Thursday, 12 February 2015

How can CAMRA lead in combatting beer sexism?

[Note: This post has been edited.]

I don’t have time at the moment to write an introduction explaining why this document is here, but I am just putting this draft up here so that people can comment. Thanks to all who have already made suggestions for improvements.

One of the starkest problems of British beer is that it is still widely seen as a drink for men. Many women who do drink it comment regularly that they experience sexist behaviour in the world of beer – whether from fellow drinkers, bar staff, festival volunteers or from the beer industry itself which regularly markets itself with material that assumes its audience is male (and also sexist).

Some people think that CAMRA is part of the problem. I think that CAMRA is actually a bit better than society in general, but being a bloke I could be grossly mistaken. If I’m right, CAMRA should be showing a good example and tackling sexism, rather than turning a blind eye to it. The idea that CAMRA should be in the forefront of making things better is one I owe to this post by Yvan.

On paper CAMRA is already committed to equality.

It’s time, I think, for us to adopt a stronger commitment to being on the right side of this, and the motion you can read below has been submitted to CAMRA’s AGM to be held in April.

After some discussion in the comments, we amended the motion as follows, which is the motion as submitted for the Members’ Weekend (struck-out portions have been removed, and additions are highlighted).

In the interests of reaching a consensus, we stop short of imposing mandatory sanctions on branches, pubs or breweries.

Thanks to everyone who contributed to the discussion.

Draft motion below:

CAMRA has a long-standing commitment to equality. We have never sided with self-styled "traditionalists" who maintain that pubs are men's domain. 
CAMRA has an existing policy that we do not tolerate racist or sexist harassment.
Yet time and again we hear from women who say they are not comfortable drinking beer in pubs and at beer festivals. They complain of being patronised, leered at and having to put up with inappropriate comments. 
This is not CAMRA’s fault., but CAMRA needs to step up and show through action that it is on the side of equality. We cannot solve the broad problem of sexism in society, but we can play a part in improving things.
Our aim should be that real ale pubs and CAMRA festivals are better than the average. We are already proud of the fact that fights at CAMRA festivals are extremely rare; we should try to ensure that sexual harassment is equally rare.
Festival volunteers should be aware that both male and female festival visitors may be experienced real ale drinkers, or have never tried it before, or anywhere in between.
CAMRA is pro-active in making the world of real ale welcoming and attractive to all.
CAMRA festivals must be exemplary in this regard. 
1. Measures for beer festivals
a) CAMRA beer festivals shall not order beers that have inappropriate or sexist names or pump clips. CAMRA festival beer orderers shall have discretion not to order beers that have inappropriate or sexist names or pump clips.
b) If branches have difficulty in determining what is inappropriate or sexist, the NE or RD may use their discretion to constitute some kind of formal adjudicating body.
c b) If necessary (e.g. repeated complaints), food and merchandise vendors may be vetted on similar criteria. 
d c) Festivals shall have a public policy against harassment (printed in the festival programme).
e d) CAMRA shall produce education materials and provide training for festival volunteers on tackling inappropriate behaviour. 
2. Measures for pubs
a) CAMRA shall communicate to pubs that equality is a concern for us. We encourage pubs to adopt similar measures to our own: training staff, not selling sexist beers and not tolerating harassment. 
b) Pubs that are known to be dangerous or unwelcoming for women shall not be eligible for the Good Beer Guide. Branches shall maintain a confidential register of pubs which are problematic, and ask members to provide feedback/complaints. b) Branches may maintain a confidential register of pubs which are dangerous or unwelcoming for women, and ask members to provide feedback/complaints. Branches may exclude such pubs from the GBG at their discretion.
3. General measures
a) CAMRA shall take steps to ensure that its own publications and publicity materials are not sexist.


  1. Also, given that a brewery with the flagship beer brand of Dirty Blonde and a semi-clad woman on the pumpclip was featured in the latest edition of BEER I have heard, this should also be extended to publications IMO.

