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Regina tourism agency apologizes for using sexualized slogans

REGINA — A women's organization is asking Regina's tourism agency for another rebrand after the city used slogans criticized for having sexual overtones.
A man and a dog walk the path around Wascana Lake, flanked by downtown Regina on Thursday Feb. 18, 2021. An agency responsible for tourism in Regina has apologized for using slogans that have been criticized for their sexual overtones. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Michael Bell

REGINA — A women's organization is asking Regina's tourism agency for another rebrand after the city used slogans criticized for having sexual overtones. 

Experience Regina, the agency responsible for tourism in Saskatchewan's capital, apologized on the weekend and removed the phrases online that seemed to make light of the city’s name rhyming with vagina.

The RaiseHER Community in Regina says the tourism agency needs to take further action.

“Saskatchewan has the highest rate of intimate partner violence in the country, and so to sort of lean on that as something that is perceived as funny is not OK,” the group's co-founder Talitha McCloskey said Monday.

“The objectification of vaginas is not OK.”

Last week, Experience Regina launched a rebrand and posted on its social media accounts: "We are the city that rhymes with fun." Its website also had "show us your Regina" written above a block of Instagram posts. 

Two days later, the organization apologized and removed the phrases. 

"I want to start by apologizing, on behalf of myself and our team, for the negative impact we created with elements of our recent brand launch," Tim Reid, the agency's CEO, said in a statement posted on social media.

"There was such positive feedback around Experience Regina; however, it was clear that we fell short of what is expected from our amazing community with some of the slogans that we used.”

Some in Regina have said the slogans were unnecessary and took the city backward in advancing women's rights. 

McCloskey said she was “disheartened and a little bit sick” by the agency using the phrases.

She said she has a young niece and questioned how women could explain to young girls how such slogans would be perceived as funny. 

“This new messaging is commodifying genitalia. And in our eyes, that is the biggest step back that we could possibly make in the kind of trenches that we've been fighting in,” McCloskey said. 

Opposition NDP status of women critic Jennifer Bowes wrote on Twitter that the tag lines were "misogynistic," "gross" and "juvenile." 

The "city that rhymes with fun" is an old joke, particularly by people who do not live in Regina, which often receives eye-rolls from locals.

It was printed on sweaters in partnership with a local clothing company for the recent tourism campaign, but Experience Regina has since stopped printing them and the garments are no longer available for purchase. 

The clothing company declined to comment, directing questions to Experience Regina. 

Mentions of Regina’s rhyming name by prominent comedians and in movies have drawn some laughs over the years. Late-night TV talk show host Jimmy Fallon had a good chuckle with it in 2018.

In the movie "Deadpool," superhero Wade Wilson, played by Canadian actor Ryan Reynolds, also uses the joke saying he’s from the city.

Experience Regina, the organization formerly known as Tourism Regina, did not immediately respond to a request for further comment. 

In his statement, Reid thanked those who raised concerns for holding the agency accountable. 

“Regardless of our intent, the impact is valid, and for that, we apologize,” he stated.

McCloskey said Experience Regina should strike a focus group of people with diverse backgrounds to pick new slogans and tag lines for the rebrand. Any changes should consider diversity and equality, she said.

“They can own that Experience Regina name but in a more positive way,” McCloskey said.

“I know that there's hopefully a lesson learned and that people will just take accountability for their actions.”

This report from The Canadian Press was first published March 20, 2023.

Jeremy Simes, The Canadian Press