Did you get a chance to see the Old Milwaukee billboards around Hamilton? If not don’t worry, they showed the same tired examples of sexism and misogyny. Fifties style pin up girls lazing about beer cans beside text that declared “Free Girl With Every Can.”
Anita from Feminist Frequency made a great video about this phenomenon – Retro Sexism and Uber Ironic Advertising:
“Advertisers must believe that the use of irony distances themselves from male chauvinism but that isn’t the case. While we think we are in on the joke, the reality is they aren’t making fun of or pointing out sexism, they’re doing it.”
Old Milwaukee knows what they are doing is sexist. They pulled stuff like this in the past. For example the Swedish Bikini Team ads of 1991.
Even though their jobs were at stake, a group of female employees filed a lawsuit against Stroh, claiming that the ads encouraged sexual harassment. Stroh responded by dropping the ads. This legacy continues as Pabst, another declining firm and the current owner of Old Milwaukee, revived the Swedish Bikini Team to market Old Milwaukee in 2005.
Congratulations to those employees for making the connection that these sorts of ads contribute to a culture where objectifying women is OK.
This treatment of women as objects that come free with beer is not by accident. I appreciate the efforts of feminists in Hamilton, Peterborough and Kingston but worry because of how fast Old Milwaukee offered to take the billboards down (On Monday, July 8th the company stated that they would have them down in a week or ten days) that they are trying to generate this sort of controversy to get free advertising.
And unfortunately a news piece like this translates to free advertising:
Ads don’t happen by accident. They are carefully thought out and every detail pored over, discussed and focus grouped. The whole intent of ads is to make money. Plus Old Milwaukee has had twenty years to learn what sexism is!
Interestingly Tremblay and Tremblay make an argument in Brewing: Games Firms Play that there’s a link between hard times and sexist ads:
More recently, brewers under financial stress have resorted to the so-called “beer-n-babes” advertising campaigns.37 In fact, one could argue that the use of sexually provocative ads is an indicator that a brewer is under financial stress.
Unfortunately, taking down the ads are not enough. We need to send a clear message to this company that their long history of sexism and misogyny will not be tolerated. Don’t buy their beer or any Pabst Blue Ribbon or Sleeman (their Canadian brewer) product. If you’re at a bbq or cottage this summer and someone brings anything made by Pabst Blue Ribbon or Sleeman explain to them as kindly as you can why you won’t drink their beer and why they shouldn’t buy it.
I suggest that the boycott continue until the Pabst company not only take down some severely offensive ads but until they show us that they have listened to feminists and their employees over the last twenty years and they can put forward a message that shows women as full and complete members of our community.
Boycotts work because companies like these are interested in making money. If we can show them that there is no money in degrading women and treating them as objects – then we have done be incredibly powerful work!