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Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Does This Seem Slightly Sexist To You, Too?

See update at the bottom of the post.

On Monday, Patrick and I sat down with five women who work in the beer world to learn how far we've come from those babes-in-bikinis ads from the 80s and 90s (podcast to follow). It was an illuminating conversation, because we learned how far things have come--but how subtle sexism still lingers.

Well, today I got an email that makes me wonder if the more overt sexism isn't still an issue in at least a part of the beer world. AB InBev hired a firm to do some research about attitudes of women and what they drink, and the resulting "findings" are discouraging. Here's the set-up.
Picture this:  Three women walk into a bar.  The first orders wine, the second orders a cosmo, and the third orders beer.  Which woman, do you think, ends up in a conversation with the tall and mysterious stranger?  According to the Budweiser 'Beerpressions' National Survey—a first-of-its-kind study about how beverage choices influence first impressions—your drink may be worth a thousand words.    Based on a representative survey of 2,000 Americans conducted by Learndipity Data Insights, Budweiser asked respondents to match common bar drinks with the perceived personality traits of the people ordering them.
Got that? The research was designed to learn how men assess women in bars based on their beverage choice. At first glance, this appears to be a return to that neanderthal sexism of the ads, where women and beer become accoutrements for men's enjoyment. But surely that can't be right? It can.
Drink Choice #1:  Domestic Beer (Budweiser)
  • 70% say a woman with domestic beer (Budweiser) is "friendly" and "low-maintenance."
  • Conversely, only 36% believe a woman drinking imported beer is "low-maintenance."
To be scrupulously fair, women and men both rated each other, though the characterizations of women had a lot more to do with sexual availability than they did for men. ("Low-maintenance" is an especially freighted term.*) For a company that is trying to stanch the exodus from their brand, I wonder how effective this approach will be. Is this really going to be a winning pitch to a new generation of women drinkers?























__________________
*In comments, Nick asks about why "low-maintenance" would be especially objectionable. I almost made more comment of that when I wrote the post, so let's correct the oversight and do that now.

Sexism is an innately male-centered way of seeing things. The value of women is assessed based on what they can do for men. "Low maintenance" fits into this because it's not a judgment of the women themselves (like other words that popped up--"predictable," "shallow," or "cautious"), but how well women serve men's needs. Put another way, ff I call you shallow, I'm making a judgment about you. If I say you're low-maintenance, I'm making a comment about your utility to me. And that feeds a very ancient and unpleasant way of thinking.

9 comments:

Erlangernick said...

Guess I'm a troglodyte or something because I call me missus "low maintenance". Doesn't spend hours fretting over hair & makeup, doesn't have a billion shoes, likes to go hiking & biking rather than shopping...had no idea that it's a freighted term.

Jeff Alworth said...

On "low maintenance." I think your sense is common and largely inoffensive. But recognize that it is a transactional judgment. If I call you stupid, I'm making a judgment about you. If I say you're low-maintenance, I'm making a comment about your utility to me.

Sexism flows from a male-centered way of seeing things. The value of women is assessed based on what they can do for men. In the Bud thing, men who drink the wrong thing are "trying to be cool" or "insecure." These are judgments about the men themselves, not judgments about how well they'll serve women's needs.

conoat said...

Did the people polled to come up wit that graphic, consist of a mix of genders or just men?

Jeff Alworth said...

Men and women were both polled, and there is a similar graphic for men here: https://prhacker.app.box.com/v/budweiser-infographic

Pam Schaw said...

As a drinker of whiskey, it's now no wonder men never hit on me in bars. I must have been terrifying, if a gin & tonic is considered high maintenance. I suppose the marketing will now reinforce these perceptions. Or did marketing create them in the first place? Beer has had the opportunity to shape perceptions far more than liquor, given that we don't see liquor ads on tv.

Pam Schaw said...

The sexism in the survey starts with the fact that the men and women were asked different questions in the first place. My question is what qualifications did the agency place on the respondents? Were they self-identified drinkers of beer in bars? Were they all Bud drinkers? Was this a completely random sampling of people, who may or may not have ever stepped foot in a bar? I'm not sure what they mean by "representative sample."

Jeff Alworth said...

"The sexism in the survey starts with the fact that the men and women were asked different questions in the first place."

Huh. I somehow didn't study it closely enough to notice that.

Anonymous said...

In the chart, "friendly" and "low-maintenance" is actually defining the Approachability Index. Will the new marketing slogan be "drink bud, be approachable"?

Also I think Erlangernick confuses the term low-maintenance with down-to-earth, which should not be done.

Erlangernick said...

My wife describes herself as "low maintenance". "High maintenance" obviously has negative connotations, and IMO (and IME) can be applied to men as well as women.

And I'm not sure I agree with the idea of my calling her that is a judgement of her utility to *me*. But I'm not sure I disagree either.

I'm high maintenance though, in any case.

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