What Keeps Me Up At Night

What keeps a person up at night is assuredly varied. Events in our lives, things we’re thinking about, and experience we may anticipate.

It's thoughtless things like this sign that hold everyone back. (p.s. on a road in Ashland OR)

It’s thoughtless things like this sign that hold everyone back. (p.s. ..on a road in Ashland OR)

All of those factor into my thinking. And they do in fact keep me up at night, as well as wake me up in the morning.

Here are a few things that disrupt my slumber:

1. With almost 3000 breweries operating in America today, why are so few of the owners and founders of these companies are seriously addressing women as viable and valuable market participants? They pass them by with exclusion in developing poor label name and design selection, sexist images, and base humor that insults everyone.

2. The relatively small pool of apparently enlightened businesses (beer and beyond) who want to truly address women and females as equitable planet occupants.

3. That fact that way too many women perpetuate sexist labels amongst themselves, giving the okay to use titles and words that denigrate the greater good. It’s absolutely not okay – it’s backwards; it’s not clever or fun – it’s damning.

4. In a good way: when we work with clients who really give a damn. Who are business focused AND have their eye on equity. Thank you.

Feminism, as a reminder is: the belief that women and men should have equal rights and opportunity. We should all believe that.

Here’s a thoughtful read and good book for examining modern women by Debora Spar.

What keeps me up at night, what wakes me in the morning, and what gets my blood rolling is the fact that women are still behind gender wise. Some women and men are great at creating positive change. Some of them stink at it.

There are no acceptable reasons for gender inequity in this day and age. None. Everyone needs to speak up, change directions, and make progress happen.

What keeps you up at night?

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Does Your Industry Need More Labels?

Does your world need more labels? More identifiers? Do you want or need more delineation of what makes this such-and-such or so-and-so? Do you prefer to fly with fewer labels and definitions, preferring to define what it is that’s important within your own world and contexts?

I recently read a thought by a long-standing and well-respected (me included) brewery professional. The words were part of a longer sentences to the effect that “craft beer” does need to be defined and identifiable.

I disagree. Here’s why.

I’ve talked about labels and titles before. Starting with WEB, I know for a fact and from our qualitative research, that female labels and titles can be helpful or harmful. This is true with any category.

  • Good: Women, females.
  • Bad: Chicks, broads, babes, girls, vixen.

Any labels in any circumstance that is denigrating in any way, regardless of a closed (non public) audience or not can and will have an impact. When we name things, when we assign them labels and titles, we need to be super aware of this fact: it’s not about what you think is clever or appropriate. It’ll always be judged by others, who may or may not have a vested interest or concern in the name.

Do we have male groups using: Dicks, Dudes, Well-hung and other references to the person’s physical make up? I’ve yet to see one.

No, beer does not need other delineations. As it is there is a reverse snobbery that is growing in the beer world, specifically the line in the sand is using the ‘craft’ label to do so.

My take: Let it go. Beer is beer. Yes, I agree it matters to be transparent and to know where your beer came from. Just as it’s important to know where the pooch you acquired came from (for care reasons) or the milk in your fridge came from (health reasons), or the car or bicycle parts came from (quality, fair trade). There are way more important things to concern ourselves with per beer. Like the fact that almost all beer makers still don’t understand women make 75 – 85% of all purchases across categories AND there are many brands that are still using sexism and gender based marketing. How about we enlighten ourselves on the majority global population and beer first instead of getting too far ahead of ourselves.

At the beginning of the day until the end, it’s all beer. If you want to judge, do it privately and without admonition of others for enjoying what they want to, can and choose to imbibe.

Are these "craft" hops or not? Who cares....

Are these “craft” hops or not? Who cares….

So you know, it’s not without internal dialogue with myself and talking with others that I came to this decision on how I choose to define beer. A comment from another long-standing well-respected member of the professional side of beer threw my nascent thinking over the edge for the better. Stating that all things are ‘crafted’. I can happily live with that and stand behind that idea, over a definition that leaves out perfectly qualified products that others have deigned outcasts.

