Can the Boys Stop Being Boys?: The Paradox between Rebellion and Inclusion
Will Gordon has an good article at Slate on sexism in the craft beer world.
The sexism in this case might or might not be intentional but it is a convincing argument of disparate impact because it all adds up and makes the craft beer industry seem inhospitable to women unless they are willing to be the “cool girl” who doesn’t complain about the offenses.
Will first covers the turn-off and unwelcoming sexism that happens in the naming of certain beers and the graphic design. The examples range from Flying Dog goes for the subtle dog whistle angle by having beers called Raging Bitch and Pearl Necklace. Gordon calls this plausible deniability sexism. I didn’t know that pearl necklace referred to a sex act until reading the article but I’m quaint.
A more obvious example comes from Atlanta’s SweetWater brewing company. This brewer (who I haven’t heard about until now) gained infamy earlier in the year because of their graphic art for Happy Ending imperial stout. I am not that quaint and a “Happy Ending” refers to a hand-job that you can usually get at “massage parlors.” Advertisements from these massage parlors are usually what keep alt.weeklies alive in major urban areas. You can open up an alt.weekly in almost any city and find that the backpages are filled with ads from massage parlors. These ads almost always feature stock photos of Asian women in skimpy underwear or bikinis. The art for Happy Ending stout leaves nothing to the imagination. Link is semi-NSFW. Nor does the copy promise of an “explosive” finish.
Gordon’s other examples include other cover art and names and the fact that a trade industry meeting was held at a strip-club in Madison, Wisconsin.
I’m a heterosexual guy who aligns with the left and would like to think of himself as being progressive and inclusive and anti-sexist. I also really like craft beers and the embarrassment of riches that is currently going on in the beer world. I have to admit that SweetWater’s orientalism, racism, exoticism, and sexism is obvious to me but it did not occur to me to think of Flying Dog’s names and art work as being sexist until I read Will Gordon’s article especially because of the Hunter S. Thompson themed artwork that graces their bottles and packaging. It is obviously unwelcoming to have a trade event at a strip-joint.
The issue with craftbeer is whether they are being intentionally or unintentionally sexist. In this case I think it is largely unintentional but you can never tell and it could depend on the brewery in question. People don’t decide to enter the craft beer world because it is staid and respected. People enter the craft beer industry because they like to drink and want to make money from booze, not selling insurance or accounting. There is a rebel and non-corporate persona. These are not people that want to put on white-shirts and ties and look clean and well-maintained. They are people who want to wear t-shirts, have beards that make them look like 19th century Whaling ship captains, and not have to worry about how the neck tattoo is going to damage their career prospects. I would say that the rebellious nature is more aimed at pearl clutchers and teatotaling, pompous (and probably hypocritical) preachers than it is at being a big painted sign that screams “NO GURLS ALLOWED” while a bunch of MRAs talk bitterly about why they can’t get laid. On the other hand, there is a brewing company called Pig Minds according to the article and I am not willing to give them the benefit of the doubt for their PD California Style Ale (PD stands for Panty Dropper) People enter the beer world because they don’t want to be micro managed by HR with a big list of do-nots.
Something can have an effect even if it is not attended of course. This is a paradox and contradiction for liberal politics. We want a society that is inclusive and welcoming and does not make people feel like they have to accept uncomfortable pay to play situations. Women should be able to drink and make beer without feeling like they have to be cool with having trade meetings at strip-clubs or that they need to just be silent about sexist designs and names on beer bottles. Yet we also want their to be free speech including the kind of juvenile glee at giving a big finger to uptight puritans.
I’m not sure what the solution is between these two tensions. Plenty of women like beer and make very tasty beer. Hopefully guys will pick up on the message that they are alienating potential costumers, valuable employees, and colleagues with juvenile antics.