Beer Babe

A couple weeks ago, as Al and I were watching SNL's Weekend Update on TiVo, Tina Fey made a joke about something that's been on my mind for years (and that I wrote a little rant about back in 1991): that the message Super Bowl ads send to us is that "girls are sluts for beer." (Of course, it's not just ads run during the Super Bowl—beer ads run year-round have this message.) Note that Tina made this joke *before* all the brouhaha over Janet's right breast. At the time, I exclaimed, "THANK YOU!" and mentioned the little rant —and the incident that precipitated it—to Al.

A couple days ago, while cleaning out some old files, I found the rant, written back in the days before blogs (before the web, even), when I was 23 and living in Arlington, VA. I'm glad I wrote it down, even if the only thing I could do with it at the time was put it in a file drawer. Apologies in advance for the stilted style and shifting verb tenses.

I think I have always found the average beer commercial slightly irritating. Young men bring out the beer, and sexy, scantily-clad females come out of the woodwork to join the party. Beer, the commercials would have us believe, is to women what the bell was to Pavlov's dog: Tap the keg, and large-chested women pop up, drooling.

Disgusting, stupid, and degrading, maybe, but only slightly irritating because I couldn't imagine that anyone could take these commercials seriously. I realize sex is used to sell everything these days... and until last Thursday, I believed the guys these ads were targeted at realized it too.

On Thanksgiving Day, I decided to go see a movie. The theater is just down the street, so I walked. As I was passing through the parking lot of the public park behind my building, I came upon a group of young males gathered around a car with the stereo blaring. One of them saw me coming, and alerted his buddies.

"Hey, want a beer?" a tall guy with sunglasses and a bandana around his head offered as I drew closer.

"No, thank you," I said politely, smiling.

"Come on, I'll get you a cup."

"No, thanks." I kept walking.

"Hey," he shouted after me, "It's Thanksgiving Day, honey!" I kept walking. "I've got a frigging keg here! Help me out!"

"Man," another guy muttered, loudly enough for me to hear, "She won't even take free beer!"

I couldn't believe it. Did they think the fact that they had a keg with them made them more attractive? Did they think I was a Beer Bimbo, that I would come running when they waved a tap in front of my face? If I had trotted toward them in a bikini, my heaving chest nearly bouncing off my chin and my long blond hair flowing out behind me, with sweat and sand clinging to my body in all the right places, I could have understood their mistake. Instead, I was marching purposefully toward the theater, dressed all in black, wearing a leather biker jacket and giant Herman Munster shoes. My hair, rather than being long and flowing, was Marine Corps short. I might have been mistaken for the Terminator, but a Beer Bimbo? Never.

And yet these guys were absolutely incredulous that I could so blithely turn down their company—and worse, their free beer. Could these guys have taken seriously the message that the beer commercials purvey? It seems that not only had they taken this message seriously—they'd bought it hook, line, and sinker. Not want free beer? She must not be normal.

"Hey, moose girl, where you going?" yet another young male shouted after me.

"Come on, bitch! It's free beer!"

I walked faster, a little frightened—and a little startled by how fast an invitation had turned to abuse. Scarier still is that while these young men seem to have gotten the message the beer companies are sending, they've failed to get a more important message—one that has been showing up in news articles, TV dramas, movies, courtrooms... in short, *between* the commercials—that No, no matter how politely uttered, *still* means No.

Posted by Lori in random at 1:09 PM on February 10, 2004