Something a bit different today: the fight against sexist and objectifying beer labels and advertising has been on-going for years. I have seen a lot of back and forth on various social media platforms and it seems that there is still confusion for some about why this branding is harmful. In that vein, I’ve put together a bibliography of sources that I have encountered in my personal examination of the issue thus far.
*Caveat* This list is far from perfect or complete, as are these sources. There are certainly flaws within these studies: for example the examination of only two genders, lack of consideration of other intersections e.g. race, geographical location, or class. Inclusion on this list does not mean I whole-heartedly accept the either hypothesis or conclusions of these studies, it doesn’t meant the opposite either. There are points and language I disagree with (for example, some of these are decades old, but on this list to demonstrate that this idea is not new). This, however, is typical. Also, some of these sources will disagree with each other. I have tried to avoid editorializing in my summaries. I hope to add to this bibliography so if you have any suggestions of more sources to add, please send them on. This list is here to provide you with various arguments on the issues surrounding the use of sexist or objectifying imagery in branding, but also those discussions around beer and gender in general.
Content Warning: Some of these will deal with topics like rape, domestic violence, self-harm and other potentially traumatic topics.
So without further ado, and in no particular order, the sources:
- Christine C. Iijima Hall and Matthew J. Crum, ‘Women and “body-isms” in television beer commercials’ in Sex Roles Vol. 31, No. 516 (1994).
This focus of the research is the portrayals of women and men in beer commercials. At the time of its publication, for example, it concluded that while men appear twice as often in these ads, women were typically depicted with a focus on their bodies, not faces. Men are depicted in the opposite way. The researchers examined the broader impacts of these portrayals in relation to alcohol and society.
- Amanda Zimmerman, John Dahlberg, The Sexual Objectification of Women in Advertising: A Contemporary Cultural Perspective in Journal of Advertising Research Vo. 48 No. 1 (March, 2008), pp.21-38.
This study investigated the changing attitudes of young women to objectification in branding. Comparing their examination of college-aged young women to that in 1991 the researchers concluded that the attitudes of women, and particularly young women, towards sexual objectification in marketing were shifting to becoming less offended, though perhaps not for the better. It is important to note this study group was composed of 94 undergraduates from a very specific cultural and socio-economic group.
- William M. O’Barr, ‘Sex and Advertising’, in Advertising and Society Review, Vol. 12, Issue 2 (2011).
This article provides a basic overview of the history of using sex in advertising and also its efficacy utilizing scholarly sources. It also considers the variety of ways in which advertisers use sex as a way to sell their products, including humour. Content warning as there are many explicit, including nude, advertisements used as examples for O’Barr’s arguments, some which may be offensive to viewers.
- Kim Sheehan, ‘Chapter 7: Gender and Advertising: How Gender Shapes Meaning’ in Controversies in Contemporary Advertising (Thousand Oaks, 2004), pp. 89-111.
This chapter evaluates the ways in which women and men are depicted in advertisements and the impact this has on society and gender roles. Importantly, it also considers the ways in which men and women might perceive advertisements differently. For example, with relation to the purpose or meaning of an advertisement: ‘Men look directly at the primary message of a given advertisement (e.g. “buy this beer”). Women not only evaluate the primary message of a given advertisement, but they also pick up on multiple clues from the message and weave together threads to intuit and infer the inner meaning of the message (e.g. “buy this beer and you will be popular and trendy”)’.
- Debbie Ging, ‘A Manual for Masculinity? The Consumption and Use of mediated images of masculinity among teenage boys in Ireland’; and Irish Journal of Sociology, (December 1, 2005).
From the Abstract: ‘This paper discusses the findings of a quantitative and qualitative investigation into Irish male teenagers’ consumption and reception of a broad range of media texts and discusses these findings in relation to the relevant literature. It points to the shortcomings of both ‘hypodermic needle’ theories, which claim direct media influence, and of some active audience theories, which posit consumers as impervious to ideological influence. Contrary to popular discourses which frame the media as an autonomous, regressive force that lags behind a more progressive reality, the findings presented here suggest that mediated fictions are part of wider ‘gender scripts’ (Nixon, 1996) that both inform and are informed by the social structures within which (male) viewers are immersed’.
- E. Rhoades, D.H. Jernigan, ‘Risky messages in alcohol advertising, 2003-2007: results from content analysis’ in Journal of Adolescent Health Vol. 52 No. 1 (January, 2013), 116-21
The study consisted of an examination of some 1,261 ads across 11 U.S. magazines with ‘disproportionately youthful readerships’, in the time frame of 2003-2007. They found that a full 25% had ‘content pertaining to risk, sexism, or sexual activity’ and this was concentrated in beer and liquor ads.
