Thursday, May 17, 2012

Is Beer Sexist?

I suppose the beer itself can't be sexist, but does the world have a sexist view of beer? I have a number of female friends who drink beer, both craft and non-craft. I also know a number of men who don't particularly like beer—but that's in the macro. Does the world view beer as a man's drink—as in men should drink beer and women should drink something else—like, perhaps wine?

Get a load of this broad bride.
This isn't a topic that comes up a lot, but I have noticed a few times over the last year. Notably with Carlsberg's soon to be released Copenhagen—a 4.5% lager, that Carlsberg notes ..."is intended for modern women and men..." but freely admits that its clean packaging, reminiscent of a wine label, is geared toward consumers—many of whom, they note, are women—who are also "...very aware of design when the choose beverage products." Maybe I'm a bit over sensitive, but it appears that Carlsberg is targeting women with a softer, more gentler beer. I'm a graphic designer, I get that packaging that reflects the interest and style of the consumers of the product that it represents, is an effective way to move merchandise. Carlsberg's efforts with Copenhagen smacks of condescension. This, to me, is like putting a cartoon on a cereal box to appeal to children—except the children in this case are grown women, who Carlsberg thinks, are only drawn to pretty, frilly things.

That's nothing compared to what's happening over at Molson Coors. They're schilling pink beer, because I guess, women like pink stuff. This past fall, London was the first to receive Animée Beer, in an attempt to boost MCs lagging sales among women in the UK. Along with being a lovely shade of pink (excuse me crisp rose), the beer also comes in two other designer colors—clear filtered and zesty lemon, although clear isn't technically a color (not that lemon is either) but they are "designer." It's also, apparently, being pitched as "bloat-resistant"—always a beer selling point among the ladies. A spokeswomen for MC says,
One of the things we need to recognize in the industry is that we’ve effectively ignored 50 percent of the population for many years. There’s something fundamentally wrong with the relationship women have with beer.
Ignored 50 percent of the population? That statement implies that up until now beer wasn't that accessible to women. What would have been more correct to say, would have been,"...we’ve not effectively exploited 50 percent of the population for many years." MC has recently launched an advertising campaign in the UK, of which it's aim is to change the perception, among women, that all beers look and taste the same. What's the campaign's tag line, you ask?

Hurray for Animée

Because everyone knows—even simple minded-women—that nothing says better and different that the word hurray.

In defense of the world, however, I can't judge it by the actions of mega-corporations trying to make money. I can however make a judgement when Google News has 28 news stories about a photo, that ran in a New Zealand newspaper, of a bride drinking from a beer bottle. I can't figure out why that's even newsworthy. There seems to be a double standard—on one hand there seems to be an acceptance of women drinking light, white-wine looking beers but apparently not—and in New Zealand especially—those that are from brown bottles. Would it have been more acceptable for that woman to be drinking Chardonay from a wine glass? Is it the bottle that people find offensive—would it have been okay if she was drinking from a glass? Or is it that we are to believe that a woman's demure nature and sensitive system make the bitter flavor of beer far too overwhelming for them to handle? Maybe the bride in the photo is seen as a tad "rough-round-the-edges"—a lady would never quaff such a brutish beverage as beer. What is this, a Jane Austin book? The lady likes beer and not wine—who cares? It's still 2012, right, we haven't travelled back in time to 1812, have we? I'm snookered by this one.

Don't get me wrong—I'm as chauvinist as the next guy. I'm more than happy to watch a bikini-clad, hottie shake her money-maker to sell me beer, but that's not what's going on here. In all three of these case assumptions about women are being made that don't seem to ring true—women will only drink pretty beer or at least beer from a pretty package, but really, they shouldn't drink it at all. To me that's more degrading than Spuds McKensie's harem any day. For whatever reason, when it comes to beer, women's intelligence seem to be underestimated—both in the press and by big beer. Think about this: How ridiculous would all of these assumptions sound if the topic were hot dogs rather than beer? How do you think these headlines would fly?

Oscar Meyer Announces New Packaging Geared Toward Women. 

Or, how about this one?

Bride Eats Frankfurter—Disgraceful.

Like it or not, women do drink beer—women from all walks of life, in fact. Well educated women, fashionistas, moms, strippers, old women, young women, all of them drink beer—and not just the pretty pink ones, either.     

1 comment:

  1. Women beer geeks were no uncommon at my son-in-law's two cafes featuring craft beer in Salem, Ore.; not common, not 50-50; but, no uncommon. Here in Boulder, my glaze seldom gets as far as the glass in the young woman's hand; but, in future, I will make a point of looking.

    Woman and beer are a natural combination.
    ... I gather women were the original brewmiester as well as breadbaker; mostly the same ingredients / skills.
    ... You are likely aware of 'Pink Boots Society ' the association of women in craft brewers,
    ... A recent documentary 'The Love of Beer' [produced by Lingering Illocutions and created by Alison Grayson] celebrates/features five female forerunners in the Pacific NW craft beer industry. I await the Netflix release.