CAMRA’s Sexist Young Members Leaflet

camra leaflet scan high quality 2camra leaflet scan high quality 1

Earlier today, my attention was drawn to this leaflet. No, it’s not advertising a tacky pin-up Freshers club night. It’s the new Young Members leaflet from the Campaign for Real Ale, sent out to affiliated university real ale societies for them to distribute to students. This leaflet is supposed to encourage young people to join CAMRA.

I must admit, when I first clapped eyes on this, I thought it might be a hoax, a cruel joke at the expense of CAMRA in order to stir up antipathy; after all, how could such a huge organisation, full of reasonable people, put out something so archaic and offensive?

What sort of people do they want to attract? Slavering ‘lads’, drawn to the organisation because of the use of attractive women as window dressing? They can’t be hoping to attract young women or non-idiotic young men with these images. I understand that CAMRA want to move away from the stereotype of the beer-bellied beardies wearing socks and sandals, but don’t they realise that by putting these scantily clad models in their recruitment literature, they’re further entrenching the idea that it’s an organisation full of letchy, out-of-touch old men? Surely, this leaflet couldn’t be real?

Sadly, my faith in the sanity of CAMRA Head Office was misplaced. I soon received confirmation from my old friends at Leeds University Union Real Ale Society that they had been sent these leaflets, and that one of their members had started the petition to get them withdrawn. The leaflets were delivered two weeks ago, and since then the members who contacted CAMRA to complain were brushed off with claims that because there were women on the board, the organisation could not create anything sexist. There were also references made to some sort of ‘quality control’ process which the leaflet had undergone.

I was informed by the National Chairperson of CAMRA Young Members that they had indeed been shown the leaflets to approve, but the Young Members committee informed CAMRA HQ that the leaflets were not fit for purpose.

Not fit for purpose.

The YM committee were unaware that the leaflets had been printed and distributed, until today. I suppose that shows how much CAMRA respects the opinions of the people it’s trying to recruit with this outdated mess.

I’ve seen nothing but disappointment and disbelief in response to the leaflet, from CAMRA members and non-members alike (aside from one random person on Twitter who believes that it isn’t an issue). This marketing campaign should have been binned straight off the storyboard, and even if it had somehow slipped under the barriers of, you know, good taste and not alienating people, when the Young Members committee deemed it not fit for purpose, they should have been listened to.

It’s such a pity. Many branches are very reasonable and progressive, but when these sort of attitudes come down directly from HQ, blatantly ignoring the people they’re supposed to be representing, it’s time for me to stop being complicit in this organisation’s institutional sexism.

This isn’t an attack on CAMRA members or the branches. This is just me saying that I’m sorely disappointed in the decisions of the organisation. I won’t be renewing my membership. If you agree that this type of thing isn’t on, please sign this petition which calls for a halt to the distribution of this leaflet.

FURTHER DEVELOPMENTS – I quote Franzi Florack, creator of the petition:

“This morning (14/10/14) CAMRA published a statement which confirmed that the flyers had been withdrawn. Unfortunately it does not acknowledge the sexist nature of the flyers and only states that they ‘would like to apologise for any offence this may have caused’- which neither admits fault nor discusses how this will not happen again in the future.

The statement further claims that ‘the campaign was discussed with young marketing professionals within CAMRA’s Young Membership Marketing Group (YMMG), which is made up of men and women, and they supported this creative’. Whilst this might be true, I have also been informed that the CAMRA Young Members committee saw the leaflets, too, and their protest was ignored.

In my last update, I asked CAMRA to issue
‘1. A public apology to the university societies which acknowledges the sexist nature of the flyers
2. A public apology to the CAMRA Young Members board which acknowledges that these volunteers have been deliberately overlooked and a promise that this will not happen again in the future’
and neither of the two has been received.

As a result, this campaign will stay open until a public apology has been issued which acknowledges the sexist nature of the flyers and includes the above apologies. I do applaud CAMRA’s wish to work with ‘CAMRA’s young membership to create a new campaign’, however until fault has been acknowledged there is no guarantee that these voices will actually be heard.

