutes later he slaps her on the bum and made kissy noises when she jumped. A huge reminder that we still need feminism, even in 2015.
“Otherwise, the food was great, although it was strange to not be able to view a menu when you first come in and have to listen to a lecture, we really enjoyed our meal until this happened while we were waiting to pay.
“This is the type of pub we would like to take family and friends on future visits but we will never support any business who thinks it’s OK to treat staff in this way.”
Her overall rating of the establishment was two points of a possible five — although she awarded four points for service and five for the food. Christina Fowler’s review prompted a scathing response from the “Manageress” of the restaurant, however, which was posted shortly afterward.
“Please note this is a reply from the Manageress and I am female. Thank you for your views regarding International Women’s Day and your rather bigoted perspective of the Owner, Roberto.
“We ask people to leave reviews regarding their dining experience when eating with us on TripAdvisor. Bearing in mind this is your first review, perhaps you would consider giving some focus to the fabulous food and wine that was freshly cooked for you in the future, rather than offering the public a rather drama focussed personal rendition of your views on an owner who is a very kind employer, a work colleague, a friend and a man who is adored by many people.
“On TripAdvisor, we are not here to discuss or comment on feminism or who makes ‘kissy’ noises; the latter is something we believe pre school children may discuss. It is such a shame your spent your time focussing on your feministic views and not your food; had you done so you may have actually found something interesting to write about that would be of interest [to] others.”
Christina Fowler’s original review began to garner more than 100 votes of “helpful” before being entirely deleted from the site. The removal of the review was accompanied by an explanatory email from TripAdvisor to the reviewer, reprinted in full by the Guardian.
“We value your contribution, and would like to be able to post it on our website. However, we are unable to publish your review because it violated the following guideline:
“Relevant to other travellers.
“Please do not post content that is not relevant to trip planning and research… Users should refrain from including personal political, ethical or religious opinions, discussions or commentary in reviews.”
Christina Fowler re-posted her review two days later, on March 10, with exactly the same eyewitness account of sexual harassment, but without the words “feminism” and “misogyny.” This review has remained on the TripAdvisor website and has now received over 800 “helpful” votes.
When asked for comment on the furore, Christina Fowler told the Guardian that she was “quite surprised” — as were a number of other websites, including shinyshiny.tv, which correctly noted that the original review would have been passed by the TripAdvisor editorial process before going live. A spokesperson from TripAdvisor responded to shinyshiny.tv directly with a more detailed explanation.
“In our guidelines, we ask that reviewers refrain from personal political, ethical or religious commentary. In this case, we can confirm that the original review was removed because it contained come commentary of that nature.
“To be clear, the review was not removed because the reviewer’s first hand experience was considered irrelevant. In fact, we encouraged the reviewer to resubmit their review in order that their experience be shared with the travel community.”
As it stands, Christina Fowler’s TripAdvisor review contains an eyewitness account of actions construed as sexual harassment, but without the specific terms used to reference it.
[Image: Spencer Platt/Getty Images]