When an email arrived in my inbox recently inviting me to a ladies only cocktail class, my initial response was a bit of a yawn. It's boring and tired that companies use the same clichés and stereotypes for promotion. The more I read though, the angrier I got. This time, I wasn't only being targeted to sample the ladies-only cocktail list, I was also being invited to 'dress like a lady, and drink like a man'. I had to check it was in fact 2014 before reading on.
It was a simple premise: women were being encouraged this winter to 'put aside the sugary sweet stuff' we obviously only ever drink, and embrace manly drinks like bourbon and whisky. They'd been twisted into female friendly cocktails, to appeal to the ladies palette. I was offended.
As a lady who, um, dresses like a lady because she is one, being encouraged to 'drink like a man' struck a very uncomfortable chord with me. Gender stereotyping is everywhere and gendered marketing that buys into the stereotypes is something we should all be seeking to change and challenge. Isn't it?
This kind of marketing is not new. We're constantly being divided by our gender in order to be sold more stuff. It begins when we're young with toys, and continues on to beauty products, personal hygiene, and skin care. Even pens last year caused a stir when released for females, what with their feminine contoured grip and pink colour scheme.
Food and drinks are particularly interesting because there's not a lot of proof that taste and preference comes down to gender, it's just a construct used by marketers to sell more products.
Read more: Is it absurd to divide products by gender?
In 2006 in the US, Wild Turkey bourbon re-released a honey liqueur, in an attempt to appeal to women. It was a sweet honey liqueur with a bourbon base - that 'sugary sweet stuff' that women like, supposedly. Five years after its release, distiller Jimmy Russell said it was being sold in an even 50-50 split between males and females - personal preference and taste being the far weightier factor than whether the consumer is male or female.
Beer is also something that has traditionally been targeted heavily towards men. Last year ahead of Wellington's Beervana festival, I was expecting a majority of men (in beards), blindly thinking craft beer was still a pocket dominated by male consumers (despite attending with a group of beer loving girlfriends). There was no story in it for me from that angle though; anecdotally there were as many women as men, and in the craft beer capital Wellington, women appear to consume just as much of the amber ale as men across the board. Women are present in every part of the brewing industry, as the Pink Boots Society is seeking to support.
This is all anecdotal of course, but once you start thinking about it you really do see that sexist gender-targeting is everywhere. And it's just a bit silly. I don't need a bar to put on a ladies-only cocktail list to have me enjoying dark spirits. Some of the most ardent whisky connoisseurs I know are ladies. It's not all sugary sweet stuff for us, and with the increase in alcohol purchasing by woman as a demographic increasing all the time, maybe it's time for companies to do away with the tired presumptions, and get a bit savvy, intelligent, and entertaining with the way things are sold to all of us.