Some people have been calling for CAMRA to create an inclusive manifesto and I wholeheartedly support that idea. These sexist representations of women panders to the sort of gender stereotypes that portray women as sex objects. They also make life difficult for women as well as discouraging women from drinking beer and getting involved in activism to save pubs and other important beer heritage sites.

Please continue to sign and pass on the campaign- we need your support more than ever.”

I also include this screenshot of tweets from the CAMRA Young Members twitter account, which is at odds with claims in the official ‘apology’ that the leaflets were supported by the YM Marketing Group.

YM Tweets

15/10/14: People had been asking for a higher quality photo of the leaflet, and Franzi kindly sent me the scanned copy. Click the pictures at the top if you want a proper look or, as CAMRA put it, if you’re ‘thirsty for more’.

46 thoughts on “CAMRA’s Sexist Young Members Leaflet

  • “flyers show incredibly sexist pictures of vintage pin up models who wear low cut corsets, have open red lips and blond hair and who present their boobs “.

    Wow, well done petition… slut-shaming one of the UK’s top pinup models, October Divine.

    It may not be to your taste but the vintage pinup look is probably even more popular with WOMEN than men.

    How do you demand women are dressed in marketing materials? Hairy jumper and skirt of stout hessian?

    This is why modern feminism gets such a rough ride: ‘I personally don’t like it so ban it.’

    • How is describing a photo slut-shaming? There’s nothing wrong at all with how she looks, it’s about the context – that attractive women are being used as window-dressing to attract lads. I can’t believe I have to clarify that!

  • I’m very disappointed with this but not too surprised, sadly. In my experience it is HQ who often undo the good work being done on the ground by ordinary members who see real ale as the ultimate social leveller. It’s crazy that the YM’s committee were ignored and somebody needs to hold their hands up for this whole debacle.

  • I’ve been in contact with a National Exec member (the elected members rather than paid employees at HQ). They fully appreciate the issues raised here and will be asking some searching questions as to how this leaflet got into circulation, given the context above. So things will be happening at the top of the CAMRA food chain in relation to this over the next month or so. Don’t let your membership lapse just yet!

  • Just wanted to applaud Molyneux’s comeback to Ramona.
    I cannot get my head round Ramona’s accusation of slut-shaming – it suggests that ANY objection to the way a sexualised image of a woman is used is automatically a criticism of the woman herself.
    Ramona – a reason that feminism gets such a rough ride – is that people who are uncomfortable about it caricature it as joyless and aggressive, and I am afraid you have fallen for this idea.
    Feminism is NOT against sex, sexiness, flirting, red lips, boobs out, or any display of sexuality.
    It is against the suggestion that this is how a woman is VALUED.

    • Precisely, Matthew.

      How do people with access to the internet continue to struggle with comprehension of basic terms? This is reminiscent of ‘if DNA gives us diseases why do we have it then?’ Educate yourselves, people. You have no excuse for your ignorance.

  • Oh CAMRA.

    I know real ales have had a hard time marketing to younger people and shaking off the image of bearded tedium but using advertising methods that belong in the seventies and eighties isn’t going to help them, especially against the advice of their own YM committee.

  • Great that’s it’s now been pulled, but saddening that such a big organisation with loads of committed volunteers continues to make mistakes like this in the first place. Every time it happens it diminishes the whole and all the hard work that many of the great branches do.

  • Just got an email back from CAMRA marketing in response to my angry email. Thought people might be interested. They still aren’t admitting that it’s in any way sexist… and apparently they have a “young member marketing” group who are not the same as their actual “Young Members’ Group”. Shame they listen to them and not their actual young members…

    “A number of different parties have discussed this campaign over a 14 month period. There is a young member marketing group that we originally discussed this idea with and it was liked and seen as a fresh and a new approach for CAMRA. These were members aged 18-30, 50/50 male female split, who work in marketing.

    This artwork was also shown to a number of focus groups at GBBF 2013 that consisted of young members and non-members and this was again liked by them and in fact was preferred by the women.

