Depp Ellum, the Dallas, Texas based brewery has a solid blonde beer called the Dallas Blonde. This session ale is represented by a doll with blonde hair and a pink crown clearly attempting to play on the name of the beer style and the popular women’s hair color. On October 8th the company posted a photo of its new promotional van. This hot pink monstrosity has a photo of a can of the Dallas Blonde as well as the slogan “Goes Down Easy” written in giant text on the side of the van.
On October 11th Genevieve Cato writing for the Burnt Orange Report shared her disgust, offense, and ire with the new van. She writes:
The eye-catching hot pink van sports the logo for their blonde ale with the assurance that this blonde “goes down easy.” This is not the first time this tired, sexist pun has been used to sell alcohol and it probably won’t be the last.
But, shouldn’t we expect more of our local Texas breweries than to rely on rape culture to sell their beer?
She goes on to write that this isn’t the first time that the alcohol industry has used sexist advertising in this manner. She cites a recent Belvedere advertisement that was much more on the nose and an offensive sign in a Brooklyn bar that listed a list of why beer is better than women.
She then goes on to illustrate just the kind of reaction this got in comments on Facebook.
Deep Ellum’s lazy use of this well-worn sexist comparison of women to alcohol is disappointing and insulting to their female customers, but it goes deeper than that. You need to look no further than the comments on their facebook picture to see the way advertising like this fuels the acceptability of rape culture in our society:
Goes down easy, in a van? Man, just like High School!
Doesn’t she always?
She has an insatiable appetite.
As a craft brewery in Texas, Deep Ellum is already well situated to be profitable and popular amongst beer drinkers across the state. It is completely unacceptable, and unnecessary, for breweries to continue to use this kind of language to sell their products.
This story made the local and some national venues and discussion on twitter turned nasty. John Reardon, owner of the brewery responded on October 19th in which he was both conciliatory and stood his ground in equal parts. He writes:
As we’re all adults (if not, you should have already been directed here), let’s go ahead and bring the innuendo front and center — it’s a literal description of the beer with a blowjob joke. A double entendre. And yes, I find that funny.
What’s not funny is how that’s been interpreted to promoting rape culture. If anyone is to blame for promoting such thoughts, it should be those interpreting the phrase to that level. Shame on you.
The initial post likened our joke to a Belvedere ad, showing a disheveled woman with the phrase “Unlike some people, Belvedere always goes down smoothly.” I can agree that this was going too far.
But, if you somehow link all oral sex to violence against women, the problem might lay with you.
You have a choice in the way you perceive this campaign. It can be seen in its literal sense, you can choose to see the innuendo, or you can fly off the deep end and call it rape culture. But those are your thoughts, and your thoughts only, to own.
I have mixed feelings about this reply. One the one hand I agree with Reardon that if one believes that all oral sex is somehow violence against women then that speaks volumes about the listener far more than it does about the speaker. Yet at the same time I think Reardon is attempting to ignore the responsibility that communication is equal parts intention and reception. I am able to call a friend a motherf&$ker without offending him because I intend it humorously but also because he accepts that I intended it to be humorously. If he is offended by the comment I can plead forgiveness by explaining that I meant it humorously but that doesn’t absolve me of having offended in the first place.
I wonder what if the label for the Dallas Blonde had a man with gilded locks on it? The joke of course works regardless of sex as both sexes can perform oral sex on either sex. Would suggesting that blonde men go down easy (on women one would assume) be relying on rape culture to sell beer and if not why not?
Given that a person both giving and receiving oral sex can do so voluntarily and even with independent enthusiasm I don’t see necessarily how suggesting that an enthusiasm for oral sex is somehow linked to rape culture. Is suggesting that blonde women are “easy” when it comes to oral sex stupid, vapid, and sexist? Absolutely. Does that mean it is associating rape with beer? I don’t believe so.
What’s worse is that this backlash seems to be hurting Deep Ellum’s Cans for Cans campaign which is a fundraiser to help increase breast cancer awareness and provide a second mobile free mammogram screening traveling clinic. The suggestion being that “cans” is a sexist term for a woman’s breasts and thus the campaign is offensive. Given the plethora of “I <3 Tatas” and “Save the Boobies” slogans I feel like the cry of sexist for the use of “cans” feel disingenuous.
Whether Reardon believes he’s erred or not he has consented to remove the text from his van. He writes in conclusion to his entry:
While I strongly reject the notion that this campaign promotes rape culture, I do admit the double entendre. Unfortunately, double entendres are only funny when they’re out of the spotlight.
With that, I’ll be removing the slogan from the van. Putting it on a can is one thing, but on the side of a van, where it’s impossible to ignore, is another issue entirely.
To those who have been offended by this glorified blowjob joke, I am sorry. Lesson learned.
To those who have likened this to rape culture or tried to cheapen this to just some sexist asshole trying to sell beer, shame on you.
Just as we don’t need cheap tricks to sell our beer, you don’t need cheap tricks to push your agenda.
While I don’t think this issue is quite as cut and dry as Reardon suggests (It is always difficult to truly understand the nature of an objection such as this when speaking from a position of privilege. I doubt Reardon has even been uncomfortably pressured or flatly forced to perform oral sex on anyone.) I don’t think it is as clearly unconscionable as Genevieve Cato would have us believe either.
My personal opinion is that Mr. Reardon is smart in removing the slogan from the side of his van and perhaps would be smart to reword the slogan on their cans. But in the end I don’t think Deep Ellum needs to be drug out into the town square and promptly tarred and feather for crimes against humanity. I would prefer we label this cheap sexism and move on. Unjustly throwing accusations of supporting a deeply entrenched culture of rape in American only weakens the argument when used appropriately.
These sorts of things are always going to exist so long as sex is such a high influence when it comes to sales.