- Michael A. Messner and Jeffery Montez de Oca, ‘The Male Consumer as Loser: Beer and Liquor Ads in Mega Sports Media Events’, in Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, Vol. 30, No. 3, (2005)
This study examines the relationship between alcohol, sports, and ‘hegemonic masculinity’. It analysed the role of advertising in selling a conception of masculinity and masculine identity and the interplay between this and sport. Furthermore it considers the broader societal impact of these forms of masculinity on men and women.
- Karen Cruz, ‘Writing against Food-Based Aesthetics of Objectification: The Work of Judith Ortiz Cofer’ in Meredith E. Abarca, Consuelo Carr Salas (eds.) Latin@s’ Presence in the Food Industry: Changing How We Think About Food, pp. 185-202.
This chapter considers the ways in which racist and sexist representations permeate cultural imagery, especially how it relates to food. Excerpt: ‘The patriarchal cultural tradition, specifically its system of representation that intimately associates women with comestibles, is a system of practices that frequently figures women metonymically and metaphorically as food. This results in a subsequent fetishizing that negates women’s status as fully human and reduces them to objects. This process of gendered fetishizing becomes even more pronounced when applied to women of color. One area that has and continues to make this association is, in fact, the advertising industry that makes Producing and Reproducing Identities strong use of the aesthetics of objectification…’
- Wani KA ‘Commodification of Women in Advertising: The Social Cost’ in Journal of Entreprenenurship and Organization Management Vol. 5 (2016)..
This paper considers the use and impact of the objectification of women in advertising. Specifically it considers how this ‘commodification’ of women has impacted the societal attitudes towards women. From abstract, ‘The paper also aims to highlight the arguments ethicists have given against using a woman’s body and desirability to sell various products. They also warn that this kind of portrayal can have serious repercussions for the society, as it strongly influences how women are being viewed’.
- Koukounas E, Djokic J, Miller P. ‘The effect of gender and alcohol placement in the processing of sexual intent’ in Drug and Alcohol Revue Vol. 34 (2015),194–201
From the Abstract: ‘One hundred and forty-seven sexually experienced male and female participants were shown a brief video of a social interaction between a man and woman depicted with a bottle of water or alcohol. Participants were then asked to rate the female target on sexual intent’. The study concluded that ‘men inferred greater sexual intent comparted to women in the female target when she was depicted with alcohol as compared to water’. Thus they found that, ‘The association of a woman with alcohol suggesting sexual intent could have potential implications for advertising practice which influences sexual beliefs toward women’.
- Antonia Abbey, Tina Zawacki and Pam McAuslan, Alcohol’s Effects on Sexual Perception, Journal of Studies on Alcohol, Vol. 61, No. 5 (2000), pp. 688–697.
This study found that men ‘perceived their female companions as behaving in a more sexual manner during their interaction and as being more sexually attracted to them than the women themselves reported. The target of gender of particpant interactions demonstrated that men realised they felt more sexual than their female partners did, yet they still overestimated women’s degree of sexual interest. This has be labelled a ‘misperception’ effect because men are misunderstanding women’s intentions…. This biased informational search also sets the stage for communication problems and in, extreme cases, sexual harassment or sexual assaults’.
- Lawrence A. Wenner and Steven J. Jackson (eds)., Sport, Beer, and Gender: Promotional Culture and Contemporary Social Life, (New York, 2009).
The book overall considers the links between sports, beer and gender as indicated in the title by examining various methods of beer advertising. See Chapter One, especially pages 22-23 for discussion on advertising and targeting of young men versus targeting of women. See also Chapter 7, specifically p. 147 for discussion on how the excuse of something being ‘funny’ is not sufficient to mitigate the impact or ideologies of sexism and homophobia in beer advertising.
Of particular interest is the Chapter ‘Beer and Belonging’ which investigates objectification of women in the beer industry. Page 57 gives a few recent examples of sexist marketing and the backlash. Furthermore, there is an examination of the use of ‘retro images’ as an attempt to target women and how ‘As Elizabeth Brunner (2013) suggests, the “visual evocation of cultural nostalgia” in such “patriarchal visual rhetoric” serves to contain women’s presence in leisure and consumption’.
- B. Harper, M. Tiggemann, The effect of thin ideal media images on women’s self-objectification, mood and body image, Sex Roles Vol. 58 Issue 9-10 (May, 2008), pp. 649-657.