    The Young Members Group (which is different to the above) was not as strong as it is in 2014 in regards to feedback, time, skills etc and that is why the young members marketing group was created to take pressure off them and make the most of young volunteers who worked in marketing to get their thoughts and feedback.

    The Young Members Group did see the campaign and liked some elements and others they didn’t. Like all campaigns you have to weigh up all of the feedback from the above, Directors, members, staff, agencies etc and then take a judgement call.

    Although we have had some positive feedback for this campaign and new members have joined up in the first few weeks of this campaign, we obviously got this wrong here as it did offend some people. We never want to offend anyone and therefore removed this campaign and apologised for any offence we have caused in our statement. We will now work with all of the young members to create a new campaign.”

  • Alison

    This is interesting and helpful. It at least goes to show that consideration was put into it, though for one, I can’t understand the thought processes of those that liked the images. But least it seemingly wasn’t bunged out on a whim. You have to also read between the lines of internal CAMRA issues when you see “The Young Members Group (which is different to the above) was not as strong as it is in 2014 in regards to feedback, time, skills etc ”

    I suppose too that what offends some, doesn’t bother others and it is difficult in some ways to navigate a path through that jungle. Having said that, this doesn’t seem anything but clearly unwise. At worst though it will set alarm bells ringing and raise conciousness next time such a leaflet is considered. It’s an ill wind and all that.

  • I do not find this sexist, neither against women nor against men – there is a man flexing his ‘guns’ on the leaflet after all….

    Depicting how the intended age group would look on a night out is perfectly reasonable and nothing to get in a tizz over.

    It does look like this has been blown up out of all proportion as now ‘thousands’ have been given the opportunity to feign offence at a leaflet that perhaps just a few tens of people might otherwise have seen. Well done for that :-)

    Also it’s been a good opportunity for the usual suspects to do a bit of ritual CAMRA bashing.

    If you genuinely are offended by this leaflet then I feel you really are doing the fight against real sexism a great disservice.

    • Everyone I’ve shown it to – mainly people outside the beer industry and with little interest in either CAMRA or CAMRA bashing – has been appalled by it.

      It is sexist. That’s why people are upset by it. And if a man had expressed that as “in a tizz”, I’d consider that as adding insult to injury.

  • Sexism isn’t hard to understand. Those who consider this leaflet not to be sexist simply haven’t understood what sexism is. Go away and learn. Come back when you have something valuable to contribute. These “we discussed it and…” replies are comical. The reason this leaflet exists is not because someone made a sexist slip up. It exists because behind it are sexists. You resolve the issue by educating or removing them. Apologising for having been an arsehole does not stop you being an arsehole – learn and change the behaviour. Brewers, publicans, CAMRA etc don’t solve the problem by stopping using sexist imagery in marketing, you solve the problem by not being/employing sexists. Until then, the stereotype image of CAMRA as full of beardy lonely lecherous old wankers will remain – because like all stereotypes, it retains an element of accuracy.

    • A bit off topic but CAMRA still has a lot to learn about marketing and promotion, esp from up and coming commercial craft beer festivals.

      I think there are two inherent problems, #1 it’s still essentially a volunteer organisation and thus run but people who aren’t professionals in the field and #2 their demographic is ‘everyone’ they are trying to encourage everyone to try cask ale, so their material is often so broad facing that is looses impact or makes errors like this one, they also don’t want to head down a younger fresher marketing campaign in fear of loosing older stalwart members.

      Commercial ventures such as Indy Man Beer Con I worked at last week don’t have this issue as such, sure they are happy for anyone to come along but to say they don’t target a specific demographic of trend following 20-30s professionals did not go to the same beer convention that I did. They have chosen their demographic and if the average retiree aged cask ale drinker feels alienated by it then they aren’t too bothered by the loss, CAMRA doesn’t have this luxury.

  • It is a matter of context & appropriateness.

    Ask yourself: what is the purpose of these images in the context of this flyer/campaign. What function do they serve in promoting cask ale?

