Saturday 28 August 2010

Sexism and Beer

Last week I visited the doctor about an inguinal hernia I have been developing. This week I went to see a consultant and was immediately offered surgery. I was really surprised, as I had one side done already when we were still running the pub and there was a risk that the NHS waiting lists would cause me to have a 6 week rehabilitation period right in the middle of our busy season. Last time, completely against my principles, I elected to have it done privately so as to jump the queue. I had a parallel request in the normal NHS route but only received the letter inviting me to make an appointment to see the consultant a couple of days before my privately arranged surgery. Things have moved on and only 1 week after first visiting my doctor I am promised to be given a date for surgery which is likely to be within the next 4-6 weeks. There certainly have been some improvements to waiting lists.

However, this post is not about congratulating the NHS on improving, nor perhaps considering that the previous government did in fact do some things that were good; indeed, I'm now feeling guilty that I'm robbing some more worthwhile case from life saving surgery. As it happens, my particular condition is getting worse at an almost undetectable rate and is way off causing me any grief. I only went to the doctors early because I expected a 3-6 months wait.

This post is about the differences between men and women; I've done a small amount of research into this, as much as I've been permitted to get away with, and discovered some pleasurable physiological differences between men and women. There are also some unfortunate differences and my hernia is one; men are around 25 times more likely to develop the condition, mainly due to the significant anatomical differences downstairs.

There are psychological, emotional and perceptive differences too; women like dresses and shoes and make-up and spending far too long looking for wall paper or choosing paint or a new sofa. Men like fast cars and sport and looking at naked women and beer; life is way too short to waste time on shopping. Women are far more perceptive when it comes to fragrance or colour matching and men are better at taking cars apart and reading maps, sometimes they can even get the car back together again and occasionally they don't get lost.

I'm painting a picture using only prime stereotypical colours, I know. Looking at individuals we can find plenty that crossover the stereotyping boundaries and thankfully our reasonably liberal society of the western world continues to break this down. This begs the question of how much the very real differences between men and women are due to social conditioning and how much are due to real XX verses XY chromosomes, I believe a little of both; for me the debate is not that these differences exist and arguing about whether it is nature or nurture, it's about understanding that there are differences and using or suppressing them as appropriate.

But really, what has this got to do with beer? Well, I often watch adverts on TV with a critical eye. I often declare that such and such an advert will never make me buy that product; the advert insults my intelligence. Sometimes I think that the product is shit, but well done on an entertaining advert, it was better than the tripe that was supposed to be the main feature. When it comes to beer adverts I take a little more notice. Most beer adverts are for the mainstream brands I wouldn't be seen dead drinking1 and sadly BrewDog and Thornbridge are yet to place prime time TV ads, but perhaps there is a future?

Most of the beer adverts amuse me, sadly due to the fact that I'm a male chauvinist. Sometimes I do a good job of hiding that chauvinism, sometimes not, it surfaces with great gusto when many of the major beer brands feature in the increasingly frequent and extended commercial breaks that populate2 the television. The Heineken ad made many of us poor testosterone ridden, deoxyribonucleic acid deficient mutants rock with laughter. Personally, I think it's a bit of a fight back against female chauvinism that results in much of our hard earned cash3 being frittered on rarely-to-be-worn fashion accessories.

Comments about this resulted in Kristy writing about such male targeted marketing. It certainly can't help us to make beer more accessible to women, and I'd like that to happen just as much as Kristy does. But is it ever going to work so long as society is the way it is? Gender orientated advertising is not just limited to beer; it features in many adverts. We are, as a society getting better, but there is an underlying proverbial principle that it's a pint for the bloke and a fruit based drink for the lady.

For me, the Heineken advert simply points up the existing mainstream established gender divide that exists in society. Worrying about the fact that major brand beer is keeping this sometimes frightening gulf between the sexes alive is like worrying that Heinz are perpetuating the belief that good food is made better with ketchup. Major brands work because they have synergy with mainstream society, brands that try to buck that trend tend to become marginalised.

And anyway, blokes would never openly discuss medical issues relating to downstairs, only women have that sort of problem.

If the reader is thinking this sounds all a bit defeatist then take heart; it is my experience that in the beer world there are a significant and growing number of women who are involved in beer. Looking at CAMRA, beer bloggers or beer twitter there is a healthy and increasing number of women who are active and there is good reason for this, but I think that is the subject of another post.


1My twitter followers will know that there are moves afoot to make me do just that and compare some major brands in a blind tasting. Why not? It'll be a hoot.

2I also notice the products change depending on the style of program being shown. When there are a large number of adds for sanitary products, soap powder or things you have to buy for your kids because otherwise you are a parent from hell, I start to suspect I've inadvertently started watching a chick flick.

3To be fair, Ann cannot be labelled a slave to fashion, so I'm lucky there.


Stuart Howe said...

Comodiken(Hoereneukes)targetting a man-lad market for its brands is superb. It means that half the popualtion are free from being brainwashed into buying their "liquid". Maybe the girly mates in this Ad will settle down to watch a chick flick with a few bottles of Duvel while their partners discuss the best brand of hair straightners in their man-fridge?

Jeff Pickthall said...

You seem to be regarding fashionableness as an intrinsically bad thing. Surely it is neither good nor bad, simply something which exists.

Curmudgeon said...

Just think how many TV ads are obviously targeted at women. Do we perhaps have something of a double standard here?

Unknown said...

Stuart, a very good point and probably the nub of the point I'll make in the future at sometime. I can just about cope with a chick flick when I've a bottle or two of Duvel.

Jeff, I don't think I do see fashonableness as intrinsically bad, and indeed I would be lying if I tried to claim I didn't sometimes enjoy joining in with fashion occasionally. For some people it is extremely important to them and brings them great pleasure, in this case it is intrinsically good for the person, providing they can afford it.

It is merely a case of an apparent situation where women are more interested in fashion and men more interested in beer. Is this intrinsically bad? I don't think so.

Mudge, indeed, a good point. Advertising is always going to be aimed at a target demographic. If we followed through the determination to make all things asexual then we would not have aftershave and perfume, that could make dating interesting because our sexual attraction is influenced by aroma - we wouldn't know who to hit on.

Incidentally, I have it on good authority that mens razors are much better quality than the brightly coloured feminine brands, even by the same manufacturer, work that one out. Style over substance?

StringersBeer said...

Quite right there Dave, I'm sure it's only the difference between aftershave and perfume that keeps us all from accidental same-sex abhominations. Especially now so many fellas have their hair long like flipping girls.

Jeff Pickthall said...

Very public-spirited of you to submit that picture to Wikipedia!

Unknown said...

Now come on Jeff, I'm way bigger than that.

Stringers, there was a program last night on the moving picture wireless thing all about transgender people; now I'm really confused.