Monday, 6 January 2014

Discussing Gender Issues Surrounding Beer


I posted on my blog the other day about the problem of beer being perceived as a largely masculine drink by the majority of the population.

It caused offence. I wonder if that offence might have been as a result of misunderstanding and how widespread that offence was. However, it caused significant offence to enough people for me to decide to take down the posts. I am sorry for causing that offence and I am unhappy that it has. If I should write again on the subject I shall be far more careful.

What has worried me more than anything is that I feel I am closer in opinion to those whom I have offended when it comes to gender and beer, and probably wider gender issues too.  Although I have a business driver for this, anyone who knows me well, will understand that I shape my business based on what I believe in, not the other way around.

I remain extremely interested in the issues surrounding gender and beer. I believe that the issues are complex and difficult to tackle. I believe they are influenced by wider gender issues in society, some of which are very difficult to tackle from a broad and honest perspective. I do think, if we are to understand it well, we have to look more broadly than just beer.

I think it might be awkward to discuss the issues if we can’t explore how the main body of society view such issues for fear of upsetting those who have very strong gender agendas. I believe it is important to explore these issues from various perspectives, including that of the most masculine in society, without fear of overreaction. As with all subjects that require opinions to be aired, there is a risk of polar opinions damaging an honest debate.

I am a heterosexual male and just because I sometimes fall foul of some of the stereotypical flaws I have, does not mean I can’t discuss the issues of gender. Indeed, I feel that the dichotomy within myself, which has consumed me over the last couple of days, has helped me to shed a little light on the subject

What bothers me most is that the subjects I was trying to air have barely been discussed at all. Mostly, the discussions which evolved ended up being related to the offence I caused rather then the topic for discussion. So, I am now wary of writing about the subject at all.

I wonder how many other people, similar to me, are scared of getting involved with discussion for fear of causing offence.

I’d love to know generally if I should now just leave this difficult subject alone and forget it, or if it is indeed something we should tackle in detail.

I’d be hopeful that it is the latter.

25 comments:

steve said...

If only there were a neutral party, someone of neither gender with none of the associated stereotypes to act as a neutral spokesperson.

There's going to be vested interests and strong opinion either way and its very difficult to phrase something to keep all parties happy. With contentious issues its important to be objective though many of the issues are entirely subjective in the eye of the beholder.

People can easily be insensitive whilst others over sensitive. Often people prefer to take the easy route and cry wolf rather than the harder graft of actually trying to redress imbalance, not by positive discrimination, which is just as bad as what is being protested against but by inclusion. Celebrate similarities rather than pointing out differences and try not to be so easily offended if you're not under attack.

Dave Bailey said...

All true Steve, all true.

The only thing I can add is that I believe I am far more neutral than I have been painted. OK, I fall foul of masculinity sometimes, and my first post of the year took on an overly masculine perspective. But that was the point, to illuminate the beer world from that perspective, wrong as it is, to try to prove the point, but failing in the process.

Chris Emma said...

What bothers me most is that the subjects I was trying to air have barely been discussed at all. Mostly, the discussions which evolved ended up being related to the offence I caused rather then the topic for discussion. So, I am now wary of writing about the subject at all.

I'm wary of posting a reply in case it gets removed along with the rest of this post as happened with the previous post. I thought I read there prior to the deletion an assertion that the post wouldn't be removed because it was 'part of your journey'?

It's a spectacular own goal when female beer drinkers who had never even heard of your brewery now refuse to ever drink your beer because solely of a blog post which you wrote, supposedly, to defend women and to refute another person's blog post which you felt was offensive to women.

I understand that you genuinely feel that you wish to discuss 'gender issues in beer' but from your deleted post it is evident there are more basic issues relating to women which you might need to think about in more detail before you can approach this specific discussion you wish to have about beer.

Emma

Tandleman said...

Well Dave. I said you were about to kick up a shitstorm and you did.

