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When Words Matter: A Look at 'The Slutty Vegan' in the Student Center

On Monday, February 27th, The Slutty Vegan, a restaurant featuring vegan burgers and sandwiches, opened its first college campus location in the John Lewis Student Center here at Georgia Tech.

There has been controversy surrounding the grand opening due to the sexual nature of the name of the restaurant and menu items. While some students are glad to see a restaurant that exclusively sells vegan food open on campus, others wonder if Georgia Tech should endorse the casual use of ‘slut’, a word traditionally considered derogatory to women.



Pinky Cole, the CEO and founder of The Slutty Vegan, began her business in July 2018, and by November 2018, she had her first food truck. Cole’s idea for this restaurant was sparked when she realized that she wanted vegan comfort food, which was unlike any vegan food already on the market. Cole wanted people to ask questions when they heard the name, hence ‘The Slutty Vegan.’ The promiscuous references don’t stop at the restaurant's name. The menu includes sandwiches called ‘One Night Stand,’ ‘Sloppy Toppy,’ and ‘Hollywood Hooker.’ They also have merchandise with the phrases ‘Loyal Slut,’ ‘Living Slutty,’ ‘Big Slut Energy,’ and ‘Eat Plants B*tch,’ as well as unprofane children’s clothes.


Georgia Tech has hosted The Slutty Vegan’s food truck on campus for several years, and it has been quite popular among both vegans and non-vegans, partly due to its alluring name and clever marketing. This past week, Georgia Tech opened a physical location in the publicly funded and recently renovated John Lewis Student Center. The announcement has come with praise from fans of the vegan business but also backlash from those who do not think a public institution like Georgia Tech should be endorsing terms like ‘slutty’ in its buildings, communications, and image. Pinky Cole coined the name ‘Slutty Vegan’ because she believes it challenges social norms as a way to empower women. While some see this as empowering, many women and men see the causal use of the word as offensive. On Georgia Tech’s recent Instagram post announcing the opening of the restaurant, a graduate of Tech commented, “As a female alum of @georgiatech, the term ‘slutty’ was NEVER a word I wanted to have associated with me. It’s a bit embarrassing that the school is watering down the expectation of morals that existed when I was there.” Another follower commented, “this is a bad look for tech imma be honest.” Commenters also called attention to the high prices of the menu items and the controversy surrounding their employee compensation.


Bloomberg asked Pinky Cole about the response regarding the name of the restaurant. Cole replied:

“It’s 2022. We live in a more progressive world, and my concept has nothing to do with sex. Instead, it provides a safe place for people to come together in the name of food.”

Many would argue that names like ‘One Night Stand’ and ‘Hollywood Hooker’ implies sex, specifically in a disparaging way to women. The first customer was photographed holding a poster that said "Lucky Slut." The restaurant's name and menu items grab attention and have led to the success of Cole’s business, but at what point does that outweigh the objectification that many women feel having it on campus?

Georgia Tech validating the word ‘slut’ leaves female students unclear on whether the school respects women and their presence here on campus - especially at a school where 60% of the population are men.

Georgia Tech’s communications brought a lot of fanfare to the grand opening. Georgia Tech, Tech Dining, and GT Student Center made posts on their social media pages. Advocates of the restaurant are excited about improving the accessibility of vegan food on campus. According to a reel by Tech Dining, the Veggie Jackets club, an educational and social student organization, had been pushing for increased vegan options at Tech for four years.


While hosting The Slutty Vegan on campus brings a sizable amount of students to the Student Center because of the overall success of the restaurant, Georgia Tech has a responsibility to consider the impact of approving such a restaurant in a publicly funded building. The Institute applauds itself for being an inclusive and respectful campus but then hosts a business that uses words that many find disrespectful. It will be interesting to see if Georgia Tech addresses student and alumni concerns and if they will reconsider The Slutty Vegan’s place on campus. //


Shelby Barrow

 

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Should Georgia Tech host a different vegan restaurant in the Student Center?

  • Yes, they should find a different restaurant

  • No, The Slutty Vegan should stay


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