Wednesday, 31 January 2018

Popularist Masculinity and Beer.

I took the piss out of the pub owner the first time I saw it on the bar. I know him well enough to take the piss, I guess he's a mate and a good customer. In any case, he rips the piss regularly, especially when I'm trying to play pool, so I didn't feel much of a shred of guilt.

It went off, then came back again, so it seemed he had re-ordered, or taken more than one cask. I guess it had been a week or so since my first expression of concern regarding such an intrusion into my appreciation of what is otherwise a splendid pub.

"Really?" I exclaimed in a rather more serious tone "You feel comfortable putting Dizzy Blonde on the bar?"

"People have asked for it and it sells really well" came the apparently sincere reply. Further explanation regarding what sells well and what doesn't could very much depress me. Needless to say it was a bit of a readjustment to my world view on the subject.

He runs a good pub. I respect his business skills tremendously and he's much better at running a pub than I ever was. He sells stuff I wouldn't, because he wants to cover his overheads; if it were me I'd probably dig my heals in and suffer commercially as a result.

The imagery is all over the roads in the NW of England....
I am reminded about this exchange as a result of recent media interest in sexism in beer the beer world. I am fairly sure that I have never bought Dizzy Blonde and when I have found myself unfortunately faced with only Robinsons beers I opt for something else. Although my boycott possibly isn't going to make a jot of difference, the only way to stop this sort of nonsense is by it becoming commercially unattractive for it to continue. I cannot bring myself to support such a thing.

Robinson's are not going to stop making Dizzy Blonde any time soon, not so long as it clearly makes them money. Likewise, other companies will carry on with varying degrees of sexist imagery and beer names so long as the general public has a panache for such things. So, is it really the fault of the businesses for propagating sexism in the beer industry? Or is it more the end consumer?

I recently commissioned artwork for a project to help promote Azimuth. We started from the premise that generally folk don't get the name. Far too obscure. It relates to navigation using heavily bodies and hooks into the by now well established folklore surrounding the story of IPA1.

I wanted to create a mythical scene of ancient mariners and imaginary sea creatures. A mermaid crept into the scene and refused to leave. She was initially far too sexy. My artist was cajoled into making her more powerful and less demeaningly sexy.

Did we get it right? I am still unsure, but hope that it is mysterious enough, and we've empowered the female character in the scene sufficiently to not raise the hackles of any potential critics. The dragon we could imagine to be male, indeed the mermaid is quite clearly in charge and is fighting to help against a relentless macho wind, which for me is symbolic of the masculinity which sadly is all too prevailing in the world of beer.


1With apologies to all beer historians. I am not a beer historian. I am not sure if I understand where beer history truth ends and myth begins. I do care, but just haven't got the time to keep myself properly informed on such matters.

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