The continued existence of sexism in beer is something I hope is familiar to all self-aware drinkers nowadays, and has been the topic of many recent articles and blog posts. From sexist beer names and pump clips, to the way female drinkers and those working in the industry are often overlooked, ridiculed and mansplained to about beer, the torch is being shone on those daily microaggressions that continue to make the world of beer less welcoming to women than it is to men. Melissa Cole’s recent column for Ferment Magazine tackled the need to also challenge racism, transphobia and homophobia in the beer industry, and so highlighted the intersectional nature of discrimination and oppression.
We all occupy a number of different identities at the same time – some of which are privileged (in my case my whiteness and my physical ability), and some of which are not (for me, my gender and my sexuality). It’s at the complex intersections of these identities that we experience our world. And it is at these intersections that I experienced the dual impact of sexism and ageism this week via a Facebook advert for a Mother’s Day event at a well-known beer venue.
The advert claimed that Mother’s Day need no longer be a ‘chore’ if ‘you’ bring ‘Mumma’ for a meal in this establishment because,
‘First of all, you get to enjoy some thirst-quenchingly awesome beer from our gargantuan selection. Win. Second, your dearest old lady gets to enjoy one of the best Sunday roasts in town for free. Double win.’
No: double lose.
Admittedly, within the Venn diagram of identity, the ellipse in which I stand – a butch lesbian mother with a penchant for fine beer – isn’t all that crowded. However, whether intentional or not (and I’m optimistically assuming the latter) this promotion effectively excluded me – and many others in neighbouring identity ellipses – from engagement. Strongly implicit here is the assumption that mothers don’t drink beer. In fact, only ‘young’ (male?) people, who usually find Mother’s Day a ‘chore’, drink beer. Mothers are ‘dearest’ and ‘old’ and like a nice roast dinner. (I imagine they might sometimes have a small glass of white wine – as long as it’s not too dry).
There’s been a push in recent years, from venues, marketeers, writers and drinkers alike, to distance themselves from the traditional image of beer – whether it be cask, keg or homebrew – as something ‘old’, ‘boring’ or ‘dated’. But this promotion actually reminded me of all those times I’ve seen mainstream beer television advertising aimed squarely at men to the neglect of women, or of noticeboards outside town centre pubs that advertise themselves as ‘male creches’ – a place to drop off ‘husbands and boyfriends’ whilst ‘wives and girlfriends’ go shopping. It was the self-same message in a slightly different font.
But it was also more worrying because it shows that in our rush to reclaim beer as something ‘modern’, ‘young’, and ‘cool’, we are in danger of reinforcing the exclusion and invisibility of certain groups. And this is particularly concerning when we know that those groups are already subject to layers of discrimination within the industry.
I’m not going to name the particular venue here because, to their credit, less than 12 hours after I called them out on this, the event was removed. I don’t know if this was as a result of my comment on the event page or not; I just hope that some reflection and learning has now taken place.
And, just to clarify, if anyone would like to buy me a beer on Mother’s Day next Sunday, that’s absolutely fine by me. Just don’t ever mistake me for anyone’s ‘dearest old lady’.
[This piece was first published in March 2017]