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Jane or Johnnie? The Great Whiskey Debate

NextTribe midlife women whiskey



March is National Women’s History Month (yay, us!), and there are some interesting ideas about how to celebrate it. Here’s one that caught our eye: Johnnie Walker, the esteemed whiskey, has redesigned some of its Black Label bottles. They’re launching a limited-edition version that says Jane Walker on the label and shows a woman striding forward with confidence instead of the usual dude.

Here’s how the company explains the move: “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. We are proud to toast the many achievements of women and everyone on the journey towards progress in gender equality.”

Sounds like a lovely idea at first listen…but not everyone is raising a glass to this idea. In fact, some women feel downright condescension emanating from the move. Females don’t need a lady on the label to encourage them to drink scotch, they say, as we already account for 37 percent of whiskey consumption (up from 15 percent in the 1990s), and that figure continues to climb.

The move to turn Johnnie into Jane can be seen as an attempt to make scotch “safe” for women. “As I am sure you know, women only consume wine spritzers and vodka-based drinks, like Cosmopolitans….How could I possibly know anything about scotch and bourbon and whiskey, drinks that are exclusively for men?… Brown liquors are so terribly unfeminine, and they intimidate me almost as much as mathematics.’ wrote Moira Judkis with a hefty dose of snark in The Washington Post about the liquor’s name change.

So let us know what you think: Do you like when women are celebrated in this way in the marketplace, or do you think it panders?

–Janet Siroto

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