Thursday, 9 January 2014

Missing the Point

Last week Dave Bailey at HardKnott posted a link on Twitter to his new blog post entitled Beer Drinking Women Are Not Attractive’, adding “there we go, set off the new year with a gender issue, why not.” That blog post was intended to present a contrasting point of view to an earlier blog post from Ding  entitled ‘Women in Beer Culture’.

Dave’s post was supposed to be supportive of women and to encourage discussion around the subject of ‘gender issues in beer’. But it didn’t have a positive effect on women. It had a negative effect. In fact, it generated sufficient offence that the author resorted to taking the post and all comments down (along with a subsequent post, also about women and beer) two days later. One female beer drinker commented on Twitter that she’d never even heard of HardKnott beers but she certainly wouldn’t be drinking them now.
 So why was the post so offensive to some people, when it was meant to be supportive of women? Well, partly because its message was ambiguous. Ding’s blog post expressed an unpopular opinion but it did so clearly and single-mindedly. You were left in no doubt as to the author’s feelings.

Dave’s blog post had an inflammatory title and it began by saying, ‘I'm fairly sure I'm a male chauvinist.’  It then went on to describe some of the author’s chauvinistic behaviours and assumptions about what women want/what they think. There was also a rather a lot of comment about the physical appearance of women. Yes, somewhere in there, Dave said he disagrees with Ding’s post and that he does want women to drink beer. But ultimately it wasn't very clearly written and the message was ambiguous.

Before I go any further, I want to be clear: yes, I understand what the intent of Dave’s post was. I read and comprehended it. I did not miss the point. I got it.

However, a frightening amount of people are completely missing the point about why some people (not just women) found it offensive. The most offensive aspect of the post has nothing to do with beer. I made this point on the original blog post before it was taken down. And although it wouldn’t be right to post the full text of that original article when the author has chosen to take it offline, I am still going to post that relevant quote again for the sake of being absolutely clear what the issue is here.

“There were several women drinking beer. Mostly, but not all, by the pint. Generally they didn't actually register in the "drop dead gorgeous" category, more the "she looks interesting, I'd like to get to know her better" category. Indeed, there might be some sort of inferiority complex, perhaps even the fault of my Mum, that causes the "drop dead gorgeous" category to significantly overlap the "She's a tart, thinks she's gods gift, would be hard work even if I did stand a chance, which is unlikely" category anyway.”

To me it is blindingly obvious what is offensive about this passage. However, because it is evident that some people cannot see it, I’ll explain: if you make a judgement about a person based on their physical appearance when you don’t know them or anything about them you are discriminating against them. So when you judge a woman as being ‘a tart/thinking she is God’s gift/would be hard work’ because she happens to be drop dead gorgeous, you are discriminating.

If I have to explain why discriminating in this way is a very bad thing I think my head might actually explode. I could say a lot more on this topic. A LOT MORE. 

Ok, so I'm aware that Dave has apologised for the way the original post was written. I am not writing this for the sake of bashing Dave. Not in the slightest. I’m writing it because there are obviously people who just ‘cannot’ see blatant discrimination when it is in front of them, and who just do not seem to get that discrimination is wrong and should be highlighted and addressed wherever it is found. That is the take home message of this post. Please think about how you treat others and whether you are being fair to them.

So, yes, it’s a shame that the discussion about gender issues in beer didn’t get to happen on Dave's blog. But, you can’t offer people a discussion of ‘gender issues in beer’ until you are able to describe people without discriminating against them. And that's actually more important than talking about beer. 

I know that those of us who care about discrimination feel at times like we just can't be bothered to respond this time, or that someone else will do it and save us the trouble, or if we just ignore it and do something else instead then maybe it will get better on its own. Well, it is our intent, as of now, to say 'no, we're not going to tolerate this'. We hope you will join us.

We would welcome any discussion of this topic from anyone reading this post so long as it remains respectful. :)

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