We have all seen them: Flying Dog ’s “Raging Bitch,” Clown Shoes’ “Tramp Stamp” or the recently controversial “Happy Ending” from Sweetwater – mmm hmm. It seems it’s almost annually now that a craft brewer goes label-happy and slaps an image on a can or bottle that sends a temporary flurry of controversy across the country. Some are offended, others say lighten up and the vultures in the media swoop in and exploit the situation for valuable social shares and page views. You have to admit, it’s not hard to see why.
A few questions naturally come to mind for an adult after she gets past the initial humored reaction upon seeing one of these labels – like: Do these breweries and label creators have intentions to demean and subjugate women? Do the images represent the industry’s view on women’s roles and attitudes? Are these breweries intentionally communicating to the public that they don’t welcome female drinkers? Am I holding the men that brew my good damn beer – in these cases – to a standard that they are incapable of living up to? Snapping back, she remembers there are far more male craft beer drinkers than female – more than double – and that most brewers are still men. As a woman who is deep into the craft beer culture, maybe I should be offended. Maybe I should remind America that women make up nearly one third of craft beer drinkers. Maybe I should react publicly in disgust about the objectification of women portrayed on these beer labels. Maybe I should start pressuring retail establishments to not carry the bottles on their shelves. Maybe… but nah.
There, I said it. Go ahead and gasp in amazement, slam your laptop closed or throw your tablet across the room, tweet me about how disgusted you are with my position and call me names. How dare I not stand in solidarity with feminist principles. How dare I not be upset and offended by such blatant derogatory imagery and implied subjugation being widely displayed in a male dominated industry.
Yes, I went there. You may think that I have totally lost it or that I don’t respect myself as a woman or that I’m naive. To me, though, It’s pretty simple. I am a strong woman, and I think I understand men well enough to know that these labels are not meant to be taken seriously. And even if you are one that’s offended by the sometimes extremely distasteful proof that the brains of some men can only focus on things other than sex for but brief moment, you have to admit that they are kind of funny.
Now, I said I wasn’t offended. I never said that sex-infused craft beer labels are appropriate or professional – and yes, there is a difference. For instance, there is nothing professional or appropriate about naming a beer “PD” and illustrating a woman’s legs with her undies around her ankles. I don’t care what the brewery has said – no one is going to think PD stands for anything other than Panty Dropper. No company should be advocating using their products to get a girl to let you into her pants. Pig Minds Brewing Company insists that “PD” could be anything: Police Department, Purple Dinosaur, Positive Discipline. If they really wanted it to mean “anything” then maybe a pantiless question mark would have made a better design icon.
I guess that I’m good with giving these breweries the benefit of the doubt when it comes to their intentions. I can see how these labels were intended to be viewed with a sense of humor. In fact, I find a lot of them absolutely hysterical. It’s less than plausible that when the owners and designers for these breweries were planning their packaging they thought, Let’s come up with a name and symbol that will offend half the population and alienate one of the fastest growing demographics in craft beer. Now that we have established that I am not offended and that I don’t think these dudes just want me to serve them their beer, let’s talk about why I think they gotta go.
Again, my reason isn’t because I am offended. It isn’t – for the most part – because I think some labels do push the boundaries of obscene. And it surely isn’t because I think the craft industry doesn’t want women to drink beer. It’s simply because breweries participate in the same public marketplace as other companies, and as such the public eye is on them, making them subject to public approval for survival. In the end, they are going to be held to the same standards as every other business in our ever-watchful society. I 100% believe in freedom of speech and respect the rights of artists to express themselves. But a brewery isn’t an art museum – it’s a business… that depends on large quantities of sales coming from a feminizing consumer base. So, my advice for brewers is to find other ways to express their creative sides. Don’t do it in a way that’s going to piss off a lot of people and draw negative media attention.
Even though the majority of people aren’t going to be upset over what you name a beer or what imagery you use on your labels, there will always be people who are going to take it personally. And as we have seen, it’s usually the minority that make the most amount of noise – and who get the most amount of press. It’s just how this society works. The rest of us get the jokes – even us ladies. We don’t care because it doesn’t really affect our daily lives or our how we go about having a good time. We drink the good damn beer for how it tastes, but it’s not us you have to be mindful of. So, we all know the saying about how one bad apple ruins the whole bunch. If your one beer label out of all the different styles and variations that you brew offends someone, it just might ruin your entire brewery for them. The one bad write-up or controversy will probably spread faster and make a more lasting impression than the good ones ever did.