Do I want to hire a “beer wench”? No thanks.

beer
Wench: “a young woman who is a servant” (Online dictionary).

Or, as the Urban Dictionary puts it: “a dirty pirate hooker.”

Wench is a word you would think most businesses would try to avoid using. Most, you would hope, would be aware of both its literal (servant) and implied (prostitute) meaning.

But it is exactly this word that the tactfully titled website www.beerbitches.co.uk uses to describe the girls you can “hire” for their Oktoberfest themed parties. “Beer wenches for all occasions” they promise.

Nice huh.

Well one such occasion that has deemed it appropriate to hire some “Bavarian wenches” is the London Oktoberfest. The event which advertises itself as an opportunity to “let the entire family experience Bavarian culture” also has working the doors “hot Bavarian wenches”.

Apparently they see no antagonism in ethos there.

Interestingly, in the “family friendly” Oktoberfest they make no mention of the girls official title – beer bitches (definition of bitch given as “a malicious, spiteful, or coarse woman”). I wonder why?

To be abundantly clear, I take no issue with the girls working for beer bitches – if they want to make a bit of money and manage to have some fun at the same time then good on them. What I take issue with are companies like “Beer bitches” and the overt sexism they exude that helps perpetuate sexism both within the beer industry and in society as a whole.

The Every Day Sexism project has chronicled experiences of ordinary men and women who suffer sexist comments or actions through the day. One of these testimonies published in the Daily Telegraph reads:

I was on the bus telling my friend about the housework I have to do when I get home (I’m a young carer) and the man a couple of seats behind me said: “She’s perfect wench material.”

Another from the Telegraph reads:

“In one day I’ve been called a “frigid bitch” and a “dirty whore”.”

To think that you can run a business called “Beer bitches” that hires “wenches” specifically for men (they state they are for “Gents Events”) and that this might not be reinforcing some deep-rooted sexism within our society is extraordinary. But, that is essentially what Lisa Shepley who tweets from @Beerwenches suggests:

To clarify – feminism is not, and cannot, be understood as not condemning a woman for doing something she enjoys if you think it is negatively impacting on women in general. However, I think there is a reasonable argument to be made that says feminism entails an effort to tackle sexist language and imagery in society even if this is perpetuated by a woman.

I hope Lisa responds to this post. I would of course be more than happy to make space for a right of reply article if she wishes to write one.

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9 Comments

Filed under Beer, Social comment

9 responses to “Do I want to hire a “beer wench”? No thanks.

  1. Pingback: The end of beer bitches in Lambeth? | Hynd's Blog

  2. John5353

    how do you people find the time

    Like

  3. “It’s a bit of fun.”

    Oh, Russell, Russell – don’t you know that’s the universal cry of the moron who hasn’t thought it all through properly? It’s deeply demeaning – to men as much, if not more so, than to women, since it implies men can only have master-servant relationships with women.

    Like

    • Even a moron like me can see that over-reaction devalues any argument. Whilst I’m not sure I’d consider hiring a Beer Wench myself, the fact that one can means literally nothing in the grand scheme of things.

      Women proven to be in receipt of 20% lower pay for the same job? That means something. The international traffic of unwilling women into the sex trade? That means something. Beer wenches? Means nothing. Bit of fun. Let them get on with it.

      I would type a longer response but my dungeon, where I conduct my master-servant relationship, needs cleaning, and the wench is nowhere to be found.

      Like

  4. JP

    Without joining the debate, did the sentence “feminism is not, and cannot, be understood as not condemning a woman for doing something she enjoys if you think it is negatively impacting on women in general”
    get a bit lost with the double negative?
    Unless you wanted it to mean feminism is, and must be, understood as condemning…”
    In which case, the following “However” sentence doesn’t actually caveat the preceding sentence as seems to be its purpose.

    Like

  5. chantellerees13

    Hi there. I’m a journalist and I hope to write an article on this blog post and the tweets surrounding this issue, so is there any way you can send me a clear and concise comment on why you wrote this post please? My email address is chantelle@medavia.co.uk and I will need the comment asap if that’s ok.
    Many thanks
    Chantelle

    Like

  6. Cris

    ” I take no issue with the girls working for beer bitches ”

    allow me! these girls are either morons (they cannot understand the implications) or they simply trade their short-term advantages for OUR long term disadvantages, in which case I’d argue malevolence, immorality and probably psychopathy (harming the many for your own enjoyment, just like a serial killer does).

    I’m well aware of the cultural context that values being attractive AND stupid. and I’m also aware of the socio-psychological phenomenon that makes certain members of a discriminated class (ie women) act like the dominant class (ie men) in the hope of gaining advantages and being perceived as “less” inferior (the well known misogynist women).

    I can also understand how the so-called feminist discourse falls on deaf ears in the context in which some women claim to enjoy the negative discrimination. I can no longer “sound” believable when I get angry at being groped by a stranger simply bc other women laughed it off and even expressed enjoyment. “of course” I look like a frigid bitch to the neanderthal regular male.

    enough said.

    Like

  7. I’m never going to agree with you on the sexism angle. It’s a bit of fun. We – by which I mean people concerned with gender equality, which I am and I know you are – have to retain a sense of humour about things, and I wouldn’t be offended if there was a website offering male butlers in G-strings and tuxedoes (an image which I believe would be more likely to sell than the direct male equivalent of this site, scruffy barmen/farmer sorts with fat noses and rosy cheeks)

    But I think there’s an interesting point to be made here about the nuances of language. The use of the word “wench” is almost a meme, tied in with the t’internet’s inexplicable fascination with pirates, and popularised by UniLAD among others. It has implications of a peasant servant girl in a tavern, delivering foaming tankards of ale – which is exactly the service offered by this website, down to the character and the costume. Even the bloke – presuming it was a bloke – who wrote the prostitute definition, almost certainly didn’t mean it literally. Yet these are ethereal points, which I can’t really evidence in any meaningful way, except to say that if real malice were intended, there are many more coarse terms which could have been chosen. (Bitches is another matter – bad branding to be honest – the vernacular is far more rooted in hip hop culture – although I know that here, again, I’m preaching to the choir).

    Let me ask you a question – you have written, rightly and strongly, in favour of the right to insult. Yet here you write that women should not be insulted because they’re women. Is that not, in itself, a sexist point?

    Like

    • To answer the end question – there is a difference between what should be illegal and what I think people should do. Most of what I have argued against in the past is around making offensive comments illegal (all the stuff around Section 5 of the Public Order Act). This is different to saying what I think people should do. I would never say it’s good to offend people – common sense suggests you avoid that. Also, I am not saying women shouldn’t be offended, of course they can be – but more that by using this language you play into something far more sinister (think violence, discrimination, prejudice etc).

      Like

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