Honesty is the best policy can be sorely tried when you enter such dangerous waters.

Dina said...

Dave,

If you believe that tackling difficult subjects can be done by remaining as neutral as possible and avoiding causing any sort of offence, then maybe it isn't a subject for you.

I agree with what both Steve and Emma have said. I also am not surprised to read these words- 'anyone who knows me well...' I feel that often bloggers do not understand the audience to whom they are writing. I don't mean that in regards to readers of a specific gender, but rather readers who DO NOT KNOW YOU AT ALL. How are they (we) to know what you meant? Satire, spoofing, sarcasm, and in your case, refutations are very difficult in print for even the best writers. I don't think I would be wrong in assuming that you are a brewer first, then a blogger (and maybe a few things even before that).

Your deleted blog had reasons to cause offence. The fact that you repeatedly declare that to be an issue of the reader misunderstanding you rather than you making your desired point incorrectly is disconcerting. I'm not saying it can't be both, but it definitely isn't merely the former.

Also, as was stated above, there may be basic issues brought up in the original blog for you to think about in regards to issues about women. I hope you at least still have the original post.

I wish you the best of luck in the future. I hope that if you do choose to continue gender issues, that you accept, celebrate, and learn from the variety of feedback you receive.

Dina

Dave Bailey said...

Emma,

Although I did say that I wouldn't delete the post, I was so insulted by the names I was called I decided that I should.

Sorry.

Yes Tandy, too honest for my own good I feel.

Dina, I think it is becoming more and more unlikely I'll ever approach the subject again.

Cooking Lager said...

This controversy thing, is it doing a brewdog on your sales ?

Tandleman said...

Cookie: What? Getting his swag nicked from his warehouse?

StringersBeer said...

I missed the name-calling. Dang. If only you hadn't taken the posts down, I'd have a clue what the heck you're on about.

Chris Hall said...

Dave,

When I saw the original post, I found it through a Twitter conversation about a 'deeply misogynist', 'disgusting', 'wrong' post about women and beer. Ah, the Ding post, I thought.

I couldn't believe my eyes when your blog opened from the link. Somewhere, lost in your post, was an attempt to raise, admonish and refute sexist ideas, whilst trying to open some kind of intelligent debate.

Unfortunately, the packaging of your argument was as hostile as the ideas you were trying to discuss. You talked about the casual objectification of women as a sort of 'natural state' that we must simply learn to live with, and this is something that I cannot accept.

We all like to think we can 'see' misogyny and sexism clearly, because it so often uses imagery and language to flag itself. It's truly disappointing for us to find out that much of the misogynist 'thinking' happens, obviously, in people's heads. The glimpse into your thinking on this issue came as a big disappointment to me.

I'm afraid that my opinion of Hardknott as a brewery has changed as a result of what you said in your original post. This is extremely sad, because I really love your beers. However, it's going to be increasingly difficult for me to judge you as a brewery on your beers alone from now on.

I really hope there is some kind of intelligent debate as a result of all this, and that you can be part of it and take important ideas from it.

This was difficult to write, but I hope you can appreciate that it's important that we all say what we really think about this. I think that, in a way, that's what you wanted the post to do, just not in the way that it has.

Chris.

Dave Bailey said...

Chris,

I am very sorry I have offended people.

It seems you have correctly identified what I was trying, and failed to do.

I do need to correct one thing you have written. Whilst I think objectification of women does happen, I think the inevitability of it, or otherwise, has to be explored.

Personally I do not think it is inevitable, but equally it cannot be truly talked about without a holistic approach.

I'm sorry you feel the way you do about me and Hardknott. I made a mistake with the tone of my original post. It is now difficult for me to change that.

StringersBeer said...

Oh right, (and thanks to well-known search engine's cache) you chose deliberately provocative blog titles, and it bit you in the backside.

