Category Archives: Feminism

Newcastle Beer Censors “Unattractive” Women

As far as beer commercials are concerned, women might as well be blow-up sex dolls — as long as they’re pretty dolls. But in what looks (at first) like a win for feminism, Newcastle Brown Ale is running a TV commercial featuring a female brewmaster. The commercial goes on and on about her skilled hands, showing them sifting through barley and such. But wait for the punchline:

“Why do we focus so much on our brewmaster’s hands? Because she’s not an attractive woman.”

Yes, beer companies aren’t known for subtlety, but come on. It almost makes me nostalgic for the days when they just showed pretty women but didn’t come out and say “we won’t even look at any female who doesn’t make us pitch a tent.”

I may be giving the fraternity of beer and advertising executives too much credit here, but maybe they are feeling threatened by the growing number of successful female professionals (there is one in their midst: they employ a female brewmaster) and are lashing out with a reminder that however successful, talented, or smart we are, to them we are still no more than sex dolls.

I call for a truce in the war on Rush Limbaugh’s advertisers just long enough to require Newcastle to advertise only on his show. They deserve each other. Currently, and inexplicably, the commercial is running on Jon Stewart’s “The Daily Show.” To give them a shout-out about the ad, call The Daily Show at 212.468.1700. (They suggested I call Comedy Central Viewer Services at 212.767.8642, but that number got me to a full voicemail box.)

Then take a moment to let Newcastle (owned by Heineken) know how you feel. I called customer service at 1.877.522.4577. You can also email the company at

UPDATE: Heineken’s Senior Director of Corporate Communications, Tara Carraro, contacted me after reading this post on She said that Newcastle’s intent was to call out the “BS” in “typical beer ads that only show attractive women.” The company thought it clear that the hands of the actor playing the brewmaster in the commercial were male, and therefore clear that the comment about the brewmaster not being “an attractive woman” was tongue-in-cheek.

The problem with this explanation is that, as Ms. Carraro confirmed, the script refers to the brewmaster as “she.” The line “she’s not an attractive woman” makes no sense if the brewmaster is male. It does make sense that the unattractive woman has mannish hands like those in the ad.

I applaud the company’s prompt response to my post and the message Ms. Carraro says Newcastle meant to send. But they didn’t send that message. Changing one pronoun in the narration would make a world of difference; otherwise, the commercial should be pulled. As it stands it is not a wry commentary on beer commercials’ blatant sexism but an example of it.

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Pole-Dancing and the Link Between Sexiness and Self-Esteem

The pole-dancing fitness craze has hit my gym, planting one more stumbling block on the road to healthy body images for local women.

Learning to dance like strippers is just one more way women and girls succumb to the pressure to be sexually desirable. It is hard to

underestimate how powerful this pressure is in our society, and how tightly it pegs many girls’ and women’s self-esteem to their perceived sexiness. Girls record images of themselves stripteasing and send them to boys (who often broadcast them) just for “the validation of getting seen as sexy.” Writing in Jezebel, gender studies professor Hugo Schwyzer quotes experts on the phenomenon, who explain that teen girls “just want to be affirmed as hot.” (Tongue in cheek, The Huffington Post described a pole dancing doll — yes, really — as having “low self esteem.”)

Sadly the same is true for many adult women. They don’t exercise just to look and feel healthy; they want to look and feel sexy. So they learn to dance like strippers, whom men pay to be sexy. In one example of the connection between trying to look sexy and self-esteem, Rihanna found that “the more flesh she bared the more confident she became.” Kate Hudson has recommended pole-dancing to women “because it’s great for your self-esteem.”

I don’t dispute that pole-dancing could be a great workout, and I don’t think “women should be ashamed of their bodies or their sexuality.” The problem is when women consider their sexuality their most important asset: the sexier men think they are, the more valuable women believe they are. The pole-dancing trend reinforces this association. Exercise can be emotionally empowering, but not when it comes with the mental image of oneself slithering around the stage at a strip joint.



The Gender Pay Gap Got Smaller – and That’s A Bad Thing

The pay gap between women and men shrank by 1% in 2011 – that’s the good news. The bad news: it’s not because women’s pay increased – it dropped. But men’s pay dropped more. Lowering everyone’s earning power to close the gender gap echoes the story of Midas, who wished for wealth and wound up turning everything he touched (like, say, food, or his daughter) into gold. The price for his wish was too high. Women’s wish is pay equality, but not at the price of lower incomes for everyone.

Actually, everyone should wish for pay equality. TIME Magazine’s latest cover story, “The Richer Sex,” announces that “by the next generation, more families will be supported by women than by men.” Put that together with the pay gap and you find more families getting by on less income than before. It behooves men and children, as well as women, for employers to pay women what they pay men.

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