Gender Equality through a Bottle of Whiskey

Gender Equality

A century ago, gender equality meant universal adult suffrage. Today, gender equality is promoted through a bottle of whiskey. You might be wondering how.

The legacy carried by Diageo through its popular Johnnie Walker whiskey brand is now giving way to Jane Walker, a new limited edition whiskey from the world’s largest distiller. Diageo decided to say ‘cheers’ to Jane Walker instead of Johnnie Walker, as now they ‘believe’ gender equality can be promoted through accommodating a ‘Jane’ in the branding through an altered logo and tagline. Though the whiskey was meant to be a ‘limited-edition’ experiment, it has created a buzz in the town, with both criticisms and support taking rounds across the social media platforms. Whereas the opportunity to vote meant women empowerment in the late 1800s and early 1920s, the world have changed so much that even a branding decision is today made after considering gender issues. Though this could be a wind towards the direction of change, there are also serious concerns like the commodification of gender and alleged misuse of feminist sentiments for surging the sales of the whiskey brand in question. After all, how far can we take gender issues through such marketing gimmicks? In this piece of opinion article, IndianFolk takes a look at whether the ‘gender-friendly’ whiskey can actually make the feminist movement keep ‘walking’ towards its dreams of achieving parity.

The decision to replace the iconic, 200-year old Johnnie Walker logo with the new Jane Walker logo was announced last week by the Diageo Vice President Stephanie Jacoby. The press release stated that the “…..important conversations about gender continue to be at the forefront of culture and we strongly believe there is no better time than now to introduce our Jane Walker icon and contribute to pioneering organizations that share our mission and to toast the many achievements of women.” The firm also plans to contribute $1 from the sales of every bottle to the non-profit organizations in the USA. This means that there would be a total contribution of $2,50,000 at the end of the marketing campaign as the firm plans to release 2,50,000 of such bottles during the months of March and April. Though the company intended to win the hearts of the women across the world, it seems like the move has started backfiring. Though many responded with joy and appreciating the efforts of the firm, a vast majority of the responses were critical. March 8th is celebrated across the world to remember the women’s resistance against the stereotyping and patronizing behavior meted out to them by the patriarchy and with the Jane Walker, what Diageo has done is exactly the reversal of the principles that are commemorated on International Women’s Day.

It is not for the first time that companies have tried to woo the female consumers through such marketing gimmicks. KFC once introduced a ‘female version’ of Colonel Sanders to acknowledge the largest pool of KFC consumers. Similarly, Dorito, owned by PepsiCo, introduced female friendly chips that are less audibly crunchy and messy in consumption. Now with the Jane Walker entering the arena, such promotions have become nothing but silly, laughable marketing stunts. Rather than to propagate gender equality, such promotional activities are largely responses to market surveys that concludes how women often consume less of these products than their male counterparts. To what extent can we address the gender inequalities through a mere redesign in a logo, that too for a short period of time, still remains a question.

On the brighter side, Jane Walker could be seen as a move to bring the attention of the world towards the unresolved gender issues in the society. After all, the trigger to write this article on gender issues was a result of this new campaign. While many say it is yet another patronizing stunt for increasing sales, it still must be remembered that the firm is making a good gesture by acknowledging the problems of women. Agamoni Ghosh, (@agamoni) Associate Editor at Bank Bazaar wrote on Twitter: “First you complain how male-centric brand logos are. When something like #JaneWalker is introduced, you cry foul about how they are trying too hard.”

Whether the Jane Walker can actually bring the world’s attention to gender issues is something that only time could prove. However, between the noises of support and criticisms, let us not forget the fact that we are still far from a world were both men and women are treated equally. So, let’s all say “Cheers and Bottoms Up!” not just to Jane Walker, but also to the larger gender issues and discrimination that the world is facing.

– Contributed by Jiss

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