Changing Perception

“If there’s a problem, it’s my job to change the perception.”

These were big words uttered by a long time hospitality pro during a very worthwhile panel at the 2015 TRA Marketplace. She said a mouth-full, for sure.

So how do we 1. know there’s a problem and 2. how do we change perception.

2015 TRA Marketplace Panel

2015 TRA Marketplace Panel

In keeping with this being a site on women & beer, I’d relate it to a huge problem being the misnomer that women don’t drink or enjoy beer. While millions understand that’s simply not true, millions and billions more seem to think (actively or passively) that is it true.

So how do we change that perception, knowing there’s a problem.

Wait – first you want to know how I judge there’s a problem? Glad you asked.

Do a quick online search of articles on women and beer, beer labels and sexism in beer and it’ll come at you with lightning speed.

The problem, Houston, is that we’re making much ado about an incorrect and damning stereotype. I can tell you for a fact – women enjoy beer. Women enjoy beer, they enjoy wine, spirits, cider, mead and sake…and everything else out there any one person can enjoy. Like Nancy Nichols, the author of the cited piece above said, “don’t view your sex as a factor.”

There’s a misperception that certain alcoholic beverages hold a lock on a certain gender. It’s a bunch of bladerdash.

Think for yourself and with your own brains and taste buds. If you run into a misperception – when you run into a problem with this thinking – set the record straight.

Ain’t so such thing as a woman’s beer nor a man’s beer. To thine own taste buds be true and we’ll all make progress breaking down the sexism in beer.

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Why Gender In Marketing Beer Matters

There’s ongoing conversation about whether or not women should in fact be recognized and actively marketed to for beer. While it may seem like a silly question to some, frustrating for others and “huh?” for yet others, I think it’s important. Here’s why.

At the center of the issue is that any population that has not actively been invited to converse and be involved in a conversation needs to be invited. Women here are the said population, beer is the said conversation.

IMG_1112Recently I was contacted by a respected and sharp colleague about writing a column for Valentine’s Day about women and beer, specifically which beers to suggest for women who currently don’t consume. In the stream were 6 other people I know in the professional beer arena and so ensued a query: Should this instigator write about this topic? Is the writer, who in this case is male, qualified to write such a piece? And if so, then what are our thoughts?

Responses were varied, with common themes, which is common in doing this sort of ad hoc research. I commented right away. He’s precisely the right person to do this. Thoughtful, exercising quality journalistic professionalism….and incidentally a man.

Feminism isn’t about gender. It’s about equality and respect and having everyone participate in progress.

One of the goals here is to make the connection of women and beer so obvious that it’s no longer an eyebrow raising, patronizing facet of our society. At this time it’s still firmly entrenched so change we must actively pursue.

Think it’s already there? Think again. When you’ve got people in breweries marketing Double D Blonde, Tramp Stamp and dozens of others with highly sexualized images to go with them, then yes, Virginia – there’s a massive problem.

  1. Is this beer quality to begin with? If so, then why pander to a hormone raging teenage boy level name and graphic. Totally ridiculous, tired (as another write stated), and completely eliminates not just women. It’s insulting to women (reduced to bodily parts) and men (you’re too sex driven to think of anything else) alike.
  2. Why are the women and men in the companies not completely squashing these ideas? Products that have these labels should not be allowed to do business until they partake of meaningful and lasting gender respect education.
  3. “Small” brewers in America are the worst. So no – small isn’t best. Small is small. And in this case small also means small-minded thinking.
  4. I’d hedge a bet that everyone involved in all these brands has a female in their life they care about. Why are they totally dissing her and not seeing the obvious connection here completely baffles me.

One of the colleagues in the stream pointed out that she’d rather have people say holy shit you know a lot about beer,” instead of gee, you sure know a lot about beer for a girl.” I agree. I find it curious that someone who is tired of hearing about gender in beer calls herself a girl. This is precisely why we need to keep talking it out. It perpetuates permission to call a woman a girl instead, thereby indicating she’s under 18 and infantilizing her person.

