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‘Panty Peeler’ Beer Under Fire for Promoting ‘Rape Culture’

Wednesday, October 5, 2016 9:01
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(Before It's News)

Normally I avoid outrage stories in which the culprit is culture, not government. But this craft-beer controversy brewing in Alaska is just too silly—and yet typical—to pass by. Apparently, some folks are appalled that Anchorage’s Midnight Sun Brewing Company offers a beer called the “Panty Peeler.”

A Belgian tripel made with coriander and orange peel, Panty Peeler gets good reviews from beer snobs and has been around since the early 1990s. But—perhaps proving that ’90s political-correctness was but a gossamer wing of things to come—it has recently come under fire from the Alaska literary community for promoting “rape culture” and objectification.

The spat, originally confined to the realm of social-media arguments, made it this week to the Anchorage NBC affiliate KTUU, which included critiques from the likes of Fairbanks teacher, poet, and Fulbright Scholar Nicole Stellon O’Donnell (“Great promotional sticker for #rapeculture! Oops, I mean beer made in the state with the nation’s highest rates of sexual assault”) and Anchorage playwright Peter Porco, who called the beer “retro” and “sex-aggressive.” The website Thrillist included Panty Peeler on its list of the “13 most sexist names and labels in craft beer.”

But here’s the thing: everything about the beer’s packaging conveys just the opposite of sexual aggression or objectification. If anything it’s beer marketed at women, not men looking to take advantage of them.

The cans features a nude red-haired woman riding a caribou and tossing her bra and underwear into the air behind her. There are no men or anyone else around. The implication isn’t some sketchy dude trying to get a woman drunk for nefarious purposes but ladies, buy this beer if you’re looking for a good time.

Midnight Sun co-founder Barb Miller told KTUU that most of Midnight Sun’s beers are named by women and suggestions that the name or label promoted sexual violence were “very hurtful.”

Our graphic artist and I spent a lot of time designing the label art because we wanted to portray playfulness and strength, especially with the Panty Peeler art. The woman is strong and adventurous; she is in charge and in control of her actions.

Of course, in 2016, any pairing of women and sexuality will be assumed by some to be a manifestation of patriarchy. We’ve become so sensitive to sniffing out and shaming slights against women’s agency, autonomy, and equality that suddenly some of the very things earlier feminists fought for are viewed with suspicion or hostility. The Panty Peeler controversy might be a small and insignificant case, but it succinctly encapsulates a broader trend toward progressive neo-victorianism and looking at sexuality-related comments, content, and activity not through a lens of liberation but one of victimization. So even if the Panty Peeler label explicitly features a woman exhibiting agency (by flinging off her clothes), people hear the name and assume it’s marketed toward men looking to coercively get in women’s “panties,” or they see the label and code it as objectifying women.

“The label art of a naked female figure being carried across the sky on a flying horse doesn’t exactly scream ‘we value women as real people, not mythical sex phantoms!’ complained Thrillist writer Dave Infante.

Can I get an eyeroll, please?

So far, this case hasn’t led to any serious censorship attempts, but that wouldn’t be unprecedented. Maryland’s Flying Dog Brewery only recently won a years-long battle with the Michigan Liquor Control Commission of the agency’s ban on bars selling its “Raging Bitch” IPA. Jacob Sullum has a brief history of other beer-labeling censorship controversies here.

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