A Beer for Equality or a Poorly Executed Campaign? BrewDog's 'Pink IPA'

Source: @BrewDog on Twitter

Today is International Women's Day, a time to celebrate all the amazing and strong women across the globe (that's all of us). But it is also a time to recognise the ongoing discrimination women face every single day; a web of prejudice, unfair treatment and repression which has threads woven into the fabric of mainstream culture. While many individuals, groups and organisations are combating gender inequality in various ways, be it closing the pay gap or providing invaluable support to vulnerable women, some are still missing the mark.

Craft beer franchise BrewDog released its 'Pink IPA' two days ago ahead of International Women's Day, and, despite its best intentions, the product perpetuates gender stereotypes rather than dismantles them. Twitter has been awash with criticism, most of which points out the very witless move by whichever social media rep was responsible for claiming "This is not 'beer for girls'" in the above Tweet when it very clearly states "BEER FOR GIRLS" in bold, capitalised letters right there on the bottle fluorescent pink label. Others have highlighted how the accompanying press release does little to wane the ire targeted at the objectionable campaign, as it claims the product, a variation of the brewery's popular Punk IPA, is their "overt parody on the failed, tone-deaf campaigns that some brands have attempted in order to attract women." Is that not what is happening here? Are BrewDog not relying on the stereotypical trope of women and pink to attract women into buying the beer?

They say essentially say "yes", claiming the campaign is intentionally satire. This means that a team of professionals sat down for a marketing meeting and decided it would be a good idea to poke fun at the kind of patronising and belittling messages women continue to be fed through bad advertising and marketing. In spoofing these messages, the Pink IPA is indistinguishable from the very "sub-par" and lazily marketed products they appear to be berating in their press release. Instead of releasing a completely original beer, BrewDog have wasted an opportunity to show their support for International Women's Day and simply shoving a pink label on a pre-existing product and renaming it to appeal to "girls" is an incredibly disappointing move from a brand with such influence in the craft beer industry.

The Pink IPA is basically the latest addition to the catalogue of offensive products women didn't ask for, joining Doritos "lady-friendly" crisps which make less of a crunch when bitten into. To BrewDog's credit, however, the core message behind the Pink IPA indicates significant attitudinal progress with regards to the position of women in drinking culture. Those who identify as women can purchase the Pink IPA for 20% less of the normal price from BrewDog bars, and 20% of the proceeds from both the original Punk IPA and Pink IPA will be donated to charities for women, with UK proceeds going to the Women's Engineering Society which supports women in engineering, science and technology. 

However, they only touch upon the relentless stigma women face in drinking environments. Think about how many pump clips feature a scantily clad woman, how many beers have offensive or outright sexist names such as BrewDog's very own "Trashy Blonde", the surprise or even alarm when a woman orders a pint of beer instead of the typical "woman's drink" of a glass of wine or a cocktail, and the hassle barmaids have to handle on some of their shifts. Even today, if a woman were to enter a bar or pub alone, she would likely trigger a wave of gossip assuming she was on the pull, as if the notion of a woman merely enjoying a pint in her own company were absurd. Women don't want one of the major players in the beer game to subtly tell us the pink beer is for us but the ordinary lines are off limits; we want to feel accepted and respected in the beer community, and drink whatever beer we want without comment or judgement.

And as a final note, let's stop calling grown women "girls". One of my biggest concerns with the Pink IPA is that it's adult women of the legal age who can drink beer, not girls. It's a simple change to correctly describe women for what we are, but a symbolic change nonetheless, one which stops reducing women to childish labels which belittle our maturity and demean our cultural contributions.

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