Out as in, all women and men need to demand full respect in titles and names – yes they matter. Huge. Girls, chick, broad, bitch, and babe are all damning words and do not connote full respect, are not clever in the world theatre and only help stagnate progress. Correct someone when they use girl instead of woman.

There’s a relatively enthusiastic group in the community that uses Girl in the first of three words in a title. While they may preach that they are about education, the very fact that the first word in the title of the name is denigrating is seriously regressive. I expect to hear from one of them, following the post, as I have little time for someone who tells me “F*** you, we can call ourselves what we want,” “get off your feministic high horse” and so forth (they do that). Undiplomatic, unclassy and most importantly closed and narrow-minded. If you’re going to be belligerent an unseeing of the damage you’re doing, I’ll have no part of it.

It’s both amusing and tragic at the same time that there are those who think disrespectful labels and titles are acceptable and keep using them. No you can’t call yourself what YOU want and not push your own myopic and selfish feelings on the rest of the female population. It’s not about you, it’s about all of us.

Left Hand does it right: Ales 4 FemAles

Left Hand does it right: Ales 4 FemAles

We have to be fully aware that if we all want full dignity and respect, then the titles and labels we use in any public arena must reflect that. You can still exercise cleverness as it fits, like Left Hand Brewing’s Ales 4 FemAles – as long as respect is intact. A4F hits the target, retains integrity and respect, and communicates what the group is about.

It’s a well documented fact that in societies where women are fully respected the culture is healthier, happier, and more successful in many ways than those who do not fully respect women and females. Rather ironic that America, one of the greatest countries in the world and clearly a World Leader, is *still* so far behind on gender equality.

You can respect women, men and beer simultaneously. We all should.

I hope we go somewhere with this idea, collectively as a group, since there will be strength and great varied opinions in this rank. In the meantime the writer has my full support, which he had before.

Stay posted…watch to see what happens.

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Beer Flavor Sexism Rant

If you can’t take the truth, then stop reading. If you can take it, be my guest.

Below is a contact I received recently from a brewery in planning.

I’m starting a brewery and want to find a brew or two that is [sic] especially tasty for women. What types of beer tend to be most appealing? Witbiers? Lagers? I hear you have done research and asked questions to women about what kinds of beer they like best. If you have this info, I’d greatly appreciate it!

And it’s perfect to discuss the fact that there is no such thing as a woman’s beer or a man’s beer. I’ll say it once (here):

EVERYONE LIKES FLAVOR

If you choose to not recognize and understand this and start here, then we’re all doomed to perpetuated bad myths, stereotypes that hold everything back and sexism (both ways) in relation to beer.

Let me be clear – WEB isn’t about gender: it’s about opportunity afforded to all, by all, in a respectful and equal playing field world.

Considerations:

1. Think of flavor as a human pursuit, not a gender oriented one.

2. Appeal is in the tastebuds of the EDUCATED taster.

3. Education is the absolute key to progress. Self education and education provided by brands, distributors, and retailers. Go get it!

4. There are myriad books, journals, and publications (both online and hard copy) to help educate consumers and pros alike.

5. Women Enjoying Beer is a full on business; it’s how the company can afford a living for the team. Never ask a service provider for free work. Yes, we can help anyone who is interested in actually using the qualitative information we gather from women all over the country. And yes, you get to pay for it since it’s one of our products – just like you get to buy a beer if you want to enjoy it.

We ask all sorts of qualitative questions in our research. We’re very unconcerned with what brands and styles women like in a vacuum. Meaning – you have to qualify what styles you make as they relate to your brand, what food you’re serving (if you do) and foods you recommend to pair (which everyone should), where the beer is served, what people are doing/have just done/are going to do/currently doing. There is not, nor will there ever be, a single type of beer for any gender.

WEB has chosen to delve into WHY more women aren’t enjoying beer (and why they do) which is a wonderful Pandora’s box of responses. There’s no such thing as a singular answer, since every aspect is different for everybody. Sure, there are patterns and common threads. About 4 of them.

