Tag Archives: product: alcohol

Questioning Media Portrayals of Female Drunkeness

At the New Statesman, Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett and Holly Baxter skewer the common media hand-wringing over women who get drunk in public.  Above and beyond the victim-blaming “don’t make yourself so rape-able” message, Cosslett and Baxter point out that the tsk-tsking is deeply laden with the idea that women should behave like “ladies.”  This, of course, is an old-fashioned notion suggesting that women are or should be the moral superiors of men (invented during the Victorian era).

Using a Daily Mail article as an example, they criticize the typical language and imagery that accompanies these stories:

Platell’s piece manages to feature almost every aspect of drunken female behaviour that tabloids simultaneously loathe and desire. Yes, this article has the whole shebang: long lens photos of young women with their fishnets torn up to the bum at a fancy dress party in freshers’ week; phrases like “barely leaving anything to the imagination” and “neo-feminists behaving like men” and creepily voyeuristic descriptions of “pretty young girls lying comatose on the pavement.”

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From another point of view, Cosslett and Baxter argue, this looks like “a pretty cracking night out,” stumbles and all.

They point out, smartly, that many of these stories frame women’s interest in alcohol as an effort to hang with the boys.  The message, they explain, is that ”‘young ladies’ are being warped by the hard-drinking university culture… going along with men’s behaviour because they’re weak-willed and they think it will make them look cool.”

Because men invent things, and then women jump on board because they feel like they have to — that’s the way of the world, isn’t it? It’s not like those of the female variety enjoy a pint, after all, or even — God forbid — enjoy the sensation of drunkenness once in a blue moon. It’s not as though our decision whether or not to drink has anything to do with us or our own lives… modern female binge drinking is still all about the men.

This is not to defend drinking per se, or binge drinking or public drunkeness, but to point out the gendered coverage of the phenomenon, which still portrays women’s drinking as somehow less natural, more worrisome, and more dangerous than men’s.

Cross-posted at Pacific Standard.

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions, with Myra Marx Ferree. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

Male Friendship in the New Guinness Ad: A Thumbs Up

A recent Guinness ad has been getting a lot of kudos and I want to join in the praise.  It involves a set of guys who get together to play a pick-up game of wheelchair basketball and then join each other at a bar to celebrate the game.  Lots of people have mentioned that it’s nice to see (1) a lack of objectification of women as a form of male bonding  and (2) a nice representation of people with disabilities.  Both of those things are great in my book.

But here’s another thing I really liked: their retreat to the bar and their formation once they got there.  They sat in a circle.

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Why is this neat?  Because scholars have found that male and female friendships tend to be different.  Male friendships tend to be more “shoulder-to-shoulder” than “face-to-face.”  Men are more likely to get together and do stuff: they watch football together, go out and play pool, have poker nights, etc.  Women are more likely to spend time just talking, confessing, disclosing, and being supportive of each other’s feelings.

The benefits of friendship are strongly related to self-disclosure.  And so men’s friendships — if they don’t involve actual intimacy — often don’t offer the same boost to physical and well-being as women’s friendships.  The fact that these guys sit down together at a bar, in a circle, in order to engage in some face-to-face time after their shoulder-to-shoulder time… well, that’s really nice to me.

Thanks to Rebecca H. for submitting the commercial!

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions, with Myra Marx Ferree. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

Upwardly Mobile Beer: The Class Status of Rolling Rock

Cross-posted at Montclair SocioBlog.

In the Pittsburgh of my youth many decades ago, Rolling Rock was an ordinary, low-priced local beer – like Duquesne (“Duke”) or Iron City. (“Gimme a bottle of Iron,” was what you’d say to the bartender.  And if you were a true Pittsburgher, you pronounced it “Ahrn.”).  The Rolling Rock brewery was in Latrobe, PA, a town about forty miles east whose other claim to fame was Arnold Palmer. The print ads showed the pure sparking mountain stream flowing over rocks.

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That was then.  In the late 1980s, Rolling Rock started expanding – geographically outward and socially upward.  Typically, when ideas and fashions diffuse through the social class structure they flow downward. Less frequently, the educated classes embrace an artifact of working-class culture. But why?  Their conspicuous consumption (or “signalling,” as we now say) is saying something, but what ideas about themselves and the social landscape are they expressing with their choice of beer?

I had an e-mail exchange about that question with Keith Humphreys, who blogs at The Reality-Based Community.  He too grew up in western Pennsylvania, and we both recalled being surprised years later to see Rolling Rock as a beer of choice among young stock traders and other decidedly non-working-class people.  But we had different ideas as to what these cosmopolitans thought they were doing.  Keith saw it as their way of identifying with the working class.

