With a nod (excellent content, well thought out and written) and grimace (she uses the word ‘girl’ per her site although I see “Let me Tell You About Beer” is also hers?) to Melissa Cole, I’d riff on the role of the female in the beer community.

Calling all female beer enthusiasts and consumers:

If you want respect of the general global community, not to mention the beer one, then take note. Titles and labels are extremely powerful things. Calling your self anything other than a word that connotes and demands full respect is where this idea needs to start. And it has to start with women, many whom seem to let it slide, much to the detriment of all females.

Ask yourself: *Do you call yourself a girl to professionals you know and deal with including your doctor, insurance agent, grocer, banker, yoga instructor, and neighbors?

If you do, know this: you’re pushing all females backwards. Girls are younger than 18, heck younger than 16 for most. In the consumer research we do, girls are commonly defined by the research contributors to be under 12. Why then do you think it’s a good idea or even acceptable to call yourself a girl? It’s not.

The perpetuation of lessening value by using girl in place of ‘woman’ or ‘female’ will continue with the help of everyone who uses it. No, it’s not cheeky or clever. It’s inaccurate and insulting. Do you call grown men ‘boys’ in the aforementioned ask*?

It matters. It matters because when I see young children at family friendly fests, it’s greatly disturbing to think that something as simple and changeable as words can have permanently helpful or permanently damaging manifestations. The youngsters I see should all have even opportunity and the persistence of calling women girls is grossly unhelpful. It’s not flattering either, it’s ridiculous.

I often ask a roomful of guests and audiences to raise their hands if they have a female in their lives they care about. What do you suppose happens? Yes, everyone raises their hands. Would you also raise your hand in agreement? Everyone should. And therefore everyone should want that female person to have all the opportunity available to them and not be held back by thoughtlessness and casual vernacular.

The issue for women calling themselves girls, babes, chicks and the like is that they are missing the greater picture.

It’s not about you though; it’s not about the ones who choose the name. Yes, it’s casual and maybe the progenitors of the name want to indicate some sass. Fine. Do it with another word. I find it disturbingly odd that there are all kinds of condescending terms for women yet there’s a much lower incidence for men. Why is that? And more importantly, why is that okay with so many people?

Here’s an example of an email conversation recently which illustrates the confusion:

“I have gotten similar feedback to yours from one or two people but overall most women I know love the name BABES [I’d like to know who these women are and if they’ve thought about the implications of being considered via  traditionally sexualized word]. As a well-educated, feminist I believe that I am taking back the word “babe” and dozens of women that are a part of the BABES club agree. I also chose the name b/c it is a women’s beer club and the acronym is clever. [why try to take ‘back’ a word that isn’t going forward? and again – clever disappear when coupled with disrespect]

As you may know there are many other women’s beer clubs, which are doing the same thing: Beer for BABES (who I note is doing a focus group for you despite their name) [true – and I’ll be very interested in the input once the FG is complete, to see what labels and titles bears out] the Beer Babe (who is awesome and I know has encouraged women to help with the Women Enjoying Beer survey) [whom we support as well; we’re not here to judge – we’re here to get people to re/think], Chicks who Dig Beer, Girls Pint Out (does your research show how women feel about being called Girls?)[yes, it does – see above].

My point is that there are lots of smart, savvy women craft beer enthusiasts who are taking back these labels, names etc. and many women are happy to join them.”[So be it. While this may be true, it dismisses the millions of women who aren’t active in the pursuit of beer. What’s needed is a bigger view of women as a whole, this isn’t only about beer enthusiasts.]

Don’t take offense if someone challenges the titles and label you’ve chosen. Rethink it though from an outsider and consumer standpoint: how might it be perceived, without your lens and what you already think? Part of the key is to never forget to put yourself in the shoes of others.

If it’s not okay to you then speak up! Speak up often and offer an intelligent and respectful choice, one that indicates respect and demands recognition of contribution to the world at large.When you speak up, you’re creating change and supporting an oft overlooked and unrespected segment of the global population.

I find it flabbergasting when people approach us (festivals and the like) and, while friendly, put no thought in to calling us ‘guys’ or using other language that completely misses the point (“So what are you guys all about?”). It’s even more amazing when we say “First of all, we’re not guys…” and they get offended. Wait a minute. You just opened the conversation and didn’t think about what was coming out of your mouth and now you’re put off by the fact that we called you on it? Wrong.

I can also tell you from ongoing research we conduct that a healthy majority of women don’t like to be called a ‘guy’. Go figure – they’re not. A little bit of forethought and respect goes a very long way. Exercise your brain and think ahead. Have you ever heard someone approach a booth or table of men and say, in all seriousness, “Hello Ladies”? Of course not, that’d be ludicrous and bad for business. Yet somehow so many are fine with being addressed intentionally and incorrectly.

Being thoughtful of others, mindful of what comes out of your mouth before you say it, and regarding women with deserved respect is the direction of progress.

Go ahead: I dare you to call yourself a feminist. Just make sure you know the definition first. Some people accuse me of being a feminist, which I most certainly am, without knowing what the word means. They obviously haven’t done their own research yet.

Think before you speak. And think before you market and advertise, beer companies and all companies, organizations and groups. As the founder of a company that is shifting culture, I am not be afraid to represent the hundreds upon hundreds of women all over the USA who have contributed their honest feelings, opinions and ideas.

Like I commented on Melissa’s post, “I’d rather loose my voice speaking up than turn the other cheek.”

