Monday 5 July 2010

Women Better Beer Tasters

I got sent this link the other day about women being better beer tasters than men, it's something that has come up quite a lot over the years and there was some research on more women being supertasters a number of years ago.

It also reminded me of an article that I wrote for Reuters on International Women's Day that was well received at the time and contains some of the themes in it I'm going to be touching on again in another up-coming article about women in the industry.

It's very much my opinion that women are often toxic towards other women in all walks of life, and it's something I work very hard on myself as I will admit that, as I've got a fairly unique territory, my knee jerk reaction is often to jealously guard it - which I then stop myself doing unless it's justified.

I'll be interested to see what you think, whether you've seen this kind of behaviour before or whether you've experienced something similar as a guy.

Independent Women?

I’ve been thinking a lot about the question of whether we still need an International Women’s Day nearly a century on from its founding.

The simple answer is yes, we do, but that spawns the more complicated query of why do we still need IWD nearly 100 years on, and here’s what I think are, at least some of, the reasons why.

My first is a personal one, and it’s about the reaction I get when I tell people I write about beer for a living and their response is almost always something along the lines of ‘but you’re a woman’. It’s not normally nasty, or malicious, more unthinking and instinctive, and I’d really like to see that change.

Whilst I’ll freely admit there are plenty of upsides to being a woman in man’s world; the major one being that I get spoiled a lot when I go and visit breweries, or at industry events, but if I didn’t have the knowledge behind the eyelashes, or the respect of people in the industry, I wouldn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of continuing to work.

And whilst I would like to think that just proving my ability to absorb knowledge about, or have a great instinct for, beer, I also make sure I’m not shy about getting my hands dirty either.

Spending time getting stuck into the coal face of brewing has not only been massively enriching to my knowledge of beer, it’s also gained me some respect on unexpected fronts. But I’m also introspective enough to know that, on some level, it is my way of proving I am one of the boys and that I’ll don my wellies with the best of them.

And whilst this is something I work very hard to eradicate in myself, I see a far worse malaise in today’s young women as they desperately seek male approbation through hyper-sexual behaviour.

How has it come to pass in our supposed post-feminist society that young women have embraced sexual aggression in place of sexual liberation?

How did we get to place where it’s okay for the Playboy-brand, or sexually suggestive slogans, to be seen emblazoned across little girls’ chests on a regular basis but we won’t let teenagers in pubs? Or that it’s okay for teenagers to be exposed to images in the media that just 10 years ago would have been consigned to the top shelf but that they can’t have one glass of low ABV beer or watered down wine with dinner without the fear of social services kicking the door in?

Personally I think part of this is because it’s so difficult for families to spend social norming time outside of rigidly prescribed, often costly, environments.

Without consistent normalisation into society and seeing real people rather than the media airbrushed images is it any surprise girls as young as nine are being diagnosed with eating disorders? Or that young women are so confused about the rights and wrongs of society that one in three of them in a recent survey by Engender, a women’s rights group, believe that it’s okay to be forced into sex in some circumstances? After all, it happens on Hollyoaks so it must be real, right?

And don’t even start me on music videos; I won’t let my niece or nephew watch MTV when they are over, let alone listen to songs from so-called independent women like Beyonce exhorting you to watch her on your videophone...

And do you know what the worst thing is about all this and why I think International Women’s Day is still so incredibly important? The stresses and pressures of trying to bow to society’s distorted image of success is making us women toxic towards our own sex, we're the first to sabotage or decry the success of others and, many of us, eagerly lap up any glossy magazine that shows you a celebrity with cellulite and, distressingly, we tend to carry that over to our own working and personal lives too.

If International Women’s Day does nothing else, I hope it gives women all over the world pause for thought about how they conduct themselves and how they in turn can affect the conduct of others – because that’s the kind of world I want the next generation of women to grow up in, I hope you do too.

Because I really don’t want to believe that the next generation will grow up to believe that a liberated self-sufficient woman means being able to balance in your Laboutins whilst performing a back-alley sex-act on a minor celebrity then negotiating a newspaper deal to tell all about whilst having all expression in your face botoxed out.

Or perhaps I need to just stick to writing about beer, what do you think?


Cooking Lager said...

I take it you're not interested in a beer column in Nuts magazine?

Melissa Cole said...

I've worked with Loaded before, change from the inside out Cookie!

Cooking Lager said...

Post a link to the photos!, had we known we have voted you "high street honey"

Neville Grundy said...

I think your posting is relevant both in itself and in connection with beer. It's a big issue and you make some good points about sexualisation of children as compared to alcohol age restrictions. Beer, like football, is still largely a masculine preserve, and I get the impression that some people like it that way: sexist pump clips and beer names are obviously designed to appeal to lad culture. They put me off (there are some beers I haven't tried because of the names), so it's safe to assume that they're unlikely to entice women to try real ales for the first time.

International Women's Day remains necessary in a world in which mass rape is a tool of war and control, where female mutilation takes place, where women are murdered for reasons of so-called 'honour', where women are denied education because of their gender.

The UN takes the matter seriously enough to have set up a new agency to promote the rights of women and girls around the world. So it would seem that your posting is right up to the moment and very pertinent.

Ed said...

You've got to keep International Women's Day, I'm sure one of the Russian revolutions kicked off after an International Women's Day demonstration.

Koops said...

Great article, Melissa. Thank you.

Leah Mraz said...

I'll raise a pint to that. :)

Krups beertender accessories said...

And I'm raising my glass to you. :) Interesting article huh