Do alcoholic beverages have genders? Should I have been lifting them up and checking their undersides all these years, to see if I was drinking the right thing? Have I been gender-bending without even knowing it?
More and more in 2014, I’m seeing certain adult beverages marketed to men and others to women when you’d think, by now, we would’ve gotten over such practices.
Take the latest Applebee’s commercials as one example. The majority of their ads show alcoholic beverages being enjoyed with meals (bless them), but it’s usually men having beer (seems to be pilsner, but at least it’s in a glass) and women having (usually white) wine. In only one ad have I also seen women enjoying beer. What’s up with that?
Then there was the Woodford Reserve Bourbon ad broadcast during horse-racing season, which had a man say, “When I see a woman drinking bourbon, I figure she can pick a horse…she’ll know sire lines and gaits, but won’t let them override her instincts.”
So not only is it apparently noteworthy when a woman drinks bourbon, but women are instinctive, not scientific? Do women bet on horses based on catchy names, similar to the way we buy cars based on color? I’m not liking this line of march.
To top things off, I received any number of Father’s Day sale emails from some of my favorite wineries and do you want to know what they’re almost uniformly suggesting you buy dear ol’ dad for his special day? Red wine. Heavy-duty red wine.
Magnums of cabernet, gift baskets of cabernet, monthly shipments of cabernet — many from wineries that make excellent chardonnays, chenin blancs and rieslings. Do men not drink white wine, really?
How have we trapped ourselves in this gender-based beverage box? I admit it’s not new, but how can these stereotypes still exist and are they getting more entrenched than ever?
I read recently that vodka was considered, in the mid-20th century, to be a “woman’s drink” because she could sip it discreetly (it had no telltale aroma). I think I was reading one of those etiquette books that also advised a woman to “freshen up” before her husband came home from work and not to annoy him by discussing petty household problems from her insignificant day. (And maybe while she was making him a nice pitcher of martinis she could have a discreet snort in the kitchen.)
If you look online, though, you’ll still find questions about whether a particular beverage is a “woman’s drink” or not. Some are posted by young ladies going out to parties and not wanting to make a faux pas by drinking the “wrong” thing.
Now, I’m all in favor of young ladies not making faux pas at parties, but let me say clearly: You can drink anything you darned well please and if some folks judge you by your choice, then they’re the ones with poor manners, not you.
One of my favorite thoughtful answers to the “Is it OK for a woman to drink X” question explained that the choice of alcohol wasn’t as important as the choice of mixer, so now mixers have gender, too! Apparently women can have vodka-based fruity cocktails, but men should drink their spirits neat.
Can I buy a break here, please? Even “The Times of India” — a newspaper whose social columnists face the Herculean task of helping a largely abstinent culture adjust to the concept of social drinking—just ran an article debunking the myth that vodka was a woman’s drink.
Nonetheless, once you start looking you’ll find all sorts of articles devoted to “popular vodka drinks for women” and “girly vodka cocktails.” Most of the latter focus on flavored martinis (banana, for example), with abundant use of Grenadine and large dollops of chocolate liqueur. I’ve got a chocolate martini recipe proven, however, to kill with both sexes — so I challenge the assertion that these are necessarily “girly” drinks.
Pity the poor men, though, who can’t go out and order a fruity cocktail if they want one. They’re possibly more boxed-in than even the women.
I was once out with a male colleague in London and he ordered something called a “Frou-Frou,” because he wanted to try it. He took loads of grief from the pint-quaffers nearby, so you had to admire his courage. My own husband likes frozen drinks — he’ll order a frozen Margarita while I prefer mine on the rocks.
Does that make me the pants-wearer in the family? Is all this getting a bit silly?
In the world of beer, I recently heard SABMiller CEO Alan Clark on TV saying he felt beer had not been marketed properly to women and he hoped to expand beer-drinking demographics by redesigning ads to avoid their past emphasis on sports and male bonding. (So far, so good; I’ll hold off commenting on the possible implication that women dislike sports.)
Clark separately told Reuters he wanted to keep the theme of sociability in his ads, but include both genders. (Again, so far, so good.)
Where the report went astray was when the columnist, not Alan Clark, told beer lovers not to worry, because SABMiller ads weren’t “about to get all pink and frilly.”
As my father used to say, “Cheese and rice!” Are women “all pink and frilly?” Apart from tweaking its ads, SABMiller plans to target women by injecting low-alcohol shandy-style beverages (mixing beer with lemonade or fruit juice) into its brand line-up. I’m going to say it again: Can I buy a break?
Rounding out his report, the Reuters columnist claimed SABMiller was implementing these changes to compete with craft brews, which were “inherently more female-friendly.” Now, I love craft beer, but I have no clue why it should be any more friendly to women than to men and the reporter didn’t explain. He claimed craft breweries in Europe have “large numbers” of female customers and Britain’s Campaign for Real Ale added 20,000 women (of which I was one) to its membership during the past 10 years. All good news, but the underlying context, that beverages have genders, still bothers me.