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Monday, July 13, 2015

Craft Brewing Does Not Have a Sexism Problem

The summer of slow blogging continues, and today's anemic offering is a brief rebuttal to this silly article in Slate about sexism, rife in brewing, in which the subhead reads "There are gross puns and derogatory illustrations on far too many beer labels. The misogyny needs to stop." Writer Will Gordon trots through the case of some pretty egregious examples of sexism, but not, however, very many of them--and herein lies the problem. The existence of something does not make it a problem.

Take for example the case of Irvine, CA, which had two murders in 2013 (I can't find 2014 numbers, but this is an example so 2013 will suffice). The number of murders we consider acceptable is zero, of course, but at what point does the murder rate become a problem; you know, a situation that needs to be corrected as opposed to a situation of imperfection that is the state of the real world? It's a lot more than two, that's for sure, because in 2013, Irvine had the fewest murders of any large city in America.

Craft brewing (accepting this as a market segment if nothing else) has around 3,500 members making something on the order of + / - 50,000 different beer brands. Would we expect none of these breweries to be making products that are sexist? At what point does the sexism become a problem? You see the issue here.

Weirdly, Gordon acknowledges how integrated women are into this beer segment, citing craft beer's civic-mindedness and female consumption rates and cicerone memberships as evidence of how well it's doing. So the point is? Right: clicks. (Slate has made a business trying to write contrarian articles to drive traffic, with at least as many misses as hits. Put this in the swing-and-a-miss column.)

Obviously, sexist beer labels are worthy of contempt and the breweries that made them, of opprobrium. But their mere existence doesn't illustrate that, as the title of this article claimed, craft brewing has a sexism problem. The article actually manages to prove the opposite; if you can't come up with any more than a few examples out of the tens of thousands of possible cases, you've illustrated there's actually no problem at all.


  1. I would guesstimate that half of the Blonde Ales sold have sexist names.

    Oh, and Burnside Brewing's logo.

  2. I haven't read the Slate article. It sounds like garbage. However, I would not take the position (or white a headline suggesting) that there isn't sexism in craft beer. In fact, there's a disturbing amount of sexism in this industry. And sexist labels are only a small part of the problem. I assume you know this and are merely trying to attract clicks and readers. Kinda like Slate.

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. Edited to correct spelling error.

    The notion that only a handful of labels out of thousands makes it a non issue is a disturbing one.. If reviewed in greater detail, the number of sexist/offensive labels would surely rise, One label is too many. The fact that they get approved is unsettling. The case of Donkey Punch Brewing comes to mind (they eventually changed their name due to public backlash).

    Some of the labels fall into frat boy/locker room behavior terrify. Some are just disturbingly offensive.

  5. Shawn, Burnside's logo is unsettling and arguably creepy, but hardly sexist.

    Pete, everybody in the world can shamelessly pander for clicks but I can't throw a bit of controversy out there once in a while?? Throw me a bone, man.

  6. Duke, I agree that one sexist label is too many--much as one murder is too many. But the question is, does craft brewing have a problem with sexism? The way you handle jerks is by condemning them. You don't immediately conflate that with a larger industry-wide problem. These two things are not mutually exclusive.

  7. This is the worst argument I have ever read.
    1) Murders are always a problem whether its 1 or 2.
    2) The Slate post highlights a surface level problem that we can all see on the shelves. What you can not see is the bullying/harassment/sexism going on behind the scene for women in craft. I have met many women who are vocal about the amount of bullying and sexism taking place and the daily barrage of hate they receive.
    3) You talk about writing sensational articles to get readers to click, well what do you call what you just wrote?

    For a serious read about sexism in craft beer read this post

  8. For a not-so-serious, but equally valid argument, about sexism in craft beer read this post.

  9. I suppose its very easy to deny and dismiss things like this when you're sitting on the throne of white male privilege. Misogynist beer labels are indeed just a surface-level symptom of a larger, structural problem in a male-dominated industry. Speak to any female brewer or industry professional about whether or not there's a problem with sexism in the beer industry and I guarantee you'll hear a different story. For example:

    Also, Irving, thank you.

  10. Irving and Nads,

    I should step back and acknowledge that my comments pertained only to the lame Slate article. And it really is lame. The only evidence Gordon presents is about labels, and by that evidence, his case is woefully weak.

    I know that the experience of women in the brewing industry is running against a stiff headwind and I don't mean to minimize that. I'm a big fan of exclusivity and if you click on the "women" tag, you'll see I've blogged about it a fair amount.

    The Slate article is bad. Everything folks here say illustrate another dimension of the missed opportunity--delving into the real areas of sexism, talking to women in the industry, and writing about that.

  11. I appreciate you taking the time to explain yourself and have no doubt that you believed you were being well-intentioned when you wrote this article. Often after reading one of your attempts to address the unique challenges of women in beer, I find myself shaking my head like "Dude just doesn't get it." I frequently use swears about you too, because you deserve it, frankly. You seem to have a knack for taking what has the potential to be meaningful commentary on this issue and instead end up sweeping bro-ish, misogynistic behaviour and practices under the rug with your (perhaps unintended) minimization of the problem. I'm referring not only to your post about the CBC stripclub debacle (go back and read my comment if you don't know what I'm talking about), but the above post as well.

    For example:
    "Would we expect none of these breweries to be making products that are sexist?" Yes. Why, is that too much to ask? Should these dinosaurs pumping out idiotic labels and marketing campaigns get a by because at least its not being done by the majority of breweries? I don't think so.

    And also:
    "At what point does sexism become a problem?"
    Christ on a bike, Jeff, this is easy stuff here! Sexism in any form or quantity is unacceptable. Period.

    Here's a fun exercise: go back and re-read your post, but substitute the word "racism" or "racist" for "sexism" and "sexist." That's messed up, eh? Buddy who wrote that has some seriously wrong ideas about things. So why is it ok to say these sorts of dismissive things when we're talking about a problem faced by a particular group of women?

    The casual sexism and inequalities that continue to persist in the culture of the beer industry deserve a more productive discussion. Condoning, minimizing or downright ignoring it does nothing.

    Check your privilege dude. Learn to be a good ally, or STFU. Please. You shit all over Will Gordon for his lame article, but this one of your's is just as bad. Be better.

  12. Complaining about some lame racy labels and beer names? Give me a break. First world problems.

  13. Actually, the post works identically well if you substitute racism (assuming, of course, the original post had been about race). I've spent thirty years as a white male "checking my privilege." You're right to challenge me--I always welcome critics--and right to hold any opinion you wish. But you're willfully misreading what I've written, and I'm not obliged to accept your verdict on that.

    "Be better" is a critique that swings both ways, anonymous Nads.