The traditional American beer ad isn't exactly known for progressive feminist ideals: Picture, say, bikini-clad models mud-wrestling over Miller Lite. The same is true in Brazil, where a group of advertising creatives decided to push back with something new: a feminist-friendly beer.
Cerveja Feminista is designed to get the ad industry talking about both the way women are portrayed in advertising and the fact that, in Brazil, few art directors are female.
"We are advertising creatives working in a very sexist environment, and we started to grow uncomfortable with it," says Thais Fabris, one of the founders of a creative activism group called 65 | 10 (the name comes from two facts: 65% of Brazilian women don't feel like they're represented in ads, and only 10% of creatives at ad agencies in Brazil are women).
Beer was a natural choice for their message. "The typical Brazilian beer ad—and we're talking about big brands with big money here—shows a seminaked standard-beauty woman being harassed by men," Fabris says.
"She is either the waitress in the bar, a girl on the beach, or a prize the men get for drinking that beer. For us, it has many dangerous aspects, since it objectifies women and enables sexual harassment on a daily basis, on mass media. Even craft beers, which are also becoming more popular here, follow that path, with names like 'Fatlicious' or 'Forbidden Lady.'"
The new beer is labeled with a symbol for gender equality and a definition of feminism. "Many people still think feminism is the direct opposite of machismo, meaning it is about feminine supremacy over men," Fabris says. "For us, it is about equality. Of course empowering women is a part of it, but what we are trying to build is a society where men and women have equal rights, as simple as that."
The group plans to produce as much of the beer as possible to share its message. "Our hope is that, once you put a beer on the table with 'Feminist' written on it, people will have no other subject to discuss," she says.
It actually isn't the first beer to call itself feminist—Oregon's Full Sail Brewing Co. made an experimental dark ale meant to challenge the idea of a light "girl's beer," and California's Monkish Brewing Co. makes a Belgian-style tripel named Feminist.
How much can beer help? "Media shapes how society sees itself," says Fabris. "If we can stop advertising that stereotypes women, we are changing an important part of our culture. It does not solve all the problem of machismo, of course—it has very deep roots in our culture. But it is one less part of this culture enabling this behavior, and that is a really important step."