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Life - It Isn't a Role.

“Shut the fuck up bitch, eat a dick bitch, eat a bowl of shit bitch. Munch on a mouthful of balls in halls and malls, just shut the fuck up bitch and work your jaws” Kurupt – Your GyrlFriend

A few days ago, this delightful ditty came around on the shuffle of my iTunes. I hadn’t heard it for some time, but it has been on various cassette, CD and now digital playlists of mine since its release on Kurupt’s 1999 album Tha Streetz iz a Mutha. I was 12-years-old when I first heard it. It was just music to me then and don’t think it affected my feelings towards certain genders. But hearing it in 2015 – some 16 years later - was the first time I stopped and thought about just how sick the lyrics were. 

I’m a big Hip Hop fan. The genre takes up over 90% of the music I own. Yet it has long been – and still is – rife with misogyny and sexism. The world is becoming wiser and less tolerable to it, though. Rappers are losing favour and sponsorship deals based solely on the misogynistic rhymes they are putting out. Kanye West’s Yeezus album was described as a “tipping point” since such a high profile artist was still writing lyrics such as, “Black Dick all in your spouse again, I know she likes chocolate men, she got more n*iggers off than Cochran.” You may not, like me, be willing to defend his attack on the obvious racism in Corporate America, but none of us can defend the blatant misogynistic tone in his music. I’d feel very different if that Kurupt song was released this year than I did in 1999. Hip Hop is under scrutiny because it’s unacceptable and it needs to change. And finally, it’s learning that.

I’ve begun by writing about my musical preference because the day after I was talking with somebody about hearing that particular Kurupt song and its tone, a blog post came to my attention on Twiiter and raised the issues of sexism in the beer world once more. 

I, like others, have been enraged a few times recently about the subject. I’ve begun writing my own thoughts on the topic a couple of those times but, for various reasons, I’ve not been firing off blogposts weekly with updates and opinion on this recurrence. For one, they’ve been covered so well by great writers such as Melissa Cole and Rowan Molyneux. For another, how can I possibly write about something that I haven’t – and never will – experience? “What about misandry?” as I’ve seen commented a couple of times, because we all know that pubs, bars and clubs are endemic with that don’t we…  

It was the comment section in this post by Robsterowski at Refreshing Beer that prompted the latest interest/anger in the topic for me, but this was just a memory refresh. Comment sections on other posts or on online journalistic material are filled with such nonsense. It’s not opinions that I’m against – it’s the frightening lack of understanding by people that concerns me. It's the continued view of "NOT ALL MEN... MY WIFE ISN'T OFFENDED... IT'S JUST A BIT OF FUN..." rather than the more obvious view of "Let's fucking do something about this." It's that people stand defiantly for their own sexist views, rather than learning and changing.

This isn’t a problem in Beer – and certainly is nothing to with CAMRA. This is a society problem, but as Beer is our little part of the world then it’s the part we have the ability to change. And it begins by understanding how big an issue it is in general life.

I never truly appreciated it to its capacity until I went on a night out with four of my females friends last summer. We were in a fairly respectable bar in Manchester’s Northern Quarter and were dancing and laughing and enjoying the night as we should. However, after a while I realised that my friends were being approached by men trying to interfere with our night out. Repeatedly. It wasn’t just the odd “friendly” bloke trying to make conversation. It was endless harassment at least once a minute. Being revoked meant nothing to these men. I wasn’t used to this and started to get protective and aggressive but my friends told me to calm down as “they could handle it.” I witnessed them have to push men off them repeatedly for hours. How was this a good time? “Is this what it’s like for you lot on every night out?” I asked towards the end of the night. The response? An accepting shrug. 

That shrug changed it all for me. It was the moment I finally saw it through their eyes. They’d come for a night out but instead were being grabbed at like a free drinks table. And they accepted it.  They hated it but they accept that that is just the way it is. 

A response by Bailey (of Boak and Bailey) on the Refreshing Beer post summed up how we should be responding to the simple suggestions made in it. “The rest of it all sounds very sensible, as in. why the hell aren’t they happening now?” It’s how we should all react to it on a daily basis. Why is this stuff still happening?

