You're at the bar with your friends. Over a couple of cold ones and maybe a handful of peanuts, you talk about sports, politics, and ... consent?

That's exactly what the four women behind Aisle 4, a "curatorial collective" based in Toronto, want to see more of in the world.

Shannon Linde and the other curators work with local artists to create socially-engaged artwork that lives in the real world, not on gallery walls. Finding a way to tackle the topic of women's safety in bars has been on their agenda for a while.


"This has come up quite a bit. I mean, we are four women," Linde says. "People making an effort to change the dangerous climate is not happening as quickly as you would expect."

Aisle 4: Emily Fitzpatrick, Patricia Ritacca, Renée van der Avoird, and Shannon Linde. All photos by Aisle 4, used with permission.

Aisle 4 worked with local artists in Toronto to design a series of eye-catching coasters that would spark conversations in bars around consent, harassment, and assault.

It's no secret any place where lots of alcohol is being consumed can be dangerous. From aggressive, leering Tinder dates, pushy would-be suitors, or even people following them home, women can face an absurd amount of peril for simply wanting to go out and have a drink.

The coaster project, called "On the Table," quietly reminds that "Consent matters" and implores people to "Listen to your gut."

Linde says she knows a coaster isn't going to deter an attacker, for example, but hopefully getting small groups of people talking about the issues openly will have a positive effect.

"A coaster can't change patriarchy but it can remind you that gender is fluid and empathy is imperative." By Hazel Meyer

There's been a bigger push recently to get bar and restaurant staff involved in the fight against harassment.

Plenty of establishments have been in the news lately for adopting "safe words," i.e. a woman can ask for "Angela" or order an "Angel shot" to alert the staff that she needs help.

Critics of these measures say they put the onus on someone to figure their own way out of a dangerous situations, rather than on the people who make them feel unsafe; they also point out that the code words won't do much good once everyone knows what they mean.

On the Table takes a different approach and, quite literally, lays the uncomfortable truth about safety out in the open.

"Consent matters. Listen to her." By Lido Pimienta

"What we're not attempting to do is enact massive social change," Linde says. "Because that's so unrealistic."

She says most of us live in a bit of a bubble, only talking about the important stuff with people we know agree with us. These coasters might be a chance to change that.

"Mostly men are surprised that I might have felt unsafe many times in the past month," she says. "I don't think it's as known what the experience of women is day to day."

"Men are allies." By Jesse Harris

So far, nine bars in the Toronto area have eagerly signed up to use the coasters. More will likely join the effort soon.

The coasters can't be found in the wild just yet (they're currently being printed and will be distributed soon), but Linde says the feedback on the campaign so far has been amazing, and unlike a lot of their work, it has completely transcended the art community.

"This is definitely the most far-reaching project we've done to date," she says.

"Listen to your gut." by Aisha Sasha John

It remains to be seen if the project will have the impact the women at Aisle 4 are hoping for.

But at least they've done their part by creatively trying to further an important conversation. Whether everyone chooses to listen ... that's the bigger question.

As face masks have become mandatory in many places to limit the spread of coronavirus, it's also become an increasingly politicized thing. As we know, anything that involves political polarization also involves vast amounts of misinformation and disinformation. Whose idea was the internet again?

No one I know loves wearing a mask. We all wish we didn't have to. But there are an awful lot of people saying they can't wear one, or they refuse to wear one because they've been led to believe that masks are somehow more dangerous than not wearing one. I've seen and read "information" on everything from masks depriving people of oxygen to masks causing CO2 build up to masks creating fungus problems.

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