Also, I wonder if characterising that other blog by that "Ding" geezer as "brave and honest" was a bit odd. I'm not a fan of arguing by analogy, but I'm guessing you probably wouldn't characterise a piece espousing casual (if relatively mild) racism in that way. Even if the author justifies it by saying "I’m just a guy with a cultural background that makes my position seem quite normal to me."

Strikes me that you probably drew some flack (and got some attention? [winks]) that would have been better directed elsewhere.

Chris Emma said...

I've responded to this topic on my blog in a larger sense, if you're interested in reading...

http://cremasbeerodyssey.blogspot.co.uk/2014/01/missing-point.html

Emma

Ashley said...

Dave,

My name is Ashley, I am 22, I am female and I love beer. Good beer, mind you, but none the less I am a lover of beer. I enjoyed reading your posts. So much so that I returned to them not long ago to find they have been removed, which saddened me. I don’t believe you meant to be offensive, in fact I believe your intensions were to be purposefully antagonistic to encourage debate. I am not a blogger nor am I a prolific reader or writer (as I am sure many of you will have picked up on by now) but I perceived your comments regarding women being seen as masculine for choosing to drink beer as purely sarcastic and merely a reflection of an archaic society’s views. I enjoy venturing out to one of my local watering holes to marvel at the beer on tap and order a couple of pints. I don’t perceive myself to be masculine because of this. I don’t look masculine, nor do I behave as such. I don’t feel, nor am I made to feel that I am masculine because I drink beer by other patrons, staff and so on. I see many other women drinking beer and I do not view them as masculine or unattractive. Perhaps that is my optimistic nature, or as many would argue, naivety due to my age. I am not offended by your comments Dave, if fact I think I will drink more beer just to spite you.

-Ashley

Ding said...

Fascinating stuff. As most know, my views on this are quite clear & I am content with them. In a nutshell, I have absolutely NO problem with women and beer, it's simply my preference to keep the two separate. That's it, no more, no less. I have no agenda other than my own preference, and a need to keep myself sane by expressing it from time to time.

StringersBeer said...

wow

Melissa Cole - sommALEier & beer writer said...

Dave,
Let's just go back to the deleted post for a minute.

You characterised a woman as 'a tart’ and also consistently referred to women in a manner that clearly implied they are solely there for male objectification.

Yet you characterised the Ding blog as 'brave and honest'.

It's interesting to note how you attribute very positive language to another man's biases, yet you use very negative phrases when you are talking about a woman.

Personally I'd say that any woman who drinks beer, especially in pints, should happily do so, because if that’s what she wants to do then she should be honest to herself and be brave enough to stand up to any attempts to constrain her freedom of choice by the more backward thinking members of society.

See what I did there? Amazing stuff language, it can really give you an excellent insight into someone's beliefs - and in your case it throws a rather unpleasantly bright light your sexist ones.

And addressing the language in this post, you're behaving like you're some sort of victim of a witch hunt and I'm rapidly coming to the conclusion that you're beginning to see yourself as some sort of martyr for airing these views - you keep talking about gender & sexism in beer as if you've just unearthed something new and that you're leading the charge on discussion.

As for your comment of: “What bothers me most is that the subjects I was trying to air have barely been discussed at all. Mostly, the discussions which evolved ended up being related to the offence I caused rather then(sic) the topic for discussion. So, I am now wary of writing about the subject at all.

“I wonder how many other people, similar to me, are scared of getting involved with discussion for fear of causing offence."

How utterly laughable.

Hasn’t been aired? Are you kidding me? This discussion was had and was over and done with more than a decade ago - it's only sexist recidivists such as you who keep it alive - the rest of the world has (thankfully) pretty much moved on.

Dave, you're the last person who should be discussing women and beer, given your obvious and naked contempt for women who do drink beer.

Every time you open your mouth on this subject it drags the beer industry back to the stone age so - I ask on behalf of all of us who are trying to make this an inclusive and fun place - please stop.

Seriously, stop.

Hardknott Ann said...