    If that function is attention-getting eye-candy, then it is sexisim. If the function is to make cask ale seem “sexy”, then it is sexism. Objectification – plain and simple. Use of the images as “clickbait” you could say. (To reiterate: this is about context, there is nothing wrong with women dressing up as pin-up models should they wish to. There *is* something wrong with CAMRA using pin-up models to promote cask ale.)

    I do not buy the “depicting how the intended age group would look on a night out” comment at all. It simply isn’t true. CAMRA has a good supply of far more typical imagery of young folk enjoying beer… looking normal and happy. Picking such images would seem to me to be a no-brainer… I really do wonder about the folk in HQ sometimes.

    I’ve been keen in the past for CAMRA to adopt a code of conduct of some sort… but if HQ itself can generate this sort of obviously flawed material in the present day then what hope is there?

  • Actually, objectification isn’t in itself sexist. This is just semantics, but had the leaflet included men dressed in similar style clothing, pouting over an ale etc. then whilst it would still have been crap, it wouldn’t have been sexist. Treating people differently on the basis of gender is sexism. The leaflet has one guy dressed in everyday clothes – as you might see in your local – and three women dressed in, what in my local, would be regarded as fancy dress. Oddly enough, in my local the women dress in everyday clothes just like the man has been pictured in the leaflet. So we can clearly say that in this leaflet men and women have been deliberately treated differently, pictured differently, and then we get into the question of to what end? And that’s exactly what Yvan has just summarised. There is no getting around the sexism behind this leaflet – and if CAMRA don’t act on the rot they have, the “alright dear don’t get in a tiz about it” brigade, then who the hell wants to be associated with those dinosaurs? I certainly won’t be renewing unless sensible changes are assured. (It is really frustrating that so many years after his death, this Bill Hicks clip is still just as relevant.

  • If it’s sexist then it’s also racist. Three white people are shown with no BME people to be seen and no people with a disability. Shock horror.

    As a more mature female (not a CAMRA member) it really isn’t sexist.

    • Problem being Sexism isn’t objective, it’s subjective, if it can be considered to be sexist by anyone who would view it then it’s sexist to them.

    • You might not be upset by this, it might not bother you, you might think it inconsequential, but you being a mature woman doesn’t change whether this treats men or women differently (and that’s the sole definition of sexism.) I’m a 41 year old male ale drinker, I find imagery of women dressed in the way pictured attractive, but that has no bearing on whether this leaflet is sexist or not either. The omission of anyone of colour isn’t necessarily racist. Arguably if that’s all CAMRA ever did it might indicate racism, or if it was a large all white crowd scene it might indicate racism. My staff of four all happen to be white. Can you assume I’m racist? But if I employed 50 people and they were all white, that might well ring alarm bells. Understanding these terms and ideas really isn’t all that complicated, nor are they difficult to work within.

  • Actually, sexism – treating people differently on the basis of gender – isn’t subjective, it’s clear cut. One person cannot find something sexist, another not. That simply means one understands the term, the other doesn’t. Whether someone is offended by something or not is irrelevant. Unfortunately the term sexism is used wrongly for such a broad range of behaviours. All we’re talking about is “treating people differently on the basis of gender.” If something exhibits that behaviour, or has come about due to that behaviour, it’s sexist. It might not offend you at all, but that changes nothing.

  • I think Pete’s really hit the nail on the head in his post here: HQ has responded to the complaints, but doesn’t seem to understand WHY what it did was wrong.

    On Yvan’s point about more suitable imagery, you would *think* it would be easy. All they need to do (as much as it would make them grind their teeth to do so) is take a leaf out of BrewDog’s book. Their website is packed with images of mixed groups of happy young people drinking beer in their bars, and fair representation of female members of staff at the bars and at the brewery alongside the blokes. The reason that’s the case is because, for BrewDog, that’s normal. It really is that simple.

    CAMRA’s website meanwhile, generally features women in a token sort of way. OH LOOK TWO WOMEN AT GBBF LET’S SNAP THEM QUICK. Women are treated as some kind of rare exotic species to captured in a big net and plonked on the cover of leaflets to prove that CAMRA HQ knows what they look like. The people who approved those images used in the offending leaflet think that is normal. It isn’t, and it will take a serious culture change there for them to realise how wrong they are.

