Manhood=Beer. Women, take note.

7 Sep

In the discourse over the nature of men and women there emerges a popular theme: Men and women are two different creatures.

We have various forms of media and social vehicles telling us this; movies , books (“Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus”), our friends (“ugh, men” and “women, who needs um?”), music, and of course, commercials. Commercials are great (from an analysist point of view) because they’re meant to convey a lot in a short time frame. They often employ social short-hand to this end that tells a sociological observer a lot about the target audience.

For me, there are few things as reflective of men’s cultural identity than beer commercials. Beer commercials reflect and reinforce men’s identity as men, their relationship to women, to other men and to the world around them. In this instance I’m talking about straight men as the assumed epitome of manhood but I believe that gay men are also influenced greatly by these images.

The fact that these beer commercials are almost all marketed to men reveals a certain sociological awareness on the part of beer marketing companies: they must realize the phallocentric lens women see themselves through and therefore market to men knowing that it will reach women as well. That is, they’re aware that women are taught to see themselves and other women through the eyes of men. Furthermore, the superior value attached to “manhood” rather than “femininity” in this culture results in a constant attempt to “be one of the guys”, to be “the cool girl” (the one that plays video games, watches football and drinks beer yet remains a “woman” in certain ways).

For example, in the following Miller Lite video women are warned not to be the party poopers who look down on objectification but to, taking a cue from Pam Anderson, join in on the bikini-clad pillow fight of life (for the sexual gaze of men, of course).

Then we have the “Man Up” commercials in which, in a rarely seen twist, women are policing men’s gender performance, encouraging them to reject signs of femininity and embrace their man-ness (the ideal) with beer and pants:

In this example we have a clear distinction between the joys/worlds of men and women (also notice the skin tones of those in the commercial)

(Edit: I read a comment about my post on a forum pointing out that the ad is not an American one and therefore should not have to reflect American demographics. This is fair and true. And I was sloppy in my analysis of this ad. But I do retain the same criticism for American ads that feature entirely white characters):

This one I found incredibly offensive.

I only sleep with someone if they claim to like Celine Dion, not Peter Cetera. Who the hell is Peter Cetera?

This commercial not only offends my musical tastes (as a ticket-to-Lillith-Fair-carrying woman, of course) but also marks women as trophies to be collected (or displayed demurely on someone’s wall) and as the ultimate object to obtain in order to be a true man or “the man”.

And finally this one is my favorite. How dare Heineken imply that women do not also have a telepathic connection to quality beer.

Throughout all the commercials you may notice that the racial make up of the majority of them are white. The few exceptions involve black men (perhaps referencing conceptions of black men as sexually potent) but never a woman of color as the sexual object. White, relatively skinny but large breasted women remain the ideal and white men remain the normative eyes through which we see the (commercial) world.


3 Responses to “Manhood=Beer. Women, take note.”

  1. Tal September 9, 2010 at 8:33 pm #

    I think you could easily write a whole book about this topic. In addition to the media, there are so many milestones in a man’s life relating to beer that reinforce the “beer = manhood” concept, starting with high school and college parties — “cool” = doing keg stands and “uncool” = telling your buddies no thanks, I’ve already had enough to drink tonight, or no thanks, I don’t like the taste of shitty cheap beer and I’d rather drink a margarita. The more beer you drink, the more manly you are, and puking into a toilet or passing out on a floor provides only positive self-reinforcement as to how committed you are to the beer cause. The same expectations don’t apply to women, who can say no thanks to a beer without worrying about their friends calling them a pussy or a telling them to “stop being such a girl.”

    • ksemnk September 9, 2010 at 11:58 pm #

      Absolutely, Tal. Great point, with sex and beer there is definitely more verbal social pressure to have more. Whereas I think women are treated more gently in this respect.

      It’s also interesting that the pejoratives take such an obvious reflection of the gender connection: “Stop being a girl. Drink more beer” (to be a man).

  2. Eddie Van Helsing September 11, 2010 at 6:13 am #

    Real men don’t drink Miller or Budweiser anyway. Real men would rather drink horse piss fresh from the horse instead of the diluted, adulterated greywater that corporations like Miller and Anheiser-Busch foist upon an ignorant public as beer.

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