  2. There is a danger of going too far. Whilst I agree with the sentiment and much of the post, I don't think banning certain ales because they may offend is the way to go. For example, my wife will buy & drink an ale no matter the name or image on the pump clip, as will several women I know. Also, I would purchase an ale with a patronising image of a man and a daft sexist name if it were available - as long as the ale was tasty and good.
    Whilst general ale drinking culture is aimed at men, more and more women are drinking ale in pubs and attending festivals - this will almost certainly lead to a change in drink naming and pump clip art convention in the long run. I don't feel it's CAMRA's domain to become totalitarian in its sponsorship or promotion of ale festivals or its backing of certain ales. What matters is the quality / content of the ale.
    I do agree with a policy against harassment - if indeed this is an issue - which I feel it is in some quarters. Again, I've never witnessed it when at numerous festivals around the country, and my wife informs me she has not experienced at CAMRA beer & cider festivals - but she has experienced it in a pub. A couple of months ago, we were at a pub in Cornwall, a stalwart of the Good Beer Guide, and were standing by the bar having had a quick drink before our journey home. I made a brief toilet trip before we left and everything was good, the traditional surroundings and ale especially. During the journey back to our accommodation, my wife told me that the men at the bar were leering and making various chauvinistic comments when she was alone. Of course, we had left so there was no reproach for them. I would not want to see a pub left out of the Good Beer Guide because of the actions of some of its patrons, but maybe, if enough women felt the same about a certain alehouse, this could be discussed in a forum and a note could be added to its inclusion the the GBG about attitude of the regulars.

  3. Will you be taking the same line against beers and pumpclips that promote misandry?

    1. Is misandry a problem in pubs and at beer fests?

  4. Me and Boak had a chat about this and, for what they're worth, here are some thoughts:

    The GBG stuff might be a deal breaker. Working out what constitutes problematic behaviour etc. will be difficult, proving it harder (potential legal issues?), unless you set the bar high, i.e. there has been a court case. It also interferes with the otherwise pure simplicity of the book's purpose which will get some people's backs up, even if they support the underlying aims of your proposal.

    The rest of it all sounds very sensible, as in, why the hell isn't it happening already?

  5. I feel inclined to agree with Neswulf. I would vote against 1. but for 2. My wife isn't put off at all by sexist pumpclips, but is by troglodytes in pubs. Same goes for me.

  6. There is an ale - Badlands Brewery - Draughty Kilt - that 'could' be considered offensive to men, google it for the image. Now this wouldn't put me off, as long as the ale was good.

  7. I am OK with removing the sanctions, as they are a last resort which hopefully would not need to be used very often. I want a motion which is able to get a majority and commits us to working pro-actively to creating a positive climate. That's the most important bit.

  8. I am sure there will be at least one woman reply along the lines of “Well, it doesn’t bother me”. But: The women in CAMRA are already by definition not put off by this stuff, or they wouldn’t be here. And they are already a group who are strong-willed enough to not be bothered by dominant ideas of beer being a man’s drink. Therefore female CAMRA members are possibly not the best barometer of what is off-putting to women in general.

    I agree that we don't want to be the thought police. All the sanctions were conceived as last-resort scenarios. But let’s try to get the general approach through first and decide in subsequent years whether it needs strengthened.

    The public anti-harassment policy that Yvan suggested adopting from the IT community has shown good results in improving people’s behaviour, so that sanctions are often not needed.

    So we removed all the sanctions, except for explicitly giving festival organisers the right not to order sexist beers – this is to strengthen their backs. If we made it "shall not", the more neanderthal branches won't follow it anyway. With regard to dangerous pubs, the type of place I am thinking of is where women might get groped or worse, not where the staff might call them “darlin”. I would think that very few such pubs would be in the GBG on the quality of their beer in the first place.

  9. I do agree with Neswulf that more women drinking beer will be probably the single greatest factor in changing the culture. And the thing that will get more women drinking beer is: more women drinking beer.

  10. Who defines what is offensive. What percentage of the population needs to find it offensive before its Banned. Thats my big problem. Theres plenty of comedians that some people find offensive but are popular with others. I do not like the idea that anyone should be telling me what is or isnt offensive

    1. I'm anti-censorship, on the whole, but the point here is that beer festivals, and CAMRA more generally, aren't about artistic self-expression, and need to avoid alienating potential visitors. Maybe there are people who think, 'Oh, I would go to that festival, but I've heard there won't be any overt sexism allowed, and that's my favourite part', or, 'This beer would much tastier with some tits on the pump-clip,' but they must be in a tiny minority.

    2. Is there evidence that people are not going to beer festivals because a few of the pump clip / beer names that are not to there liking. In the Wider market if pubs find theyre losing people because they seel beer that iss putting people off then they will stop. Or what happens if a few people start complaining that CAMRA is carrying Adverts about Cask beer but from producers that produce Keg beer and thats just not on, will be stop them advertising. Its a dangerous game getting into drawing that line

    3. Are you wilfully blind, Craig? This is what women are telling us. Just look at what It Comes in Pints? or Rowan Molyneux or Melissa Cole or Boak and Bailey have been blogging for the last several years!

