Monday, 13 February 2017

LOL sexism in beer

I've tried to resist devoting any more of my time to writing about sexism in beer, partly because I don’t believe it is going to change any minds and partly because I'm bored of the subject. However, there have been some unpleasant and disturbing opinions aired recently which I don’t feel like simply ignoring.

Now, I know that often the people saying these horrible things are looking for a reaction. In some cases that actually seems like the main point for them - rather than having very strong feelings on the subject itself. On the whole I try to avoid rewarding attention seekers but it would be difficult to write this without referencing the sources.

This unfortunate series of events began with Mark Johnson's recent blog posts where he describes his experience of dating a woman who manages a pub, including an unsavoury episode featuring a brewery sales rep during the Manchester Beer and Cider Festival last month. 

NB It is interesting that while those who have responded negatively to Mark's posts refer to "racey pumpclips" and "seaside postcard humour", but they don't mention this incident with the sales rep - is that because they think it's on a par with offensive pumpclips or are they just pretending that didn't happen?

I noted at the time that Mark’s posts on this topic got a lot of attention (which is a good thing) but I wondered how much attention they would have received had they been written by a woman. I’m going to guess, based on decades of experience, that it would have been less. I wonder why that might be?

An additional report on the Manchester Beer and Cider Festival was posted on Tandleman's Beer Blog (in response to Mark's posts) which provided some useful additional context. However, it also provided a large volume of vitriol against anyone who would complain about objectification of women within the context of beer. You might think I would no longer be surprised by this. Well, the answer to that is yes and no.

I had a moment of genuine surprise at this comment from Nick about men speaking up about sexism. For a moment I wondered if it was a parody (a familiar response these days to anything seeming too OTT to be true) but no, I'm pretty sure it's the real thing - bizarre and outdated as it is.

Comment from Tandleman's Beer Blog









"...does she need him to protect her from racey pumpclips? Is that what feminism has led us to? Still the Man doing the dirty work?"  

Where to start with this one... how about:

-There was a larger issue involved than "racey pumpclips"?
-It's not about a woman being 'protected' from sexism by a man, it's about a man saying 'this is inappropriate and I personally find it offensive'? 
-Clearly you don't understand the quite simple concept of feminism? 
-It is neither a woman's job nor a man's job to do 'the dirty work' of saying that sexism is bad - everyone needs to do it?

This dated mentality - that the fight for equality is something that only women need to care about is totally out of step with the world we live in today. Sexism is not 'a women’s issue' (just like feminism is not only about women's rights). It won't go away until men take an equal responsibility for resolving it. In fact that is something else it has in common with Female Genital Mutilation (I went to a two hour seminar on FGM last week by the way, so if any of the mens expressing such great interest in the topic have any questions, hit me up).

But there was something in the comments which didn't surprise me at all. That tired old trope of 'but A is not as bad as B and if you don't protest B you aren't allowed to protest A' which gets wheeled out any time someone wants to shut down a valid argument without doing any work. The most familiar cliche is probably the one about 'charity begins at home', where if anyone suggests that wealthy, developed countries should help out developing countries someone will pipe up with, 'oh well, before we start helping out refugees, we should be helping homeless people in our own country first'.

This will inevitably be said by a person who won't put their hand in their pocket for charity, who has probably not given a second thought to the homeless except as a tool to use in an argument with someone they want to shut down. They don't actually care about either of the vulnerable groups mentioned, they are just using one as a shield against the other, thereby hoping to avoid having to help either one in the long run. When you stop and think about that it's quite disturbing.

Comment from Tandleman's Beer Blog

"When you consider some of the violence, discrimination and ill-treatment routinely meted out to women and girls, often under our very noses, getting worked up about a few sexist pumpclips does really seem like making a mountain out of a molehill."


So by the logoc of this argument we should not bother to do anything about objectification of women on pumpclips or sexist behaviour toward women in the beer industry because other bad things are happening to other women far away from here?

Wrong. We don't have to choose which offence is the worst and then accept every other offence as tolerable by comparison. That doesn't even make any logical sense.

This argument is a fallacy. For future reference, for the next time someone tries to roll it out, it is known as a fallacy of relative privation.

There is no limit to the number of things that we can disagree with and want to see an end to - because there is no limit to the number of things which people are made to suffer. If only there was.

FGM is an offense against women. So is sexism in beer. Both are wrong. Both need to stop. There is not a competition for which of them is the most wrong.

Here's another example of that logical fallacy for you from the same person on their own blog. Feel free to muse on the thought process behind this claim.

"Those who are more outraged by seaside postcard humour than the mass rape of underage girls"

Sounds a bit like a Daily Mail headline doesn't it? Can anyone explain to me exactly what the age of consent has to do with an act of nonconsensual sex? 

No. You cannot, because it is completely irrelevant. You don't consent to rape.

So why does rape have a qualifier in this particular sentence? The suggestion appears to be that rape of ‘underage girls’ is somehow more offensive than rape of ‘girls’ who are legally allowed to have sex? 

I honestly cannot read it any other way. I've tried to. I really have. Think about that for a minute...

