If you read my previous post on beer as the catalyst for human civilization it's easy to see how impossible it is to imagine a time or place in all of humanity's agricultural history when the art, science, and joy of brewing has not been intimately intertwined in the social roll of women no matter what culture you come from. In this social media, twitter-soaked world we find ourselves in, the societal conversation relating to the intersection of woman's discourse and the boom of the brewing arts is more vibrant, wide-spread, and volatile than ever. Indeed, it can persuasively be argued that a thoughtful examination of the paradigms surrounding woman and craft brewing could even serve as a model for discussing the evolution and positive transformation of woman's roles in western society in general . It is for exactly this reason that this topic deserves thorough consideration and analysis.
To begin with, no serious proponent of feminist (or craft beer for that matter) ideologies will contend that the advertising offered up by the macro breweries is useful in any way. It does not take much to convince anyone that these segments are in fact damaging to all parties. These ads invariably show women with an image that is simply unrealistically attainable for most women, holding a sub-standard beer for the sake of acceptance from a perfectly ordinary looking man of dubiously portrayed intelligence. In these spots the woman are drinking not because they enjoy the beer, (I mean, c'mon, it's Bud), but rather to ensure their acceptance into a lifestyle. This lifestyle advertising, while undeniably effective, is damaging to craft brew culture because it has very little to do with the quality of the beer, and then necessarily doubly damaging to women. The fact that the macro breweries resort to this style of objectification and lifestyle promotion in their advertising speaks volumes about the worthiness of their product and their target consumer. In fact, it is exactly this sort of mentality that brought the US automobile industry, once the manufacturing envy of the world, to its knees (I write more about this in my article on Beer Culture).
However, this post is not intended as another bashing of macro breweries' business practices—that stick house analysis is far to simplistic. I'm pointing it out only because it serves as such a prevalent and obvious example of what simply must be avoided when discussing how craft brewing is to be presented to not just the public, but specifically women. To state the obvious, women should be into beer because they like it. So far, nothing too controversial,right? But the problems arise when the women embedded in this movement, begin to define woman's discourse as it relates to the craft brew movement. Don't get me wrong, a plurality of viewpoints is really an excellent indicator of the health and viability of the topic. What personally concerns me, is ensuring that even amidst the barrage of ideas presented by the hundreds of woman involved in beer blogging, that viewpoints that threaten to reinforce unhelpful aspects of traditional paternalistic values do not go unchecked!
During my recent attendance at BBC10, I listened in while a panel of women discussed ways of attracting more women to craft brew culture—a worthy cause for sure. I do believe this topic is important and honestly, any who think that devising a means of enticing women to become a part of this culture should not be separate from efforts to involve the general public, are ignoring gender relations in our world today. Actually, it is only through acknowledging the difference between men and woman that we can begin to constructively frame the issues at hand. For instance, it was suggested that perhaps including more recipes on craft beer web sights would encourage more woman to explore the wonders of craft beer. My problem with this is not with the recipes, but rather the strong implication that a woman's place is in the kitchen, cooking for her husband. A gain, there is nothing wrong with cooking for anyone, the issue is the absurd notion that THIS is why you are looking at a craft beer web page in the first place. The thrust should be, “here is why you will love the beer,” not “here is how to get your husband to like you again.” During the panel's discussing, this theme was repeated again and again. It was always about making craft beer more compatible with traditional female roles, rather than about bring the bliss of craft brewing to an underrepresented segment of the population for it own sake. If you chose to be involved in an opt-out-feminist-movement, where women embrace traditional paternalistic ideals, do it, but don't make the mistake of thinking that those views will make this non-conforming craft beer culture more appealing to female initiates, nor should you risk misrepresenting an entire community of women involved in the craft beer world. If you want to wear a pink, wear pink! But do it because you like pink, not because you want the boys to like you.