Those of us who grew up near Latrobe, Pennsylvania are agog when upscale hipsters who could afford something better drink Rolling Rock beer as a sign of their solidarity with us.*

I was more skeptical.  I saw it as the hipsters (or before them, the yuppies) trying to be even more hip – so discerning that they could discover an excellent product in places everyone else had overlooked.  Rolling Rock was a diamond in the rough, a Jackson Pollock for $5 at a yard sale.  The cognoscenti were not identifying with the working-class. They were magnifying the distance.  They were saying in effect, “Those people don’t know what a prize they have.  But I do.”

I had no real data to support that idea, so I asked Gerry Khermouch, who knows more about beverage marketing than do most people.  His Beverage Business Insights puts out industry newsletters, and he writes for Adweek and Brandweek.  He’s also beverage buddies with the guys who changed Rolling Rock marketing.  Here’s what he said,

[F]ar from expressing solidarity with the working class, urban drinkers far afield regarded it as an upscale icon in much the way that Stella Artois has claimed today — a triumph of pure marketing.

One ad campaign in the 90s, “Subtle Differences,” aimed directly at the drinker’s connoisseur fantasies.  Here are two examples:

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It’s the little nuances that make life more interesting. Rolling Rock uses slightly more malt than other domestic golden lagers for a refreshing taste that’s got a little more body, a little more bite. If you’ve noticed, we salute you.

Words like nuance were hardly an appeal to solidarity with the working-class.  Neither was the strategy of raising the price rather than lowering it.

To the marketers, the nuance, the malt, bite, and body didn’t count for much.  Their big investment was in packaging.  Instead of stubby bottles with paper labels, they returned to the long-necked, painted-label bottles with the mysterious “33” on the back. Apparently, the original packaging, the  “Old Latrobe” reference, and the rest added notes of working-class authenticity.

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As for the actual beer inside those bottles, it may have once been what the ad copy said.  The brewers had tried to overcome the “watery” image from the beer’s early water-over-the-rocks imagery.  But when Anheuser-Busch bought the company in 2006, they closed the Latrobe brewery, and Rolling Rock became a watery, biteless product indistinguishable from the other innocuous lagers that dominate the US market.

* This was an aside in a post about the future of the marijuana market.  See also our post about the resurgence of Pabst Blue Ribbon.

Jay Livingston is the chair of the Sociology Department at Montclair State University. You can follow him at Montclair SocioBlog or on Twitter.

Pennsylvania Public Service Announcement Blames Rape Victims

Re-posted to add to the discussion about sexual assault in the aftermath of the Steubenville rape trial, the Senate hearing on rape and harassment in the military, and the controversy at Occidental College. Cross-posted in Portuguese at Conhecimento Prudente.

Rape reporting, prosecution, and conviction rates across the country are appallingly low, but it’s easier to get away with sexual assault in some places compared to others.  Pennsylvania is one of those places. In Pennsylvania, expert testimony isn’t allowed in the courtroom.  Instead, jurors frequently rely on abundant, harmful rape myths.

We shouldn’t be that surprised, then, that earlier this week the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB) aired an ad plainly promoting the idea that women are to blame for being raped.

The ad shows a young woman sprawled on what appears to be a bathroom floor, underwear down at her ankles, with the caption, “She didn’t want to do it, but she couldn’t say no.”  The victim blaming here couldn’t be any clearer, right down to the illogical language suggesting that the victim both had agency (she is to blame) and lacked agency (because she couldn’t say “no”).

Crafted by the Neiman Group, this ad was part of a larger $600,00 campaign — two years in the making — to raise awareness of the ill effects of drinking.  Several different themes were proposed, but this was the “winner.”  Another ad in the same campaign holds a rape victim’s friend responsible for her rape.

The PLCB pulled the ad campaign in response to hundreds of messages from concerned citizens, some of whom claimed they were traumatized by the image/message.  However, a statement from the PLCB shows that those in charge still don’t comprehend the problem:

“We feel very strong, and still do, that when we entered the initial discussion about doing a campaign like this it was important to bring the most difficult conversations about over-consumption of alcohol to the forefront and all of the dangers associated with it—date rape being one of these things.”

The PLCB is right that alcohol and “date” rape (a term that trivializes rape) go hand in hand, but not because women are responsible for the criminal actions of the approximate 6% of men who perpetrate this crime.  Instead, perpetrators exploit cultural narratives — like the idea that intoxication = miscommunication and that “date rape” isn’t “real” rape — to repeatedly commit this crime.  In a recent study of college students, 4% of men were found to be serial rapists; they committed an average of 5.8 rapes each.