Cheers –


p.s. Here’s what I posted in comment to her writings (unsure if it’ll get published) :

“Melissa – Well done.
Covering the bases and stating it very factually, removing emotion which is where progress will come from. Indeed, I fielded a ‘defense’ of using the word “Babe” in a women’s beer affinity group this am (named by the woman who was justifying it) that also pushes the wheels backwards, not forward. Women can’t want equality and respect and also call themselves something akin to the labeling your talking about. It’s two faced, not clever, and short sighted.
What would happen if all the women who patronize pubs, stores selling beer and restaurants serving beer simply stopped buying ANY beer in protest? Who would notice then? How quickly do you think the industry (which I am also fond of and sometimes struggle with for this very reason) would react appropriately to the world biggest market share withholding their dollars?
We study the qualitative side of women + beer and have found that the overwhelming majority of women do NOT not want inaccurate titles and labels assigned to them. We’re not talking about neutering your brand either – the whole idea though of a business is to figure out who your market will be, how best to reach them and them market to them accordingly. Yes, it’s flabbergasting to see so many beer brands – of all sizes and locations be so thoughtless. Don’t buy their beer. Tell the seller of it why you’re not, and find a label you can support. There are thousands of beers available so surely you can find one that is respectful to women. Remember also: when we set girls (females under 12) up for this kind of mindset, it’s cutting their opportunity short and completely shameful. You can be clever, intelligent and have an edge of appropriate adult humor if you like. Yet the most powerful brands around are not based on sex at all: Coke, McDonalds, and the like.
Open and sometimes uncomfortable discourse is the only way we’ll make progress. Speak up loudly and constantly if you don’t like to be reduced to your body parts and supposed lack on intelligence. Will the day come when beer is marketed toward men using baby blue, tight speedos and oily chest? I hope not – that’s not what anyone wants anyway. If the beer is high quality it should be able to stand on it’s own. Sex doesn’t sell – it reduces us all back to a level that’s insulting and ridiculous. Use sex to sell condoms. Me – I’d rather loose my voice speaking up than turn the other cheek.”

Categories: Assumptions & Myth Busting, Beer, Something To Think About, Women and Beer
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4 Responses to “An Open Letter To Female Beer Enthusiasts”

  1. Goats_Udder

    Telling women that they cannot use terms that are demeaning to women–is demeaning to women! Also how can you be supportive of Girls Pink Out when they have grossly flaunted the norms you hold so dear? I don’t know Mellissa Cole,I do however know the Beer Babe- and she is a paradigm of the independent woman: educated in the sciences, excelles in a predominantly male sport, and head of her household. I don’t want to live in a world where Carla can’t go by whatever name she pleases!

    If you noticed I don’t have a pink blog, and all the good names (my bffs wench and babe) were taken when I signed up for twitter. Still, I don’t feel assaulted when someone makes the connection between udders and my D’s 🙂

    These are some of my thoughts on the issue with women and beer: http://www.fugglybrew.com/2010/11/real-women-drink-good-beer.html

  2. Ginger Johnson

    Appreciate your comments Tatiana. This is exactly the discourse we need for progress: I’m not telling anyone to absolutely not do it. Ultimately I’m strongly suggesting against it BASED on what hundreds of women across the USA have shared. A “good name” is what you want it to be – and if it’s a public name then the namer should be thoughtful to what the implications can be. Thanks for getting fired up.

  3. Carla Companion

    Hi Ginger!

    I’m happy to see that a conversation about this is still being cultivated. I plan on doing some thinking and writing on this a bit later, but I wanted to ask you a question first, if I may.

    Do you think it is ever *possible* to transcend a label, and/or reclaim it?

    What I mean is this: Can’t choosing the label ourselves (instead of having it given to us as a slur) – and demonstrating that its historic (or in this case, contextual to beer) connotation is false – contribute to the greater good of breaking out of this cycle?

    I am in no way offended, just genuinely curious on that point.

    I am asking because (obviously) I have used one of these labels on myself for the past five years and have worked to become what I consider to be a respected part of a craft beer enthusiast/blogging community, and I have done that without sexualizing or demeaning myself or my website as I’ve done so. I have maintained – in print and in person – what I consider to be a mature and frank approach to craft beer, and have embraced the title as a term of authority and online brand recognition, and have not used it to be cheeky, sassy or cute.

    I want visitors to my website – 56% of which are female [1] – to be there for the beer and for my writing, and to recognize that I am not just anyone writing about beer, but that I have an established brand, and my voice, is, in fact, female. I feel that my name and brand identity has accomplished this, and I think I could make the case that it does so while providing a smart and capable “beer babe” image instead of reinforcing that the “beer babe” should be the one serving the beer.

    I look forward to continuing this conversation! 🙂


    [1:Male:Female ratio of my web traffic as reported by third-party tracking software in the last 90 days. The % of female visitors has averaged between 48-59% over the past three years since tracking began.]

  4. Ginger Johnson

    Hello Carla – as is your style, thanks for the thoughtful comments. Since you and I communicate periodically, I’m appreciative of your time and efforts. Indeed, for the record for everyone – I like and respect what Carla is doing.
    And while I have a certain appreciation for where she’s coming from on the point of ‘taking back a word’ I still stand on the voice of a majority of women: why work on taking back a label that may still forever be seen and perceived as a negative. I’m miffed as to why – even though Babe can be a fun term in the right setting. More power to you to change the perception, Carla! I’m saying that there are other words that are commonly used, that can still connote fun, alliterations, and intelligence and not have to be an uphill battle. It’s about what everyone else thinks, not what we think.
    Agreed: you want (and I want) success with the content AND I don’t want labels to be a stumbling block or prevent people from even initiating engagement, which is true whether we like it or not.
    Carla – let’s keep it going and talk over a beer. Let me know if you’ll be at the GABF. Cheers – g


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