Why French Feminists Are Boycotting Starbucks

February 15th 2016

Lucy Tiven

French feminists are boycotting the coffee giant Starbucks over a sign reportedly forbidding women from entering a Starbucks store in Saudi Arabia.

The sign, which went viral from a Feb. 1 tweet, reads, "Please no entry for ladies only send your driver to order, thank you." Twitter user Manar M, who tweeted the photo of the sign, said that she was denied service at the Riyadh location and compared the ban to racial segregation.

The Gender Wall

Due to local custom, many Saudi restaurant chains have bans on single women or have walled-off parts of their establishment for female customers without male escorts. Starbucks gave a statement and clarified that the store at issue here was initially built without a gender barrier and that the sign was put in place because the store was still under construction. One restaurant owner told the Arabic daily newspaper Al-Hayat, "We put up these signs because we have seen numerous incidents of flirting taking place inside the restaurant," according to a report by The International Business Times.

Starbucks gave a statement to CNN, clarifying, "During construction, the store could only accommodate and serve single men, and a poster was placed at the store entrance as required by local law."

The Backlash

Protesters have compared the policy to those of Nazi Germany and South African apartheid, tweeting the hashtag #StarbucksIsForMenOnly.

The incident was covered by Le Monde and several other French newspapers, some of which claimed that the company endorsed the ban, while the activist group Osez Le Feminisme organized a Starbucks boycott last week. “The sexism spoiled the coffee," they wrote.

Osez Le Feminisme's Marie Allibert told BuzzFeed News that the group wasn't swayed by the company's explanation. She maintained that by adhering to Saudi local customs, Starbucks was upholding sexist discrimination.

(H/T Buzzfeed)