  11. I agree with cgarvie,what offends one person may not offend many others,for example one of your commenters finds the pump clip for 'Dirty Blonde' offensive no doubt many others do not. There is a danger in making rules to placate vocal minorities who may not be supported by the public at large.If somebody behaves offensively at a beer festival it is likely that the organisers will remove them,if a pub allowed sexual assaults to be committed on its customers its premises licence would be reviewed,the sanctions already exist,introducing new rules would be divisive and unhelpful.

  12. As a young woman who loves beer I would like to ask the men how they think it makes me feel when I approach a bar where several things could and more than likely do occur.
    I'm insulted by scantily clad woman on pump clips and immediately refuse to buy from that brewery. What is it with men and tits? Get over it it is so infantile.
    Then I'm patronised by staff who think because I'm I woman I would perhaps like a half and not a pint, then I have to sit through being mansplained about how strong the beer is. I'm ogled by punters and condescended as well.
    All I want is to enjoy a beer in peace in a safe environment.
    We are women who love beer, deal with it and show some respect.

  13. My first visit to GBBF last year was an eye opener. I went on two consecutive days (as I didn't want to get hammered each day). As the evenings went on, there were blow-up dolls with the stag-do-type drinkers. As a woman trying to learn about beer, I felt like a) I couldn't find out enough about the beers.. not enough information about brewers, tastes etc b) I couldn't easily get to the pumps to see many pump-clips (sexists or not) - although that does put me off a beer... c) wanted more talks, more food and drink matching and less beer swilling and wearing of traffic cone hats. As a woman, these are things that put me off. I think free speech has to rule but don't put women off so much that the market conditions don't change: fewer women beer drinkers means no change necessary.

  14. I find it strange that so many people have issues with something that will have no negative impact on them. Now with most beer festivals, pump clips are not seen for the vast majority of beers on offer, so the pump clip itself need not be a problem, however that being said, how does it hurt any one of you if a given pump clip doesn't feature boobs or sexist names?

  15. I'm a woman in CAMRA and I actively avoid breweries that continue to produce beers with sexist names and pump clips (quite frankly if their beers are good enough then they wouldn't need to resort to this), pubs where the staff are patronising and festivals where these practices are prevalent. And like beerinastemglass I find these festival homages to "laddism" rather depressing. Wouldn't we all prefer modern festivals which educate and provide events as she suggests? Would we prefer CAMRA's flagship festival to be about the enjoyment of beer rather than a huge piss-up (I'm not saying it is that for everyone, but it is for many who attend in my experience).

    I also find some of the publications (see Melissa's comment) flabbergasting in an editorial approach that is more 1955 than 2015 - this is no way to get rid of an image of CAMRA that remains "older men with beards and beer bellies" amongst many.

    Likewise, the view amongst many is that CAMRA is old-school in its attitude and far from a progressive organisation. I would be happy to see CAMRA take a real stand against sexist behaviour and practices as any modern organisation should in my opinion: trailblaze against sexism rather than tacitly condoning it (as now) or whimpering along the lines of: "Well, we don't like this but we'll still advertise your beer and let branches use whatever photos they like in magazines." Things don't change by doing nothing, they change if we take real, effective action.

  16. So well written Hackney Haz. Thank you for explaining it so clearly.

  17. I'm also a CAMRA member, and a woman, - and I'm new here!- and I'm just a bit bored of the defensiveness that occurs when people try to make the tiniest of suggestions for making beer - anything, really - more welcoming to everyone.

    If you think 'free speech' is the best argument in favour of beer clips with boobs, I'd like to invite you to think about the problem in a different way. We all navigate our way round the world by interpreting signs telling us what we might enjoy and what we might not. If CAMRA - or the boob-toting breweries - really do want the world of beer to be open to as many people as possible they might start by working on giving off that signal. Sexist pump clips give the message that there is no audience that are women, that women are irrelevant as far as brewing, selling and consuming that beer goes, and we are talking here amongst men. Fine, but you're cutting your nose off to spite your face.

    As far as 'well it doesn't matter if the ale tastes good' - how will I ever know what the ale tastes like if I'm too embarrassed to order it in the first place?

    So - you don't need to pass me the smelling salts, I'm not offended, I have seen boobs before - in fact you'd never guess, but there's a pair very close to me right now - it is just that by the way you are selling this you are giving the message that I am not someone you are trying to attract to your product. Fair enough, I won't drink it then.