Hi Melissa,
Its unfortunate that you as well as many others misunderstood Dave's original blog and any attempts to clarify his position on women drinking beer.

In actual fact Dave strongly disagreed with Ding and he actually has a lot of respect for women who drink beer, especially by the pint.

The main thing he did wrong was give the impression from the title that that was his opinion when in fact it was the opposite.

Melissa Cole - sommALEier & beer writer said...

Ann,
With all due respect that defence would hold at least a tiny bit of water if Dave hadn't written about women who drink pints being unattractive before...

He has aired this opinion before, but it's also now deleted I notice.

And not content with airing such antiquated views, he then goes on to insult all the women beer writers like me, Sophie Atherton and Marverine Cole to name just three and numerous male beer writers & fans, like Jeff Pickthall with Pumpclip Parade, who have been fighting against sexism in the industry for years by saying this issue isn't being aired.

Actually, it's not just insulting it's breathtakingly arrogant... he's basically saying if he's not talking about it, it's not actually being done properly.

I also appreciate that he's your husband and you will obviously want to defend him but this is a repeat offence by Dave as I said at the start, and I can't help but feel that there's an old saying that fits quite nicely: "As a dog returns to his vomit, so a fool repeats his folly".

Michael said...

Melissa, you are wilfully & unnecessarily colouring the discussion around these posts.

In all fairness, compare the realistic intention of Dave's blogpost to that which largely gave rise to it - that by "Ding".

Dave reads Ding's blog, the closing argument of which is so blinkered and contradictory, and thinks that such a belief bears picking apart. He tries do to this in an occasionally inelegant way but with good intention. Weeks or months later you have become sufficiently angry on this particular day, as a result of other issues on the same subject, to be ready to publicly unload on someone. Have you done so with fair consideration?

The (surprisingly) few points you take substantive issue with are expressed with room for interpretation. "Brave" is not necessarily a compliment, someone can be bravely foolish, bravely arrogant, bravely sexist - it implies doing something in the face of potentially negative consequences, not doing something with an unqualified merit. A neutral interpretation of Dave's use of it would be "any normal person would probably not make such a contentious comment" - you have chosen to interpret it to imply sexist sympathy which the underlying thought of the post (and his wife no less) do not support.

Secondly, yes, Dave insensitively labelled a (slightly unclear) category of people. Leaving the particular word tart alone as the prime insensitivity, again the actual intention appears to be more relatable. The other words in the sentence appear to describe an arrogant, aloof type of person - perhaps a "dick" if applied to a male. Two sexes of a similar personality. The limited element of relationship he draws between that categorisation and appearance is freely confessed as flawed - this is realistically the hub of this wider argument. The qualification however is the honesty of the blog in stating that he realises his flaws, but he hopes that by admitting such shortcomings he is still entitled to try to debate on the right side of the argument.

With as much conviction as you request him to "seriously, stop", please be fair in your analysis and responses in this debate. Clearly there is an issue - perhaps it is not as prevalent as it once was - but there is still room, and even need, for debate in the less enlightened sections of the male drinking community.

In a world where peoples opinions are subconsciously ingrained on them at an early age, do not castigate those who recognise that, acknowledge those ingrained opinions are flawed, but yet still seek to argue on the side of reason. For me, it is clear that Ding falls on one side of that divide and Dave on the other, and it is unfair of you to take the worst or even a clearly unintended interpretation of Dave's words even if it is in theoretical support of a just cause.

Melissa Cole - sommALEier & beer writer said...

Michael,
I've not just become angry about this, I'm angry about sexism in the beer industry all the time.

Let's leave aside the issue of language and just think about the fact that you seem to think that admitting you're a sexist makes it ok.

It's not.

Nor is it a natural instinct to be chauvinistic, in the same way that it's not 'his job' to change the light bulbs in the car.

And as for the whole paragraph about not making it a feminist's fight because it might scare off other women... that actually makes me so angry that I'm barely able to type because it's clearly aimed at me and others who tackle the subject head on.

