Warning: I’m going to write the word rape so many times it’s going to not sound like a word anymore. Also, there will be some discussion of beerbro comments and attitudes about rape culture.
If you’ve been following my social media, especially twitter, lately, you’ve seen the Rebecca Rose piece “Dude, ‘Mouth Raper’ Is Not What You Should Call Your Beer” on Jezebel, in which Rose recaps Beervana’s piece on Hop Valley’s “Mr. IPA” and whether the beer is actually called “MR IPA,” as in “Mouth-Raper IPA”; or “Mr IPA,” as in “Mister IPA, old sport.”
Hop Valley finally responded yesterday (17 Jan. 2014) to say that the proper name was “Mr. IPA”:
While the apology and action to correct the issue are appreciated, there are several points in this case to consider: Hop Valley’s slowness to act and uphold its online reputation, Beermongers’ (a Portland bar) attitude of patriarchal nonchalance, and the overall “boy’s club” attitude that exists not only in craft beer, but in gaming, academia, geekery, STEM, and anywhere that women are perceived as “lesser” consumers and producers.
On 20 Dec. 2013, twitter user Oregone tweeted at Hop Valley asking about “Mouth Raper IPA,” which he had seen in the Portland bar Beermongers:
Oregone then wrote to Jeff Alsworth of Beervana about this, and he did some research, publishing “When Naming Goes Awry” on 13 Dec. 2013. Oregone wrote,
Alworth found some evidence on RateBeer.com of the “mouth raper” name, as did I on Untapped, something on which Oregone commented.
Alworth’s conclusion is that, while he understands why whomever originated the name was trying to create provocative and thereby memorable name, “What should you do when you inadvertently learn you’ve used a racist, sexist, or religiously offensive name for your beer? Dump the name and apologize. ”
The Beermongers’ Response
Unlike many blogs, the majority of the comments on the Beervana post are actually thoughtful and worth reading, until we get to Jim from The Beermongers, whose comment is only really useful for evidence:
Text: A comment from your friendly, local Beermonger here…
I’m not sure which bartender you spoke to, but the info you cited is incorrect. On the bill of lading (we call them invoices in the biz) the beer was referred to, IIRC, by the price tier. For example, 1/2 barrels of a high ABV, one-off beer may be referred to as “HV 1/2 BBL TIER 3” etc.. and I’m also pretty sure the keg was labeled “MR IPA”. I did, however, have it on authority from a source at the source that the off-the-grid street name was indeed ‘Mouth Raper’. I’m sure the TTB would not allow this, so “MR IPA” it became. Beermongers is not a child-friendly establishment, so we thought it would be fun to run it by the ‘secret’ name. We would do the same with Barley Brown’s WFO IPA… and more people would be upset. It’s the name of a beer, let’s not all get bent out of shape here.
Rape is a violent crime no doubt. I think you can find a shitload of other beer names (esp IPAs) that refer to murder, assassination, assault, etc. Do you think these are less serious crimes? Are you just overly sensitive to sexual provocation? I think this article is too aggressive for the nature of the issue and it also seems like a pointed attack. Do your research and write a more informed article next time. It would be a more interesting read and seem less bullyish.
Jim @ The Beermongers (emphasis mine)
Here it seems that the name is a street name, but Jim from the bar just wants you all to know how overly sensitive you’re being, and how fun a name with “rape” in it is. Why are you ruining his fun?!
The best response in the comments. Lisa Szot writes,
No, Beermongers is not a child-friendly environment, but is it also not a women-friendly environment? I doubt that you mean to imply that, but the beer’s name IS certainly offensive to women. Sure, there are lots of violent crimes out there, but (according to RAINN), 1 in 6 women American women have been sexually assaulted. Maybe it’s just not a “fun” name to these many, many victims.
You’re right that there are lots of potentially offensive beer names out there and I don’t think it’s a black & white issue, Maybe “Mouth Raper” doesn’t offend you, but there are plenty of people who are offended by it. When Burnside Brewing realized that Hindus were offended by Kali Ma, I imagine that they were initially surprised that some people were upset. But they responded well by pulling back the release and apologizing – because if there is an offended group, it’s worth acknowledging it and making it an effort to understand it.