    1. (sorry - obviously by 'you' I mean the breweries with the sexist names/clips, not you the author!)

  18. I am a woman and I had to serve a cider at our CAMRA beer festival last year called "Slack Alice". A tiny consolation: we don't show pumpclips and we didn't have any volunteers named Alice (I think..).

    FFS, are we all bloody adults here? When did this puerile labelling become the norm? From this experience I have no respect for the cider maker (they do a whole series of ciders with this kind of SHITTY offensive naming scheme); and regardless if they produce the nectar of the gods I can't help that this distasteful BS taints my opinion on any of their products. That is if I ever drink their products again, which would happen either by not being told or being physically threatened to do so. My opinions on the CAMRA members that allowed this to be ordered in the first place...

    I want my festivals to succeed and as a volunteer it is my duty to serve the public to the best of my abilities; having to serve this cider made me contribute to "normalizing" these product names as socially acceptable as the rest of the non-offensively named beverages. If "it's only a name" then they could of chosen better!

  19. Every comment on this post should just be: "About damn time". As ever though, there's conscious resistance to the idea of making things fairer for everyone. Why?

    If you don't think there's a problem, it's because the current culture caters to *your* needs and expectations and not *everyone's* needs and expectations. Check your privilege. People feel excluded and alienated from CAMRA *because* there are those who don't there is even a problem at all.

    If you think these measures would go 'too far' somehow, consider that what has been set out in the above motion (basic moral decency) are fairly normal things that people should be able to expect in most areas of their lives, EXCEPT for, they feel, in CAMRA. Isn't that embarrassing?

    It should be embarrassing that these measures have to be argued FOR at all, but it could be a point of pride for CAMRA if it commits to catch up on the issue as soon as possible, and puts its own house in order.

    Oh and as for the "what about misandry" crowd, the wording of the motion refers to "inappropriate and sexist". There are two sexes and the members each should be equally appalled by anything upsetting or offending members of either sex. Especially when those things are the childish, moronic doodles of backward idiots.

  20. a great post and i 100% support this initiative.

    lol at the big babies in the comments who think that "misandry" exists outside of their Doom Bar-addled imaginations, or that getting tits off pump clips is "totalitarian".

  21. "Who defines what is offensive. What percentage of the population needs to find it offensive before its Banned. Thats my big problem."
    Somebody get Craig a golliwog for his marmalade jar.

    It's not a question of percentages. If someone says they find something offensive then "no, it's not really" is not a valid response.

  22. In total support, unsurprisingly. For context, my thoughts & some discussion about CAMRA taking an active stance on the issue are here:

    Since that post we have cancelled our direct debit. More than one too many faux pas on CAMRA's part last year. And I mean *CAMRA* not individual shitty members, the organisation itself has done things at a HQ-level that defy belief:

    We join a list of members for which I have not enough fingers to count who I know personally who've done the same in the last year or so. Not the type that are the everyday "silent" 1000s of CAMRA members but ones that should be the grassroots enthusiasts of the organisation - those that would power CAMRA branch activity now and into the future. Beer enthusiasts who joined CAMRA for the love of good beer but have since walked away from it with a bad taste in their mouths.

    They're finding new beery drums to beat, and amongst the younger beer enthusiast community CAMRA fades into irrelevance.

  23. GBBF has a lot of work to do to catch up with the newer and more modern-thinking beer festivals. It shouldn't be for women to have ask 'please stop giving space to people who seek to objectify women'. It should be on the festival to actively offer women a friendly, welcoming space where they feel equally included in the event.

    I've been attending GBBF on and off for 20 years. Right now it's outdated and out of touch. And there is a lot of competition out there.

    NB: Some women not being offended by ridiculous Benny Hill-esque pumpclips does not preclude them from being sexist. That's not how it works.


    1. Your last point is of course, a good one. I spoke with Mrs about this yesterday, giving her the background (she's a foreigner, like me, and not as informed on pub culture as even I am) and summarising the discussion. She agrees that such sexist pump clips and beer names are sexist, and it's up to CAMRA to decide if it wants to support such things. She personally isn't bothered by such sexism, because it's not something she finds particularly important.

      We would both vote for 3, but not for 2b, for the reasons Boak & Bailey have cited. (I wondered about whether focussing on a positive note might be better: a symbol in the GBG for pubs known to be friendly to women, she thought that would be daft.) She's ambivalent on 1 and 2a, whereas I am now for 1 but not 2a. I don't think it's CAMRA's business to be telling landlords what beers they should stock based on these criteria.

