This is a post that is about three weeks late. Every month, on the first Friday of said month, the The Beer Sessions invites beer bloggers to pen a post on a single subject. Each month a different blogger ‘hosts’ the session by choosing a topic, and then subsequently summarizing all of the posts for that month. At the beginning of November, Session #81 brought us to an old chestnut (at least for me), as The Tasting Nitch asked, “What about Women in Beer Culture?‘.
It’s taken me an extra couple of weeks to finish this post, at least in part becasue I wanted to get the post ‘just right’. It’s not easy to write down my thoughts on this subject without being characterized as bigoted, but all I can say is that I’m not (bigoted), I am not a misogynist, I am not a sexist, and I have no problem with women brewing the beer that I drink. Nor am I about to lead a campaign to keep women out of pubs and bars, and nor do I have an issue with women in positions of responsibility, power, influence or as my superiors. Having said all of that, I do strongly believe that beer has a gender, and it’s not female. I do not think that statement is in any way contradictory to my stated position as a non-misogynist.
The whole, ‘women in beer’ thing is a pretty straightforward question for me. I’ve been asked about it over and over again, and I have always had a sort of matter of fact, shrug of the shoulders answer. Actually, if truth be known I’m just not very passionate about the subject at all, rather to me, the whole thing is less about deep analysis, and much more about what I consider to be a cultural and ‘natural’, norm. For me, it’s just sort of simply ‘the way it is’ and should be – a natural law if you will.
I think the origin of my position about beer’s gender is fairly simple to trace. Growing up in 1970’s and 1980’s Britain and watching my dad frequent pubs where women were simply not welcome, obviously gave me a perspective and historical reference point that is difficult to shake. Not only were women not welcome, most women were quite OK with that, and wouldn’t have wanted to spend any time in those pubs, anyway.
At that time, and even now to a large extent for me, pubs were a refuge for men – a place to be away from women. Pubs were mainly the working and middle class equivalents of the upper classes, gentlemen’s clubs*, where men went to get away from all things female rather than to meet and socialize with women. Pubs were dens and bastions of stereotypical male culture, where vulgarity, lewd behavior and words and actions not necessarily welcome in polite society were embraced and even encouraged. These were the places that I experienced at a very young age.
*for American readers I don’t mean ‘gentlemen’s club as in ‘strip club’, rather I’m talking about exclusive male only, drinking establishments popular since approx. 150 years ago.
So what about beer as an entity (as opposed to pubs and pub culture) per se? Well, when women DID go into pubs it was customary for them to either drink something other than beer (typically wine or spirits), and if they did happen to consume beer, it was strictly in half-pint glasses. A woman drinking a pint of beer was really a very rare occurrence, and on the few occasions that it did occur, it would elicit some pretty interesting comments! As a result of this early exposure to these norms as they pertained to women and beer, even to this day, I find the image of a woman with a pint glass in her hand, truly and quintessentially unfeminine; I’d even go as far as to say that I find it unattractive. As I am typing this I am literally imagining a woman in a typical barroom stance, with a 20 oz pint of beer, grasped at chest height about to be raised to her mouth, and I find it to be a masculine action that is not consummate with the fairer sex. That isn’t to say that women that drink beer aren’t attractive outside of the beer drinking context, it’s simply me saying that I find the image of women in that situation and in that stance, less than appealing. For the record, there’s plenty of women that agree with me on this one. (BTW, don’t get me wrong, I fully understand that for a multitude of reasons that the same women that I find unattractive in this situation almost certainly find me equally or more unattractive, for 1001 different reasons!)
Please don’t misunderstand me (and I know that might be a forlorn hope but it’s an appeal that I have to make), but beer and women are a strange mix for me. I really not sure why this gets on peoples nerves. What is it about society these days that gets people riled up when the idea that the genders might be different, is broached? It seems quite natural to me that some things are masculine, some things are feminine – why can’t we just accept that? I don’t expect many to agree with me, but quite why you’d be upset about my opinion is a little bit beyond me.
I know that this post will deliberately get twisted into all kinds of things that misrepresent me, and I know that I will take plenty of flak from the interwebs for what is written here, but if you spoke to me in person, looked me in the eye and we actually had a civilized discussion about this, I think you’d see that I am not the misogynist that some will paint me to be, rather I’m just a guy with a cultural background that makes my position seem quite normal to me.