Announcing the Launch of cocktoBEERfest

As so many things seem to do these days, it started with a rant on Twitter.

I was expressing my frustration with the utterly sexist crap I’d been receiving regarding Oktoberfest: all bad nylon costumes and boobs everywhere – finished off with cutesy plaits, white stocking/socks and the creepy odour of a schoolgirl-ish outfits, barely encasing what are very obviously women.

Which elicited an awesome response from @nimbws on Twitter:

So, I thought, right, that’s it, I’m just so tired off with this kind of crap giving beer a bad name that I’m going to shout alongside the wondrous Pump Clip Parade and see if, in chorus, we can make more breweries respond like the wonderful Elland the other day.

To this end, I am going to launch a set of annual awards, dedicated to stamping out sexism in beer branding… and I mean all sexism (if anyone wants to offer design expertise on creating the certificates I’d be delighted). 

So, for example, if you see things like this horror show on the right, then please let me know, tweet me or Facebook me with the hashtag #cocktoBEERfest (please note the spelling, the use of Cocktoberfest as in the tweets will lead you to very NSFW stuff indeed, as I discovered after my initial joke!).

And please, don’t just trawl the internet for them, I want to see them in-situ or from recent marketing materials, so we can also ask the pubs/bars/clubs in question not to use the pump clips and to feedback to the breweries that it’s 2013 and this just isn’t acceptable.

And, of course, we’ll also be asking the pubs in question not to produce dross posters, pander to stereotypes or offer ‘creche for husbands’ – like all men are drooling alcoholic morons the minute their wives leave their side.

Why do I care so much? I spent a lot of years working behind a bar where the cheesy names and awful pump clips gave sleazy letchs the opportunity to make utterly inappropriate comments to me because this kind of thing opens that kind of door and, more importantly, lets the customers know what sort of attitude the owners/managers have to women and what level of behaviour they can get away with.

Which is not to say that, of course, sexist pump clips that objectify men or insult their intelligence etc. don’t exist, we just seem to have a very large issue with the ones that demean women (and please don’t bother with commenting on a) male & female categories b)the name being sexist or c) my personal appearance – none of these things has any relevance to this issue and won’t be published):

So, categories are for Most Sexist…

  • Pump clip (female)
  • Pump clip (male)
  • Pub chalkboard (female)
  • Pub chalkboard (male)
  • Menu recommendation (female)
  • Menu recommendation (male)
  • Tweet sent by a brewery (open category)
  • Tweet by a pub/bar (open category)
  • Article written regarding beer drinking (open category)
  • Conversation overheard in pub (open category)
  • Comment made at beer festival (open category)
  • Advert (female)
  • Advert (male)
  • Most age inappropriate product/poster/advert (open category)

I look forward to your thoughts, if not necessarily the images!


11 thoughts on “Announcing the Launch of cocktoBEERfest

  1. O. M. G.
    I have SO many things to submit I don’t even know where to start. *sigh* What a great post, Melissa, there really is no way around the pump clipping other then awareness but #cocktoBEERfest!? Genius!
    I’ll see what I come across in France and let you know. Oh, my.


  2. Melissa, I have to say I’m relieved somebody is finally drawing attention to this kind of thing; I feel like a lot of it gets left to slide, or like the impact of it is played down as though it isn’t a real issue, when in fact it’s incredibly damaging.

    I’m 25 years old, and I am the assistant manager of a pub. I’ve been in the pub trade for coming up to seven years now, four of those in London, and three of those managerial. It’s my job to maintain a cellar, and have an awareness of the products ordered and sold, not to mention to deal with any technical faults with dispense equipment as and when they arise. While running front of house, communicating with back of house, and fulfilling my responsibilities as a licencee. I enjoy doing it, and while it’s challenging at times, I perform all these duties on *at least* an equal par with my male candidates. I make sure there’s never a gap in my knowledge about the beers, be that product information, cleaning procedures, stillage, whatever. I have done since I started in this job. You might have guessed I’m a perfectionist.

