Masculinity on the rocks: why we love that alcohol brands are now marketing stiff drinks to women

Belvedere and Janelle Monáe share vision of  ‘A Beautiful Future’ for the premium vodka's new bottle design
Belvedere and Janelle Monáe share vision of ‘A Beautiful Future’ for the premium vodka's new bottle design

Gone are those days when women whose social drink of choice was beer were a polarising topic. On one hand, they were deemed "cool girls", heralded as the carefree type who were also most likely to be "one of the boys". 

And on the other hand, if a woman enjoys beer, she may be considered "unladylike" by sexism's standards. You might remember a Twitter debate with radio personality Dineo Ranaka at the center of it last year when she decided to enjoy a cold one at the end of a long day.

However, Castle Lite was quick to slice up the social media lemons thrown at women like Dineo, as they addressed the decades long non-inclusive marketing of beer, pledging to "do better and be more inclusive in their advertising around beer drinking."

Of course, one ad campaign can't band-aid the other issues associated with alcohol consumption in our country, but we can give credit where it's due - kind of like an "A for effort" of sorts.

READ MORE: Castle Lite issued an apology to women – are we buying it?

I digress.

Anyway, wine, champagne, saccharine-soaked cocktails and ciders have always been positioned as feminine drinks by both the media and Hollywood both explicitly and implicitly. You need only think of what the characters on Sex and the City drank on their seemingly daily lunches where they either gushed over or lamented the actions of men in their lives. 

The fact that "ladies' night" specials at restaurants are often just based on their cocktail menus also speaks to gender socialisation and stereotypical advertising industry's enduring blemishes on society's fabric of perception. 

READ MORE: Why the advertising industry should cheer new rules on gender stereotypes

But we're seeing a gradual shift in the way alcohol brands are aligning themselves with - and marketing to - women and over time, it may change archaic perceptions of women's beverages of choice. 

In the greater scheme of things, women drinking beer, whisky, cognac or any other 'manly' social lubricant is actually a non-issue. It's such a non-issue that there are women who are authorities in brewing and the alcohol industry at large. 

With celebrities such as Bonang Matheba and Khanyi Mbau launching their own MCC and gin brands, SA welcoming it's first woman draught master Amanda Xulu, and Moët & Chandon's South Africa’s Best Young Sommelier being a woman this year, we can comfortably say that the boy's club is getting generously dashed with shots of femininity. 

READ MORE: SA's first female Draught Master, Amanda Xulu on how she's dominating the beer industry 

Another woman who comes to mind in this conversation is Georgie Bell - a global malts ambassador for Barcadi. Georgie has built up an enviable reputation in the whisky industry. It was a desire for a deeper understanding of whisky that inspired her to enrol herself for a diploma in distillation at the Institute of Brewing and Distilling, where she achieved the highest mark globally.  

Now as a crucial member of the Barcadi team, Georgie has a key role in winning over a new generation of whisky drinkers - a lot of whom are women that you'll probably find under the #whiskylasses hashtag on Instagram - around the world with a strong lineup of the brand's single malt Scotch whiskies, including Craigellachie which recently hit SA's shores

women who drink beer

Premium vodka Belvedere's new partnership with self-professed Django Jane and Grammy award-winning artist Janelle Monáe is another example of how alcohol brands are appealing to their women consumers and not using them as mere sexualised props for the thirsty male gaze. 

Belvedere's new partnership with the star encourages consumers to imagine another view, one of opportunity and empowerment termed “A Beautiful Future”. The narrative for “A Beautiful Future” builds on the programme which kicked off last year when Belvedere and Monáe hosted a brunch for Monáe’s grassroots movement, Fem the Future, dedicated to advancing awareness and opportunities for women - and those who identify as women - through music, arts, mentorship and education. Following this, a global social media campaign asked consumers to define what “A Beautiful Future” looks like to them. 

women who drink beer

Responses included optimistic messages of diversity, self-expression, inclusion and empowerment. In a series of co-created content, Janelle read aloud a selection of these inspiring posts, calling for a beautiful future to start now. 

“My collaboration with Belvedere is about a topic that’s very close to my heart - creating a future - A Beautiful Future - where people of all walks of life feel comfortable expressing themselves; where those who are typically dismissed feel included and heard,” says Janelle. 

And that essentially captures the sentiment of the views expressed here - it's mere self-expression and whatever a woman chooses to drink says as much about her as her favourite flavour of Lay's chips. Socially, it's never been a gendered decision.

However, decades of alcohol marketing have made it appear as such and up until now, we imbibed the propaganda without questioning. 

Thank goodness femininity isn't fragile, though - otherwise we'd be ordering whisky with the words "for women" printed across the bottle the same way you can get tissues "for men" at your nearest Dis-Chem or Clicks. 

Anyway, here's to more 'stiff drink' ad campaigns (featuring women marketing to us) that will leave us pleasantly shaken rather than stirred. 

Images: Supplied on behalf of Craigellachie and Belvedere. 

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