When I was in university, I once took a course called “Cults and Controversy.” On the first day of class, the professor immediately let us know that she wouldn’t be using the word “Cult” when describing these groups and she didn’t want us to either. Why? Because the word automatically triggers a scary and negative reaction, one that overshadows having a good understanding of what a “New Religious Movement” actually is.
I feel like there is a correlation here with the word “influencer”. First off, it sounds so god-damn arrogant; it instantly creates the desire to start eye rolling every time you hear it. It makes you think about those stories of over-privileged white girls demanding free stays in luxurious hotels. It makes you think of tacky bikini-focused images of cleavage in the sand holding the latest whatever product. And let’s face it, it makes you snicker.
If you are not already aware, beer “influencers” are a thing, and many of them could be considered “Beer Babes”. The type of imagery they produce doesn’t really fit into a mold and completely depends on the person who is creating the content. Some are overtly sexual, while other are simply images of them posing with beer.
What I’d like to do now is shift away from the word “Influencer” and use “Content Creator” as it’s a far better reflection of what we all do in beer media. Whether you’re a thought provoking blogger, or you’re someone who posts pictures of their body while holding a can of beer, it should be the same realm. If we can stop ourselves from categorizing one example as an “influencer” and one as something more recognized and respected, I think that would help to de-stigmatize what they do, and help display the value they actually have. And speaking of value, it shouldn’t be based on the type of content they produce, but the work itself. I think it’s okay to criticize an influencer if their content has no value, but not simply because they are showing off their bodies. That’s the difference between being critical and being a sexist or misogynist. And, unfortunately, it’s the latter that I have been seeing lately here in the Quebec beer scene.
What I want to specifically talk about today are those women in Quebec beer media that place themselves in the centre of the image; those that often (but certainly not always) use their face or body to promote beer or to just have fun. I think it’s important to mention that these women don’t produce the exact same types of content – what they post is as different from each other as my work is from theirs. The similarity between them rests with the fact that (1) they are women, (2) they themselves are sometimes the focus of the images they post, (3) sometimes these images are “sexy” or “glamorous”, and (4) many of them are being being bullied and belittled by the very community that they celebrate and dedicate countless hours to each week.
About a month ago, two separate local content creators that fall within what I outline above (beer babe?) worked closely with two different breweries to release collaborative beers. Neither knew the other was doing it, it just coincidentally occurred the same week. What ensued within a local “beer meme” Facebook group was countless memes that attacked these ladies. What I discovered is that many individuals in the beer scene here are very comfortable belittling, criticizing, and devaluing the content these women produce. They do so by applying what I think is a misguided notion that these women are perpetuating an archaic and sexist model of “sexy beer girl”. Simply put, if they are showing off their bodies to promote beer, they are no better than the half-naked Budweiser ads we have all seen.
To be fair, I am certainly simplifying their position, and they are not here to defend themselves, but at the end of the day many (and I mean many) men and women were more than comfortable shaming these content creators for using their bodies in a way that they simply didn’t agree with. I was honestly flabbergasted that in 2021, educated and relatively progressive people thought it was perfectly fine dictating what a woman should or should not do with her body. They went to great lengths to defend their position on what I see as a pretty straightforward contradiction to contemporary feminism.
Separate from the problematic position above, what I also find ignorant and extremely shortsighted is the fact that these ladies are delivering (mostly unpaid) celebratory Quebec beer content to tens of thousands of people across the world on a daily basis. If you think this industry is too male focused, why the hell are you trying to silence the people who are speaking to a potentially new demographic?
God forbid people that aren’t bearded white men enjoy craft beer, too…
An article by Noah Forrest