    Which is why it’s so difficult for me to continuously deal with being treated in an entirely different manner to my male peers. Whether it’s mild incidents; like expressed surprise that I know about beer, or a customer telling a uniformed junior colleague that ‘the girl with the red hair is doing really well, bless her’ (a situation that embarrassed my bartender, the poor lad); or more out-and-out situations like a customer outright telling me I couldn’t possibly know what I was talking about when discussing an unfiltered beer and demanding to speak to a ‘superior’, despite me being the most senior member of staff on duty that night (a fact that was met with disbelief); these things happen to me regularly in my workplace.

    And it’s not just that; there’s a physical aspect of it, too. I’m a young girl, and while not slavishly devoted to fashion, I have my own style and invest a certain amount in my appearance. For my own enjoyment, and yeah, occasionally because things with my ex-fashion student mates get a little bit points-scorey, but that’s by-the-by. I dress to please myself. I don’t really do anything to maintain any sort of physique, but if I did that, it’d be for myself, as well. But there’s something about being behind a bar and being female, that no matter how high you climb on the career ladder, seems to leave people feeling entitled to make all manner of comments on your body, face, and attire. It doesn’t matter if it’s positive or negative, it’s not something I expect to hear in my workplace. whether someone’s leering and telling me to bend over again, or telling me i’m too skinny, those are not things I should have to hear on a daily basis. no one ever comments on how many buttons my male coworkers have undone, or how short their shorts are. Why are their bodies off limits in a professional environment while mine is subject to a sexual-references open season? it doesn’t seem right, does it?

    It’s difficult to discuss these things without appearing whiny; and I think in part that’s due to the fact that women are conditioned not to raise grievances for fear of seeming shrill or weak. So i’ll just say here that despite these additional obstacles in my workplace, I continue to perform on an equal par with my male peers. i’m a determined individual; I make it my business to succeed despite obstacles. But that doesn’t mean we should ignore the fact that these obstacles shouldn’t be there in the first place.

    And these attitudes don’t develop on their own. There are factors that influence them. I have, essentially, grown up in the pub trade; I started working in it when I was 18/19 years old, and have worked in the South, the Midlands, and London, in all kinds of pubs, rural, urban, independent, tied, pubcos. the lot. I have encountered these attitudes everywhere, and I have, likewise, encountered a lot of the patronizing, damaging, sexist bullshit that encourages them. I have had to wear a t-shirt that says ‘ask me for a date’ in my workplace to encourage Christmas bookings, when the male staff were not expected to change their attire at all. I have been made to wear skimpy promotional clothes for big name brands like jagermeister, red bull, and magners. I have had to sell a drink called pussy. I have worked sexist promo events such as ladies nights selling rose and seafood dishes while the football was on, and ‘sunday man time’ where the price on cask conditioned beers was slashed and only female staff were allowed to work. I see benny hill style bikini babes on pump clips all the time, and the amount of blonde beers that make reference to women turns my stomach. there are so many more individual events I could cite, but the one that led me to this list/competition/blog post, was my friend Nathaniel saying he’d found a beer called ‘pink pussy’. if that isn’t reducing females down to mere parts in order to shift units, I don’t know what is.

    I don’t think it’s much of a leap to suggest that these sorts of things contribute to the prevalence of sexist attitudes in my work environment and industry. Sexist attitudes should be a thing of the past, but if there are reinforcements of them constantly around in the environment, then when somebody challenges them, the guilty parties can point to these examples of the attitudes and state that their opinions are acceptable in the context. removing products, promotions, uniforms, and other such things that reinforce sexist attitudes should be a priority, like it is in so many other workplaces.

    I would like to conclude this piece by saying that my current workplace, an independent, that eschews branding and marketing anyway, does not buy in to these products or promotions in any way. I’m grateful to them for that, and that’s why they have had nearly two years of my service and I have no plans to leave. But we are the minority in the trade; and while the prevalent attitude continues to be one of these products, promotions, photos and uniforms not being damaging in any way, I am still going to continue to face damaging sexist attitudes from the public in my workplace. Daily.

    This trade employs a lot of younger women, some as young as 18. We’re people’s sisters, daughters, granddaughters. These attitudes are damaging us, and they’re a result of this sort of marketing. Let’s all raise as much awareness as we can of who is to blame for what’s going on, in the hopes they’ll clean up their act.