  24. I'm posting as anonymous for the moment as I need to be careful as I am supposed to be a CAMRA "poster boy" (work that out if you may). For all the talk about the real ale scene being sexist (which it is), as someone who sees the inner workings of the organisation one thing drives CAMRA.

    MONEY!!! That's it. If a brewery which has a full range of beers with offensive names and pump clips pays CAMRA loads of money for an advertisement, CAMRA will happily look the other way. Many people complain about GBBF. I can't see the attraction of that event, it's a zoo in there. 50,000+ people over nearly a week getting pissed up. CAMRA make millions of pounds, the event is always packed out. They're not going to change their attitude or the event, if it ain't broke then don't fix it.

    I'm going to sound ageist here but remember CAMRA at branch level is run by volunteers, mostly by men of a certain age who have a view on life different to their children's generation. Until my (our) generation get's to that age CAMRA isn't going to change anytime soon. It doesn't make it right but these people have attitudes as entrenched as the soldiers on the western front 100 years ago. I could go on about a lot of branches just being old boys clubs but that's for another time. CAMRA pays lip service to the branches to be honest, schmoozing politicians for the benefit of their campaigns (see the previous blog post about Andrew Griffiths) is more important to them. As long as CAMRA is making stacks of money from GBBF, all the other beer festivals which have to give their profits to CAMRA and the supposedly 168,000+ members subscriptions at £25 each per year NOTHING is going to happen.

    For all of that though I'm staying as a CAMRA member as they are still at heart on the side of the pubs,microbreweries and determined to ensure the consumer get's a good deal down the pub. It's not what they do it's how they do it that's the problem.


  25. I don't get this: "CAMRA festival beer orderers shall have discretion not to order beers that have inappropriate or sexist names or pump clips."

    Festival beer orders have the discretion not to order any beer for any reason (be it because it's sexist, too expensive or just not good) so this doesn't actually form any new policy.

    The only exception would be beers which have been selected by the Champion Beer Of Britain of Britain voting process to be submitted for judging at CBoB rounds. While there should be natural selection in this process in that to even get on the first rung, beers have to be voted in by the whole membership, it would be a separate bit of policy to say beers with sexist names should be prevented from being entered into CBoB.

    The bit about "Branches may maintain a confidential register of pubs which are dangerous or unwelcoming for women" I find bordering on sexist itself - who is to determine what a woman might find "dangerous or unwelcoming"? What about pubs that a man finds "dangerous & unwelcoming" - do they get their own register? I know women who find many many pubs unwelcoming but I also know women who would confidently stride into pubs I would be reluctant to go near myself.

    While I would agree with "anon" in that some aspects of CAMRA are a little bit too willing to put income over principles, I think aiming this at GBBF is a little misplaced. The suggestion that "CAMRA make millions of pounds" is so far off the mark, it is ridiculous. GBBF may bring in a lot of money but it also costs an awful lot to stage so whilst it is a significant contributor to CAMRA funds, it is a long long way from underwriting the whole campaign.
    Ire at the "money over principals" element would be better directed at the publications arms - which the membership started to do with the anti-Punch & Enterprise motion which was passed last year but which think most would have failed to notice the difference in What's Brewing & Beer.

  26. >Branches may maintain a confidential register: everything okay except this. I think this is dangerous from a liability & data protection point of view.

  27. I agree with Rob Nicholson that maintaining confidential blacklists is highly questionable.

    Can we see the final version of this as submitted to the CAMRA AGM?

  28. As a micro pub owner - I see a lot of different pump clips/beer names. Some great and some not so. Not once have I had any of my female guests complain that a pump clip/name is offensive. I have experienced the exact opposite, women have found the pump clips to be funny or included them in jokes towards their male peers. We have had a number of beers that some might class as offensive, including 'Dirty Blonde', 'Old Slapper', 'Hairy Hooker' (pictured with a women not a ruby player). I ended up giving the Old slapper clip to a female guest as she wanted to hang it in her outside bar.

    Generally I agree that perception could be changed at beer festival level but I feel that is more about CAMRA PR (Why not join the growning number of large scale events that hold a ladies day - swap fancy hats at Ascot for Silly hats at Derby) then breweries having to be extra careful about what name they choose.

  29. Re-happened upon this from a Facebook link to a link etc. This motion didn't appear on this years list. I believe it was rejected because it was already policy and therefore didn't need another motion. However, there are several motions on there that IMO are re-stating existing policy so this doesn't sound very fair to me. The cynic suggests that it would be too embarrassing for the NE...