Then again, it’s easy for me to say that as a male. So I took the time to talk to two of my friends about how it is for them. One is Sarah who loves drinking good beer in good pubs/bars but also has her bosom indiscreetly gawked at wherever she walks. The other is Sophie, who works behind the bar in Stalybridge Buffet Bar and who I’ve heard and seen be talked about inappropriately by people, including my own friends. 

I asked them both what they thought of some of the pumpclips with sexist imagery that have been up for debate – and frequently named and shamed – in many beer blogs. Sarah said it was old fashioned but that it didn’t really bother her. I like this response because it might help those that use the “my wife wasn’t offended” argument to understand that not everybody will be offended – it doesn’t make those that are hysterical. It was interesting that both friends used the phrase “the pub/beer market is predominantly male” in their responses as justification for the clips too. 

It’s their search for justification which is so similar to the shrug of acceptance that was the tone throughout talking to Sophie and Sarah. They are not as eager for a change in attitude as they are resigned to a male dominated environment. When I ask Sarah if she feels women beer drinkers are poorly misrepresented she says “Yes they are.” But when I ask how she feels about comments made to her by men in pubs or bars sometimes when she orders a beer (as opposed to something Al Murray may regard as a lady’s drink) Sarah says she’s “ambivalent”  and adds "It's not every time I order a beer."

When I ask Sophie, as the person behind the bar, whether she feels she is being "hit on" a lot of the time whilst working she tells me “Yes. But I don't necessarily think they're always hitting on me.” It is a big difference. “I try not to feel objectified,” she adds when I ask her about a particular recent incident, though she also adds “It’s part of my job.” I want to prompt, to add, to ask whether it should just be part of the job, but I don’t really feel the need to. Sophie loves her job and loves the customers. Playing the role of bar”maid” seems to be something she has accommodated. 

If at this point you are the sort thinking “What about men who get chatted up at bars or male bar workers who get hit on? What’s the difference?” then this post is for you. It’s not that it doesn’t happen, as Sophie will testify, “When someone good looking comes in to the pub, some of the female bar staff describe them in a clearly objectifying way.” It’s understanding the difference and the bigger picture. And if you are still not seeing it, then look again. 

One counter argument is that traditional views on gender still exist in younger people. I’ve had girlfriends who have explicitly said to me “I like relationships to be based on traditional gender roles.” One girlfriend even said that the only job she wanted in life was “to be a wife and a mother.” I’ve got a couple of married friends with newborn children who have told me that they would consider themselves a failure if their wives went back to work. They tell me that their wives don’t want to go back to work because they just want to be mothers. At first, this seemed odd to me but then you realise that it is a choice for anyone and isn’t because they are a specific gender. Because doing what you want in life is everybody’s right, it isn’t anybody’s role

I’m far far from perfect on this matter. The recent case of the convicted rapist Ched Evans’ leaving jail sparked much debate between my friends where I found myself constantly trying to explain to them what rape was and why he was guilty, against a wall of their defiance. A fair few of them believe he should have never been jailed in the first place, but my current incredulity to this is slightly hypocritical for even two or three years ago I may have agreed with them. You see, a couple of times in the past, people have opened up to me about situations that they’ve kept quiet and never reported where they were raped in circumstances not too dissimilar to the Evans’ case. Those people didn’t feel they could tell anybody or report the person responsible and, when they’ve opened up to me, my initial thoughts were “Are you sure YOU weren’t just drunk?” or “How did YOU allow yourself to get into that situation?” I think back to those reactions with a feeling of utter disgust and disbelief at myself and can never apologise enough. 

I share my absolute shame as continued proof that I will never be a good spokesperson for this topic and that I need to keep learning and changing myself. I’ve probably made a lot of mistakes on social media I would like to think I wouldn’t now. But I know now how wrong I was and, like Hip Hop needs to, I’ve made the changes. What is apparent too many times is how many are not willing to change their viewpoint. 

The world isn’t made up of two genders. It certainly isn’t made up of two genders with two separate roles for life. If you are not seeing the problems then you are probably part of them. This isn’t a Beer problem but if that is your interest then start the changes there. Nobody has to accept misogyny just because it’s always been there. Life isn’t a role. Kurupt may not know that but the rest of us should.


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