Abstract: ‘Objectification theory (Fredrickson and Roberts, Psychology of Women Quarterly, 21, 173–206, 1997) contends that experiences of sexual objectification socialize women to engage in self-objectification. The present study used an experimental design to examine the effects of media images on self-objectification. A total of 90 Australian undergraduate women aged 18 to 35 were randomly allocated to view magazine advertisements featuring a thin woman, advertisements featuring a thin woman with at least one attractive man, or advertisements in which no people were featured. Participants who viewed advertisements featuring a thin-idealized woman reported greater state self-objectification, weight-related appearance anxiety, negative mood, and body dissatisfaction than participants who viewed product control advertisements. The results demonstrate that self-objectification can be stimulated in women without explicitly focusing attention on their own bodies.’
- R. Gill, Empowerment/sexism: Figuring Female Sexual Agency in Contemporary Advertising (Feminism and Psychology (2008).
From the Abstract: ‘Drawing on accounts of the incorporation or recuperation of feminist ideas in advertising, the article takes a critical approach to these representations, examining their exclusions, their constructions of gender relations and heteronormativity, and the way power is figured within them. A feminist poststructuralist approach is used to interrogate the way in which `sexual agency’ becomes a form of regulation in these adverts that requires the re-moulding of feminine subjectivity to fit the current postfeminist, neoliberal moment in which young women should not only be beautiful but sexy, sexually knowledgeable/practised and always “up for it”’.
- Alison J. Towns, Christy Parker, Phillip Chase, Constructions of Masculinity in Alcohol Advertising: Implications for the Prevention of Domestic Violence in Addiction Research and Theory(2012)
This research examines the ways in which alcohol advertising may reinforce conceptions of toxic forms of masculinity and how this may in turn impact domestic violence. From the Abstract: ‘…we investigate the literature on alcohol advertising to determine the constructions of masculinity that are portrayed in advertisements particularly those targeting young men. We identify those constructions of masculinity and gender relations that are problematic for healthy, egalitarian, intimate heterosexual relationships and that are therefore problematic for the prevention of domestic violence’.
- Robin Anderson, The Thrill is Gone: Advertising, Gender Representation, and the Loss of Desire, in Sex and Money: Feminism and Political Economy in the Media (Minneapolis,2002), pp. 223-239.
This chapter examines what Anderson argued to be ads that are ‘increasingly focused on sexuality, yet done with tone wholly devoid of affect. Looking at these images one might correctly observe that after almost a hundred yers of selling sex, the thrill seems to be gone’. Anderson argued that selling sex for profit has hit a ‘dead end’. This chapter explores her arguments surrounding this thesis.
- Elizabeth Robinson, An Impact Study of Women in US Super Bowl Beer Commercials 2011-2015, (May, 2016).
As the title of the study indicates, this was an examination of Super Bowl ads. From the Abstract: ‘The objectives of this study are to: (1) determine the extent to which females are targeted as potential consumers in beer advertising aired during Super Bowl broadcasts from 2011-2015; (2) examine the representations of men and women in these commercials; and (3) understand the impact that these beer commercials had on consumers in terms of how the content applied to them and whether they felt compelled to buy or drink the advertised beer’.
- Amanda Kappele, A Study of Advertising: The Role of Gender Representations on Craft Beer Labels (MA Thesis, University of Missouri- Columbia, 2015).
From the Abstract: ‘This study critically examines the gender representations presented on craft beer labels available at the International Tap House in Columbia, Missouri. These representations were then compared to consumer interactions with female wait staff at the International Tap House. Developed on a foundation existing of literature that addresses and problematizes the gender representations included in traditional media and advertisements for beer labels, this critical discourse analysis is informed by feminist standpoint theory. Meaning, the researcher’s social location and lived experiences in the beer industry provide context for understanding how the gender representations on craft beer labels correlate with discourse within the industry’.
- William H. George, Mary P. McAfee, ‘The Effects of Gender and Drinking Experience on Alcohol Expectancies About self and male versus female other’, in Social Behaviour and Personality, Vol. 15 No. 2 (1987), pp. 133-144.
While this study is older, the focus of this paper is on two questionaire studies which ‘evaluated the effects of gender and drinking experiences of dose-related alcohol expectancies’. As a result of their findings, the researchers postulated that ‘Differentiated expectancies regarding alcohol’s effects on male versus female drinkers may contribute to understanding cross-gender altercations such as rape and domestic violence that are frequently associated with drinking’.