  3. Here, here Melissa! Where to start…? I made a comment on Twitter about the branding of a craft brew being mildly misogynistic, “sensing an undercurrent of misogyny in the ‘women are dangerous’ lexicon” and got a reply from the head brewer saying, “Oh please. Trying to make it into something it is not”. This is not the first time I have commented on the sexist labelling of craft beer on Twitter but the first time I’ve had such a dismissive response. The guy describes himself as a ‘man’s man’ so who is he to say that my views are so irrelevant. I’m a woman who has been drinking craft beer for well over a decade, have sold it across the bar and now help to make it. I describe myself as a ‘craft beer advocate’ and promote beer through running beer schools, attending events and tweeting about my favourites.

    My brother-in-law is Jeff Pickthall of Pumpclip Parade fame. He highlights sexism on pump clips but I think we get that these ‘old school’ provincial breweries have a problem with women and following the ‘Top Totty’ controversy in the House of Commons Bar we’re all well aware of the situation. What we don’t seem to be challenging is the Hipster Sexism that is creeping into the craft beer world. Would I like a Coconut Porter that’s ‘like hot chicks on the beach’ or a ‘Tramp Stamp’ with it’s label portraying a curvacious woman with a tattoo on her lower back (tattoos are OK for beery hipsters, just not some women…)? Would I like a ‘Wet Dream’ or a ‘Big Swell’? Perhaps I’ll just have something that refers to women as bitches, witches, temptresses, sea nymphs, femme fatals – after all I love to feel demonised while I drink my beer. Perhaps some breweries don’t want women to drink their beer, perhaps they think we live in a post-feminist world, perhaps they don’t realise their branding is offensive to women as they have made it look so pretty, perhaps it’s time we started to notice what is happening…

  4. I like drinking beer and know that lots of different people contribute to my enjoyment of it:- those who produce the raw materials; brewers and their assistants; marketing people; wholesalers and distributors; pub owners/managers and barstaff. Ideally, I should like all these people to be good at their job (or be keen to learn). I don’t care what gender these people are, whether they are black and white, young or old, gay or straight, tall or short, fat or thin …

    When I drink a beer, I want it to be well made, and well served. I may want to ask about who brewed it, what types of hops and malt were used, what type of beer it is. I would like this information to be on the pumpclip, keg lens or bottle label. Failing that, I would like the bartender to be able to tell me (or at least try to find out). I expect them to be helpful and friendly.

    I don’t expect answers like “dunno, mate, I only work here”. I don’t expect that when I ask for a beer I am asked which pump it’s on, or for the bartender to turn round all the pump clips until they find the right one.

    When faced with an array of pump clips, I am going to choose (in order) beer from a brewery I’ve never sampled; a new beer from a brewery I like; a beer I know I like. I won’t ask for a beer if the pumpclip doesn’t tell me which brewery produced it (or pretends that it was brewered by a brewery no longer in existence).

    Within these constraints I ‘ll go for a beer with a pumpclip that tells me what I want to know, or tells me it’s a style of beer I particularly like, or contains hops I’m particularly fond of. I recently saw a clip from a brewery I had previously not much liked. The pumpclip told me it was packed with citrusy hops. So I bought some – and liked it. The actual design of the clip won’t sell the beer to me. I don’t need to drink the beer to decide whether I like the design of the clip. And I know from “bitter” (sorry) experience that there is rarely much correlation between design of clip and design of beer.

    However, many people don’t use the same criteria as me when choosing a beer. If they like the pumclip, they’ll try the beer – and vice versa. There are still some who’ll say “Phwor, that’s a bit of all right, I’ll have a pint of that.” They’d like a pub with topless barmaids, or with beer-glasses shaped like breasts, too.

    So I think customers need educating as much as those who design or promote the use of advertising material some find offensive. Such images do sell beer.

    I look forward to reading nominations for your awards. I fear, though, that a few breweries would regard them as badges of honour.

    All power to your elbow – let’s treat people as people and beer as beer.

  5. I suppose this is a bit late, but Fallen Angel brewery in Sussex used to have the most appalling branding on their bottles. I’ve not seen any for some time so thought they’d gone out of business, but it appears that they’re back after a brief hiatus, now trading as both Fallen Angel and Broxbourne Brewery:

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