Some would argue that labels can help the reader and learner better quantify what it is that they’re pursuing. I’ll give you a tiny bit of head way here, though very tiny. Labels are only helpful if they define facts, not opinions or variably definable attributes and characteristics. The whole idea of education is to learn, proactively and actively seeking the increase your knowledge in your own way and through the methods that best resonate with you.

Putting a box around a definition of something like beer that is truly universal can only be limiting in a not so great way, as far as I’m concerned. Let’s all raise whatever glass of whatever beer we want to drink in context and be happy for it.

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An Open Letter To Female Beer Enthusiasts

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.”



31 Facets of Women & Beer: Facet #26

Labels and titles are powerful words assigned to things, people and situations.

Based in our research, use the words Female and Woman with universality. They’re both respectful, comprehensive and acceptable.

Don’t use words that are slang, demeaning or otherwise disrespectful (however well intended, they’re still the poor choices). Examples of what not to use in relation to women and beer: Girls (under 12), Babes (sexualized), Broads (rough and crass), Babies (infantilization), Chick (farm animal).

This facet is extremely straight forward. The irony here is that many women assign poor word choices to themselves, thereby perpetuating the green light for others to call them that. If you are a woman who is doing this, look outside and beyond your own self to see what these terms do to keep women down.

You don’t hear about men’s groups related to beer using slang like dicks, well hung, boys or cocks. Seriously – think about it first. Think about the label being assigned to your mom or daughter. Is it appropriate now?

Clever is no good unless it’s respectful and appropriate. Humor is good and acceptable if it’s respectful and fun. Good examples: Ales 4 FemAles and LOLA.

31 Facets of Women & Beer Series starts here

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What Women Want Series: Part 8 – Attention to Titles and Labels

Pay attention to titles, labels, and identifiers.

How you address female consumers matters

It’s important.  Women in focus groups all over America indicate they prefer no titles – no Mrs., no Ms., no Miss. Woman say to simply use their names.

If you don’t know their names or choose to mind your p’s and q’s and need to group them, call them ‘females’ and ‘women.’ ‘Ladies’ is okay, although it’s split input here – some are fine with it and some are not. What you don’t want to do with ‘ladies’ is have a ‘ladies night.’

Why not? Think sleazy ladies nights events of days gone by, bad bars in college that had ladies night. What did those nights have a lot of? Trolling men the women didn’t want hitting on them. If you’re going to do a women’s/females/ladies event, do it only of that one gender. The dynamic of a single gender event is remarkable in its own right, whether it be for only women or only men.

What matters is how the consumer wants to be addressed; not what you think is clever, what you’re comfortable with or what other people put on them. Those in the industry and those who are raving fans of using ‘girls’, ‘chicks’ or other slang aren’t pushing progress. Yes, it’s fine to call a female friend a girl in private. What you have to be aware and cognizant and thoughtful of is the perception of others and how they interpret the title you choose.

Women will give you a stamp of approval when you address them properly

If you choose Women or Females, you can be safely respectful and still be on target, not offending anyone. And that’s part of the import here.

Anyone in any industry needs to always keep in mind: they are not their consumer and therefore it does matter what you call your customers or fans, regardless of what you – the one in the industry – think. Let the jargon and personal feelings go, and ask and respect what women want.

While we’re at it, are women males? Then don’t call them ‘guys’ either. Yes, it’s casual mostly accepted slang. Just because we’re used to it doesn’t make it right. At one time in this country we had separate entrances for blacks and whites. That was accepted and still wasn’t right either.

And no, we’re not being over dramatic. Is pay equal for women and men in this country? No – and until you can connect the dots that it ALL matters, titles and labels and we address one another will make a difference. It’s up to you to decide which kind of difference you are going to make and the progress or stagnation you are going to foster.

Set the pace. Call women what they want to be called, with respect and do it all the time.

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