A weekly column by Roger A. Baylor.
In 1971 at the tender age of 11, I was an avid Civil War buff. Perhaps this owed to the conflict’s recently concluded centennial, or to my being a precocious reader. Even the library’s more scholarly “adult” books about the Civil War were within my range of comprehension, and I devoured them.
Whatever the reason, I became hooked. Specifically, and surely baffling for those of you who’ve known me as an adult, I was a hardcore Confederate sympathizer.
All the familiar, romanticized elements of the Lost Cause were appealing to the youthful curmudgeon. Southerners really were heroic underdogs defending their homes, with odds stacked against preserving their way of life. My family visited battlefields in Virginia and Tennessee. I was a born-again Secessionist, and questioned almost none of it.
Obviously, significant parts of the historical narrative eluded me, like the economic and sociological aspects of industrial versus agrarian economies, states’ rights, and the role of federal government.
Oh, yes, and something about the institution of slavery. In retrospect, it’s rather important.
So, why the rebel fixation? For one thing, in terms of geography, it isn’t Southern Indiana for nothing.
We tend to face south, in the direction of Louisville, not north to Indianapolis. Not only that, but in relative terms, I lived in the segregated Hoosier countryside, not far from where John Hunt Morgan made one of his northward raids across the Ohio River.
Around the time I was in the first grade, a friend’s family took me with them to the Kentucky State Fair in Louisville. When I returned home, the rides, food and music were completely forgotten, because all I wanted to talk about a “Negro” boy my age I’d met on the midway.
After all, he was the first African-American I’d ever played with, up to that point.
Fortunately, the purpose of growing up is to learn something – right? It still is, isn’t it?
By the time I was studying philosophy and history at IU Southeast, the Civil War’s grip remained, albeit fully reversed. I morphed into a diehard Unionist. Could any cause, “lost” or otherwise, truly be honorable if it sought the perpetuation of racist slave labor?
Stuck in OYR (Our Year of Reagan) 1982, I pondered whether Americans had learned anything at all through the many decades since Appomattox. The answers weren’t always pretty. Evidently the journey was ongoing.
Happily, there was a certain consolation to the peaks and valleys of the learning curve. At the end of the day, one must desire to be educated, and I did, and I was.
The Civil War isn’t the reason for this essay. Rather, it’s seeing this story by Jim Vorel at Paste Magazine.
Walking the Line: Sexuality in Craft Beer
When it comes to sexuality in beer marketing it’s almost a guarantee that the ones being titillated have been men, which simultaneously sends an equally strong message to women—you’re not welcome here, unless you’re a model holding the product and smiling. Or a “willfully disobedient” blonde mermaid on an IPA label, as in the image at the top of this piece.
And that image?
Dead to rights.
Five years ago, I wrote those words, “willfully disobedient.” They appear on the label for NABC’s Naughty Girl, alongside additional cringe-worthy text that I also composed. The words, the label; all are on-line. They cannot be evaded.
Previous generations of humanity, living and dying prior to the advent of mass communications, missed the sheer thrill of screwing up, watching one’s screw-up instantly become grist for a potentially global audience, and then be reminded of it at regular intervals forever after.
There it is. During my 25 years at NABC, I wrote many hundreds of thousands of words. They’re all mine. I own them, and seldom have I been compelled to disown them, but in this case I wish it were possible to do so.
So, please allow me to take my medicine; moreover, permit me to heed my own advice: When you screw up, ‘fess up and make it right.
Sorry about Naughty Girl, folks. I was wrong about that one.
I knew better then, and I know better now. It’s my responsibility to learn something from it, and I will. Unfortunately, making it right is harder to accomplish, because I’m no longer in a position at NABC to do much of anything about it.
Sorry about this, too.
I should have been more aggressive when something might have been done. That learning curve can be vicious.
In 2015, I raised a great big ruckus over the Indiana-brewed beer called Leg Spreader ESB. Insofar as a seat on the board of the Brewers of Indiana Guild possesses political capital, I spent all of mine protesting this label. My bully pulpit was harnessed to full roar. It is quite possible that I made a few enemies in the process.
Wait, no; of course I made enemies.
During the course of my righteous pontifications about sexism in craft beer, someone finally issued a helpful and timely reminder: “By the way, Roger, you brew a beer called Naughty Girl – what about that?”
My first reaction was predictable: “Bah -- apples and oranges.”
My second reaction was extreme and abiding discomfort, which eventually compelled me to sit down, take a breath and think it through.
The precise irritant eluded me at first. Then as now, Tony Beard’s artwork does not strike me as overtly exploitative. Acknowledging the highly subjective nature of such determinations, it still seems to me that Tony’s graphic honors the female form, and cannot be compared to more egregious examples we’ve all seen.
In fact, we’d had these discussions at work. Bob’s Old 15-B, Elector, Tunnel Vision – all featured females. It always came back to consumer reaction, and there were very few complaints. To the contrary, most of the feedback was positive, and with NABC two-thirds owned by women … well, maybe I used this as an excuse.
The fundamental problem with Naughty Girl gradually dawned on me. It was the name itself, and the words I’d written to frame it. Far more so than the image, these words perpetuated sexism and stereotypes, and there was no escape route for me. I wrote them.
With Leg Spreader still very much on the front burner, it became clear that I’d have to objectively examine the whole issue of sexuality in NABC’s beer marketing, wherever it might lead. Any conclusions reached would be applicable to us all. It needed to happen.
Consequently, on at least two occasions during our weekly staff meetings in early 2015, I mentioned my escalating dissonance. How could I complain about one instance of sexism without examining whether as a company, we were guilty of the same excess?
Straight up: I dropped the ball. My co-workers were skeptical, and with my leave of absence to run for mayor about to begin, there wasn’t time enough for persuasion. I let it slide. Now there is plenty of time, and my leave of absence has become permanent. This stage of my career in beer business ownership has concluded.
It makes the matter all the more frustrating.
Jim Vorel is a stranger to me, but I’m grateful to him for helping concentrate my thoughts. He surely had no intention of serving as therapist. If we ever meet, the beer’s on me.
NABC’s Naughty Girl is a fine ale. However, my words were a mistake. I’m sorry about that. My objective now is to learn something from the experience, and your thoughts as to my ongoing education are appreciated.
February 22: The PC: Beef Steak and Porter always made good belly mortar, but did America’s “top” steakhouses get the memo?
February 15: The PC: Swill in youthful times of penury and need.
When the Euro '85 series returns: Leningrad USSR.