This argument makes no sense because rape cannot be qualified in this way. There are not some types or instances of rape that are more or less acceptable than others. Age and gender are irrelevant. Rape is rape. 

If you think otherwise you are part of the problem.

Finally, here are two men turning sexism in beer into a joke and high-fiving each other for taking in women with their faux sympathy. When someone does that it tells me that they think feminism (AKA equality) is also a joke.

Yes, we all have more important things to worry about than offensive pumpclips but that doesn't mean we should tolerate them and not bother complaining when we see them. They are part of a wider problem. If you don't understand what this wider problem is then go back and read Mark's first post. He provides plenty of examples about things which happen to women working in the industry which are not ok. If you think these things are just 'banter' and nobody should complain about them then you are probably also part of the problem.

When people claim that they are not being sexist because it's just a joke they are trying to normalise sexism, to make it more tolerable and socially acceptable, i.e. they are trying to get away with being offensive under the guise of being 'funny'.

The joke's not funny though.


Cooking Lager said...

I wasn't joking. I am 100% sincere in my view of fighting beer sexism. If a sexist old reactionary like Mudge thinks otherwise, he is wrong. Let's combat this pernicious evil.

Erlangernick said...

I expressed myself lazily there. When I started out writing it, I had meant to explain that it was my immediate, reflexive reaction to what I heard Mark say, his specific wording. I did say that it was a bit unfair of a reaction, but I failed to add that I also know such a reaction is somewhat wrong.

But anyway. What I heard Mark say (and I may have missed a word or two, I was on the sidelines) was, he didn't want to bring his girlfriend to a festival with a sexist pump clip. Which sounded to me on first thought, that it was worse for her to be exposed to it than for others to be. He put it in terms of wanting *her* to not have to be exposed to it.

I still want to know where the line in the sand is on what's "sexist", "racey" (what's wrong with that particular term, this Yankee asks) or not and how this particular pump clip gets lumped into the former. It's a cartoon mockup of a fox as a piano diva from the past, actually conservatively clad for such a thing, doing a number on a stage with spotlight (or perhaps the moon masquerading as a spotlight). As I asked on the Tandleblog, was Madonna also being sexist when she mimicked Marylin Monroe?

AFA not commenting on Mark's other post, there's something wrong with his blog or he's turned off comments or something. I'd wanted to post there. Maybe the lack of discussion of that issue is due in part to Mark's own followup explaining that it was being dealt with in some way.

If the tables were reversed, and it was me, the presumably very young publican, being hugged by a drunk middle-aged woman brewery rep and told to "come to Mama"...yuck.

I agree with your criticism of the "do not protest A if not also B" line of thinking. The discussion here is sexism in beer.

I would protest against "Panty Dropper" and "Leg Spreader" as beer names, but not against this particular pump clip, as I don't see it as sexist.

JonR said...

"If you want to fight sexism, first you have to fight Islamic Rape Gangs™" is a horrible and (as you've shown here) easily refuted trope that's only repeated by people who can't quite decide who they hate more - Muslims, or uppity women. I imagine if you kicked you-know-who very hard in the bollocks, you could simply say "how can you complain about your agonizing swollen bollocks when President Assad is hanging 12 people every day?"

Phil said...

FWIW I also thought there was something weirdly chivalric and even macho about Mark's original post - it really did read, to me, as if he felt that it was his duty to protect his girlfriend from manifestations of sexism, if necessary by getting very angry with other men.

Nick - I see no piano; all I can see is a (stylised) woman on her back with her legs in the air. If you don't think using an image like that to sell beer is sexist, I'm not sure what I can say.

Mark Johnson said...

There is a problem on my blog that I've been trying to fix. The sheer amount of comments seemed to break it. So I'll answer you here:

Yes you heard me wrong at these festival- or misinterpreted. I'm not sure which really.

As for the rest of this comment- you've completely missed the issues raised and focused on one pump clip. Like many of your chums - and as is clearly pointed out in this post - people have tried to turn this discussion into what is acceptable on a pump clip, and I don't understand how people are coming to that conclusion. Did any of you lot read my posts? I think you just looked at the header. There isn't a discussion happening here because you've spectacularly missed the point. The Madonna/Marilyn Monroe point is so wide of the mark, it can only be a joke.

Consistent harassment, unwanted sexual advances and sexist remarks are not determined by a fox in a dress.

Johnno said...

@Phil, is it not all of our "duty" to do just that? So you're basically saying only women can fight sexism? I've been in many a situation where I've had to step in to fight sexism by "getting very angry with other men". I can now see you are the type who just stands by and watches; clearly because you believe it isn't your problem.

Cooking Lager said...

It's all "our problem" Jonno. Every one of us. This only ends when we all stand up united and say "We will not tolerate this anymore" We need protests, boycotts, we need to stop giving these people our money.

Rob said...

I don't think Phil is saying that at all, it's not Mark having a problem with sexism that is the issue (which definitely exists in pubs, and is well worth talking about), it's that it is coming across as paternalistic in standing up for his girlfriend, who might not need or want her boyfriend to 'protect' her. But then so much is nuance, and what someone says isn't necessarily what the other person hears (even if they hear the same words). It does seem like Tandleman isn't Mark's favourite person, which could well have coloured his response.