6. If this was a woman: why would you possibly want to keep the “she-only-likes-this/these-kinds-of-beers” syndrome going?! If this is a man: shame on them for not realizing everyone likes flavor – just like if it is a woman. Of course I know, yet for this argument it’s neither here nor there. It’s unbelievable either way.

The obvious lack of market research is mystifying and appalling (whether done by the founders or hiring someone like WEB). Every brand needs to do research before they open and ongoing while they are open. Period.  I shudder to think of how this person looks at females in general.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Women hold themselves back. Mentality like this, which I’m not saying if it’s male or female, is scary and will only make the next generations suffer in many ways coming up. All genders can do something about it.

Think I’m being too dramatic? You should read some of the super passionate input we’ve received. WOW! Reports based on the 2012 Women + Beer Survey will start coming out soon, available for purchase.

Who’s offended – mildly or outright – at sexist labels? If you’re the one who says “it doesn’t matter to me/pertain to me”, this is an incredibly apathetic and dangerous attitude. Who has these labels in obvious eye-shot of an audience that is uneducated and not versed in soft porn and how damaging it is? No, it’s not that far a leap.

Everyone can do something about killing sexism, starting with beer – whether you consume it, buy it, or neither. This is a terribly ignorant query. Really?!

A much better query would be something along the lines of: When do women enjoy beer? Why do they enjoy the styles they do? Where do they enjoy beer? And so on…. I doubt men would appreciate being forced into categories as well.

As you can tell, this really gets me going. EGADS!!! This should get you going if you have any females in your life you care about.

We have so much distance to still travel for the extinction of sexism in beer to actually die.

Please do your part: start with a genderless flavor conversation. Assume respect for all genders who look at your brand. This is where every brewery will make progress, every consumer gets equal respect and brands will stop using sexist labels.

The best brands want nothing to do with including any kind of gender references and implications, graphics or images on their beer. Beer should be high quality and be sold on its merits – nothing else.

We get asked “what beer brands are bad at sexism?” I always turn the question around and point out examples of the really smart brands that focus on the beer and classy design, which appeals to everyone. FYI – in this case I reference brands like Boulevard. Sierra Nevada, and New Belgium. This facet is one reason they’re so successful. One of these days though I’m going to let ‘er rip and publish a post on poor brand choices.

Until then, I’ll keep breathing and forging ahead. It’s obvious with thinking like this that WEB needs to be around.

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Why Stories Like This Make Me Crazy

Read this. Then come back.

Okay – let me tell you why this drives me crazy (via all the hundreds of women who have shared and talked with WEB). And not good crazy either.

1. Beer does NOT need to be sexed up. Any more. At all. Anywhere. In fact it needs to get sex removed from it. Can we please get over sex in marketing!!??

2. Beer is brewed for genderless enjoyment – or it should be.

Women Enjoying Beer (Photo by Kate Parks)

3. Yes, women and men taste differently. How could they not? We’re all wired differently, we’re all physiologically unique. But beer should not be solely brewed to appeal to women. It should be brewed to appeal to all beer enthusiasts.

4. “Mistress” as a label for one of her beers is not helpful; it’s counter to women getting equal shrift. Who still does not get that words used in labels and titles need to be considered from the vantage point of someone else – not the one naming the widget or beer or whatever. It matters. And last time I checked, no self respecting woman wants to be subject to a mistress situation.

5. This is partially true: “There’s definitely a market for craft beers for women.” You have to start in the marketing level, not at the brew kettle. ALL beers are for women when they are marketed properly. There are literally thousands of beers ready and waiting – surely you can find a few that appeal to you no matter if you’re female, male, or any other gender classification.

6. “It has citrus layers, complexities and characteristics” Last time I checked with beer drinkers, ALL genders appreciated these things. Being orchestrated for only one gender is not the point.

So called gender-specific beer is missing the point; in fact it isn’t the point at all. Everyone wants to drink what they like – so all internal plumbing aside, keep trying beers new and different to you.

I guarantee you’ll find one – most likely more than that – that you’ll return to.

Geez….sadly this isn’t an isolated incident or uncommon way of thinking.

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