I have done nothing to colour the discussion anything else than the ugly shade of sexist it actually is.

And I don't accept your assertion that I'm somehow over-reacting.

Dave Bailey said...

Melissa,

Thanks for dropping by and commenting. Interesting stuff. What I think is important is that I agree that women should be able to enjoy beer, in whatever glass they feel comfortable with, and be uninhibited about doing so.

I do not find women unattractive for drinking beer, and lost in my original piece somewhere is the fact that I tend to like the company of women who tend to drink beer, especially by the pint.

It was pointed out to me above by Dina that I should shoulder the blame for any misunderstanding. I wrote those original words and so if I have not been able to make clear what I meant then that is my fault. I have to agree with that.

Yes, I took on what I intended to be a comical, exaggerated, self depreciating character. I called my self a sexist. In fact, having since looked a lot at the subject I believe I sometimes exhibit irrational stereotyping of traditional gender roles. I do not believe I am sexist as this implies that I truly believe women are inferior to men, and that is not true.

Am I a good person to continue to look at the issue? I don't know. But, why would I not be? Because I am a man?

I do not think that the issue is anywhere near tackled enough as far as the main stream of beer is concerned. You can disagree with me if you like, but it is my belief that the majority of women believe that they should't like beer. I do not think that there is a genetic reason why this should inherently be the case.

I think the issues are many and complex. Yes, big brands repeatedly use gender stereotyping, like the Fosters adverts featuring two bloky-bloke Australians.

But why do these brands use such advertising? Because it works, that's why. Enter Ding, who for the record I do not generally agree with. However, I don't think he's particularly unlike many men, especially those who tend to drink, lets say for instance, Fosters.

We can say it's wrong till we're blue in the face, but whilst big brands still get return on investment out of such advertising we won't change a great deal.

What we might be able to do is understand why such advertising works, if we really want to change things. I was exploring that. I didn't do a good job, and even more than ever the fact I didn't do a good job means I need to continue to look at how I can.

Dave Bailey said...

Michael, thanks.

Melissa Cole - sommALEier & beer writer said...

Dave,
Firstly if all the rebuttals that you made about not agreeing with Ding and that you aren't a sexist are true then thank you for clarifying.

But please don't try and make this about you being a man and not being able to address this issue - it's not because you are a man, it's because you publicly air opinions like this:

"There is a potential extra danger in the beer world. I do think it is important to try and undo this sexist attitude, but we need to be careful that it doesn't seem like a feminist's fight. There is a danger that the few women that are doing a sterling job of helping to un-masculinise beer may actually drive away some of the women that are just too damn scared of beer making them appear un-feminine. Most women probably want to be thought of as feminine rather than feminists. Women who appear to want to drink beer, and telling other women to drink beer, because they have something to prove, is probably counter-productive."

Your thinly-veiled attack on myself and other female beer writers and enthusiasts is seriously offensive,

I myself don't have something to 'prove' by drinking beer and it is unbelievably insulting and sexist for you to say so.

That you view the feminism movement as a whole as 'un-feminine', is equally sexist and insulting.

Once again your language betrays you as holding such deep-rooted chauvinistic views that when they combine with your seeming inability to communicate what you are trying to get across in the written word, judging by the amount of frantic back-pedalling you've had to do, become damaging to the beer industry.

That's why I've asked you to stop.

It's not because of your given genitalia - because I firmly believe that men can be feminists - but because of your failure to control something you can change, your attitude.

Dave Bailey said...

Melissa, sorry you are offended.

Pointing out to hardcore CAMRA members that aggressively telling lager drinkers that they are wrong, whatever the reasons are that they drink lager, is unlikely to stop them drinking lager,, and actually is counter productive. I've said this before but that does not mean I am against cask beer.

I am not an anti-femanist, quite the reverse.

Questioning how we approach the subject is not being sexist.