No comment yet from Oregon-based brewer Hop Valley on the unfortunate and really fucking gross name, if that is in fact the name they chose. So I can’t rightfully condemn their company for making a bad choice for a product name. But the fact remains that there appear to be people in the beer community that think it’s A-OK and probably sort of funny to call a beer “Mouth Raper.” Because LOL IT RAPES YOUR MOUTH WITH FLAVOR LOL. And anyone that has a problem with that name or using the word “rape” is just being “overly sensitive.” That’s ridiculous to me, guys. As more and more women get into the craft of brewing, perhaps it’s a good enough time as any to seriously consider the message you might be sending, even with something that you think is as meaningless as the name of a beer.
Social Media Response
When Hop Valley announced on social media on Friday that the proper name is “Mr. IPA” and issued an apology and statement of action, The Beermongers scuttled around in a “don’t shoot the messenger” attempt to show that they weren’t the bad guy:
You may not have named the beer, but you sold it under that name “Mouth Raper,” admitted to it on Beervana, and then, instead of apologizing, pulled one of The Kitchn’s favorite moves* and just opened it up to comments from your (frankly terrifying) clientele instead of apologizing for your actions. Also, if John’s and Jim’s opinions don’t represent The Beermongers’ company opinion, now would be a good time to mention that and get someone else on social media. The Facebook fan page only goes to show that a lot of the fans (including female fans, but it’s not like female collusion in perpetuating the patriarchy is a new, albeit still illogical, thing), think that The Beermongers weren’t in the wrong, regardless of how much Hop Valley Brewing was involved in the naming. I would venture The Beermongers’ reluctance to also apologize for using the name–even if the name wasn’t one they created–goes to show how right Szot was about their sexism.
One of the most common comments on Facebook in cases such as this is something along the lines of “This doesn’t matter! Why should we care about the name of a beer when there are REAL problems in the world!” I don’t know, the propagation of rape culture/lack of a culture of consent, which allows rapists to escape consequences while authorities and communities silence and punish those they assault and those who try to help, is a problem. That women are faced with rape and death threats for daring to voice opinions about basically any subject; that MRAs trot out the erasure of male survivors of sexual abuse and assault only to use them to show how “evil” feminists are instead of trying to increase social awareness. Rape is a real damn problem. So is the sexism that allows rape culture to continue.
Furthermore, it’s not like sexism exists in a vacuum: when we say it’s inherent in the system, that doesn’t only mean our social institutions, but also our mainstream and sub-cultures and personal lives, and that includes the food-and-beverage industry’s products and advertising. While it’s easy to use Big Beer (Budweiser, Coors) as examples of openly sexist, unapologetic “boys’ club” marketing to straight men, craft beer also has a lot of engrained sexism it needs to excise.
What’s Left to Be Done
Hop Valley took far too long to respond to Oregone and, if their allegation that they did not start the “street name” is to be believed, apparently the company also wasn’t monitoring its product in bars, online review sites, or resellers. That’s the biggest question I have–why is “Mouth Raper” an alternate name on three major beer sites? Commenter Dana Graves asked the same on Facebook, which you can read on The Eugene Weekly‘s coverage. If the real name were actually “Mouth Raper,” just admit to it, Hop Valley, and then say you’re scrubbing the Internet of it because you messed up, not because you want to cover it up.
As for The Beermongers, even if you didn’t start the name, you have an obligation to provide a safe environment for your patrons. If you initially didn’t understand why the name was problematic and thought you were being cool using it, then when people tell you that you are using problematic language, you listen to them. You apologize sincerely; you don’t complain that life is so hard now that women and assault survivors want to be treated like, gasp, the human beings that they are; and you don’t whine that someone is ruining your fun or can’t take a joke or obstructing your right to free speech.
So let’s scrap the “Mouth-Rapers,” the sexist names (“Double Ds,” for example), the “beer wench” bottle art, the condescending attitude towards folks (mostly women) just getting into beer, and the bullshit gendered marketing of drinks. Beer is for everyone, and, in the only way I can simultaneously end this post and maintain my mental health, I will drink to that.
Looking for feminist craft beer? Check out Bitch Beer Blog, Beer Hobo, Full Sail Brewing (see them on Autostraddle), The Thirsty Wench (Canada), and, obviously, my social media feeds (see the side bar). I’m also on Untapped as illmakeitmyself, if you’d like to know what I’m drinking.
Got a suggestion for a blog or article on feminism and beer I might like? Leave me a comment!
Why I refuse to use recipes from The Kitchn: the site fails my gender test. Whenever they comment on a sexist issue, it’s always like, “Welp, instead of taking a stand on something that is clearly problematic and wrong, what do you think, readers?” Gross.