In short, sexual assault is committed by (often serial) perpetrators.  Yet ad campaigns like this will continue to ensure that sexual assault will continue to be the only crime in which society treats the victim like a perpetrator.

Caroline Heldman is a professor of politics at Occidental College. You can follow her at her blog and on Twitter and Facebook.

Men Go on “Guyets” Because Girls are Stupid

The Ethical Adman’s Tom Meggison sent along a new ad campaign by Molson.  The campaign coins the word “guyet,” a supposedly masculine alternative to “diet.”

If dieting is working out in order to be thin, then guyeting is “working out to justify eating the foods you love… Bacon, nachos, and burgers.”

There’s a very simple thing going on here: things associated with women are NOT-FOR-MEN, so anything that rings feminine must be covered in bacon, dipped in beer batter, and fried masculinized. See, for lots of examples, our Pinterest page on the phenomenon with almost 100 examples.

Importantly, this isn’t just about maintaining a strong distinction between men and women, it’s about maintaining gender inequality.  We disparage and demean femininity, which is why men want to avoid it.  Listen to the tone of voice that the narrator uses when saying the word “diet” at 21 seconds:

Dieting is stupid ’cause girls and everything associated with girls is stupid.  Guyeting is awesome ’cause guys are awesome.

The reverse doesn’t apply. Women who do things men like to do — drink whiskey, play sports, become surgeons, have dogs, etc — somehow rise in our esteem.  Men’s worth, in contrast, is harmed by their association with femininity.  This is a layer of gender inequality above and beyond sexism, the privileging of men over women; it’s androcentrism, the privileging of the masculine over the feminine.  Since women are required to do femininity, it means being required to do trivial, demeaned, and disparaged things.  Meanwhile, men have to come up with stupid excuses for participating in basic healthy activities like going for a jog.

More posts on androcentrism: “woman” as an insultbeing a girl is degradingmaking it manly: how to sell a car, good god don’t let men have long hairdon’t forget to hug like a dudesaving men from their (feminine) selvesmen must eschew femininitynot impressed with Buzz Lightyear commercialdinosaurs can’t be for girls, and sissy men are so uncool.

UPDATE: Comments closed.

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions, with Myra Marx Ferree. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

Prohibition: What Did They Do With All the Booze?

On this day in 1916 the U.S. government passed the 18th amendment prohibiting the “…manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors.”  The rest is history.  But where did all the existing booze go and how did the feds dispose of alcohol confiscated in the years it was illegal?  Retronaut has a series of photos with the answer to this question.  It looks as if liquor fed the fishes and the daisies, marking an unintentionally intoxicating period of American history.

More at Retronaut.

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions, with Myra Marx Ferree. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

For a “Wholesome” Thanksgiving, Choose Seagram’s

In a now-unfamiliar advertising strategy, this 1936 Thanksgiving-themed ad for whiskey suggests you make the scientifically “wholesome” choice: Seagram’s Crown.

Partial transcript:

Months of research by a group of trained, impartial men brought the answer: Seagram’s Crown Whiskies, used in moderation, are kind, considerate whiskies, and most likely to agree with the average man… they are thousands of men’s choice AS A MOST WHOLESOME FORM OF WHISKEY, besides!  Choose them at the bar for your present pleasure without future penalty.

I’d like to practice… er, review the research methods.

Found at Vintage Ads.  Just for fun, see also: Whiskey-flavored toothpaste.

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Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

Interactive Graphics of Health Habits

Mark Fischetti has posted an interactive graphic at Scientific American that lets you look at the prevalence of several behaviors or characteristics measured on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s survey on risk factors. The graphic includes data on exercise, tobacco use, heavy drinking, binge drinking, and obesity. Commenters on the post suggested it’s unnecessarily snarky about obesity; that said, it provides a quick snapshot of several behaviors demographers often use to judge general trends in health. For each topic, a graph shows the state where it is highest and lowest; you can also select up to 3 additional states to compare.

For instance, the percent of people who took part in a physical activity in the last month is highest in Oregon and lowest in Mississippi; I added my home state of Oklahoma (dark blue) and current residence of Nevada (light blue) too:

You also get a map for each topic that shows where it’s most or least common. Here’s the map for smoking:

Sconnies, you may not be surprised to know that Wisconsin leads the nation in binge drinking:

I can’t embed the graphic, so you’ll have to go to Scientific American’s post to play around and compare your own state.