South African craft beer brand Vale Bru is next in the firing line for marketing misogyny. The company ran a campaign for a new range of beers with more sexism than hops featuring beer personified as characters named the Filthy Brunette‚ Easy Blonde‚ Raven Porra and Ripe Redhead. Put your best Nene voice on because; wooo…chile. THE GHETTO.
Easy Blonde’s tagline is ‘All your friends have already had her’
Filthy Brunette is advertised as ‘When gushing and moist are used to describe something‚ then you know’
Then comes Raven Porra, ‘a porter with the best head in town.’ Times Live was quick to note that not only is this description as unimaginative, uninspiring and lazy as the rest but Porra is a racial epithet for a person of Portuguese origin.
Ripe Redhead used to be ‘Ginger Pikey’, another racist term for Romani people.
Can we stop with the ‘sex sells’ trope already?
There is never a right time to market your brand around the hyper-sexualising and objectification of women, even if your company is peek boet culture, but to say the timing of a campaign framed around sexist archetypes is off is probably the understatement of 2018.
#MeToo and #TimesUp are global initiatives offering counter-narratives to the normalisation of rape culture and sexual violence in the workplace and beyond. The widespread, mainstream impact of these moments turned movements has seen a surge of survivors of all forms of micro-aggressions and abuse refusing to stay silent. For the first time since ever, accountability is being served on a silver platter – just look at the fall of Hollywood giants Harvey Weinstein and Bill Cosby, with others soon to follow. It’s called feminism, look it up.
That means marketing ‘faux-pas’ and playing ignorant to targeting the male gaze by using damaging stereotypes and fallacies about women and our bodies and how we use them is just not cutting it anymore.
Catch the sub, Vale Bru.
Thandi Guilherme, founder and writer of the platform Craft Geek, wrote on Instagram – ‘Vale Bru, you should be absolutely ashamed of yourselves. Crass, sexist, misogynistic branding and labelling’
Vale Bru, you should be absolutely ashamed of yourselves. Crass, sexist, misogynistic branding and labelling. "Moist, gushing IndiaN pale ale" (at least get the style name correct next time..) "The best head in town", "the Blonde all your friends have ha… https://t.co/Foit1f89sb pic.twitter.com/LiDiMww3Bj
— CraftGeek (@craftgeekSA) June 4, 2018
Guilherme added on her blog: ‘Sexy is not always sexist. Know the difference,’ was her advice “#Metoo, Rape culture and Trump’s ‘locker room’ misogyny is not funny. These are real problems that society is trying to deal with. Don’t go there.”
There is indeed a difference between being disruptive and using satire or humour to make a statement that leaves us less than comfortable and using the same marketing gimmicks your fathers used to sell beer in 1950.
This isn’t the first time beer’s been sexist
There’s also a disturbing history of alcoholic brands, particularly beer, feeding into rape culture by marketing liquor as the key to lowering inhibitions by endorsing access as an excuse to sexually harass and assault people.
Women’s bodies have always been a site of commodification – the phrase ‘sex sells’ didn’t come from nowhere, the idea of women and this one-dimensional sexuality we represent has been a marketing ploy since the dark ages.
Famous American beer company Bud Light came under fire for their #UpForWhatever in 2015 which included the date rape tagline ‘The perfect beer for removing “No” from your vocabulary for the night.’ There couldn’t be a clearer message of encouraging coercion and screwing consent.
What story do you tell with your brand?
— Kratom Swift (@sfslim) April 28, 2015
Mobcraft Beer, another American beer brand, asked fans to come up with a beer title in 2016 that ultimately slipped through the cracks of the screening process and won. The name of the winning beer? Date Grape – a pun so disgusting it needs no explanation.
When, for the love of god, will they learn?
So this isn’t the first time beer companies have promoted rape culture with reckless abandon under the guise of encouraging spontaneity. What’s more irritating is the recycled apologies that do nothing to own up to discrimination and even less discussion on how said brands plan to do better.
Vale Bru’s first reactive apology (*sigh*, there’s always more than one) was passive-aggressive and tried to shoulder the blame of a bad campaign on to ‘keyboard crusaders’ the catch-all phrase butt-hurt people who hate being called-out and derail the conversation by avoiding accountability.
Like this douche right here:
— Marius Herbst (@MariusHerbst1) June 7, 2018
The ‘apology’ on Instagram, which has since been deleted, wrote ‘Our attempt at making you‚ and ourselves‚ uncomfortable‚ worked. However‚ we never meant to belittle or degrade you.’
Very sad to see things like this in our industry. How anyone, in this day and age, can think that this kind of branding is acceptable boggles the mind.
I'd like to echo @LucyCorne 's challenge "Vale Bru, be brave: admit that your labels are tone deaf and do something about them"
— Little Wolf (@littlewolfbeer) June 5, 2018
And the winner for Tone Deafness in Branding goes to Vale Bru. Also winners in the Sexism, Misogeny and Almost The Worst Apology Ever categories. https://t.co/DeuwlsTBCA
— Gillian Rightford (@grightford) June 6, 2018
After the damage was done, the new apology says Vale Bru is taking ‘full accountability for our actions and we plan on making things right.’
‘We were insensitive and wrong, for which we apologise unreservedly,’
It still begs the question, though: if the narrative of the campaign was not to belittle or degrade, what was it meant to do? Only Vale Bru knows.
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