    • Spot on Chris. “We got that wrong” doesn’t cut it. “We don’t understand why that was wrong, but we’re going to learn or employ people that do understand” is what is required here.

  • members aged 18-30, 50/50 male female split, who work in marketing

    I think I’ve spotted the problem.

    – But isn’t it a bit sexist?
    “Yeah. Exactly!”
    – No, I’m not saying it’s sexy-”
    “Sexy, yeah! Right!”
    – No, look, I’m not saying it’s sexy-”
    “Looks pretty sexy to me, but that’s your call! Sexy, not sexy, hey!”
    – I’m saying it’s sexist.
    “Whoa – sexist! Yeah! Heavy!”
    – And that’s a problem.
    “And that’s totally a problem, yeah. Right. This is really great feedback, guys…”

    (with apologies to Twenty Twelve)

  • I always struggle to understand why anyone would want to join CAMRA? I might be missing the point but all the stereotypes that are attached to them are fairly negative.

    I personally see them as a group of men of middling years, that enjoy pump clips showing thin waisted, large breasted women, I also imagine them enjoying the comedy of Jim Davidson and reminiscing about the their glory days in the ’70s. Why would a student want to attach themselves to that?

    I might be totally wrong and being very unfair but stereotypes come from somewhere. I’m personally going for the Freddie Krugar tactic of just ignoring them until they go away.

    • “I always struggle to understand why anyone would want to join CAMRA?”

      [A bit off topic.] Why join CAMRA? Because there is an element of fun! I’ve learnt a hell of a lot thanks to CAMRA. Running beer festivals is great (if tiring) fun and I dare say I wouldn’t be doing what I do now (beer distribution) without having gone through that CAMRA step. Local CAMRA involvement helped me meet people/brewers/pubs too… so there was a networking element. Many parts of CAMRA are very open and inclusive too, progressive even, GBBF is an example – a great volunteer vibe and atmosphere for the most part.

      This is of course an entirely different set of reasons for the perhaps-usual non-active-member ones: beer festival entry fee avoidance & ‘spoons vouchers.

      A good question is: why leave CAMRA? Because I’m sick and tired of being associated with the negative elements. Because I don’t want to contribute my £££ to a campaign that does too many things I personally disagree with. Because as the “craft beer” movement rises and events like IMBC and B3 take up all my festival time there is less value in CAMRA membership. Because, basically, CAMRA need to modernise but refuses to do so… it is an organisation for the seriously traditionalist. Not just traditional beer, but outmoded “traditional” values and beliefs to go with it. This isn’t meant to imply that all CAMRA members are in any way like this, but we do all get tarred with this same brush. The greater organisation represents the majority conservative membership… which is democratically correct I guess! But many many active members I know are unhappy with where this leads. There is dissent amongst the grassroots as such. I bet Lib Dems know a similar feeling! END RANT.

  • “I always struggle to understand why anyone would want to join CAMRA?”

    Most of the people I know do so because it works out cheaper than the price of tickets to their local beer festivals. They have absolutely no idea as to what the organisation stands for other than that its something to do with beer.

    Of course, its great for CAMRA because the tiny minority of old white men with views straight out of the 1960s who run the show and keep a tight grip on the executive positions can claim to have this huge mandate, which is, of course, a complete lie.

    • That is a good point. My brother – in – law joined CAMRA at a festival and he was very happy about his money off tokens for McSpoons. He hasn’t mentioned it since so I gather he’s not partaking in the “Campaigning” part.

  • To Carol Clarke you make me ashamed when I read your archaic comments. As a young woman who loves discovering fabulous beer, I do not want to be portrayed in this way.
    It’s perfectly fine to dress that way, it’s pretty cool, but the fact is it’s not in context at all.
    Simple terms, the ladies are there for men to leer over or perhaps give them the laughable idea that joining this club will help them pull hot birds! No chance if this is how you portray us. The female handbag to the blokey beer drinker!
    Shame on you. It’s not the 70s anymore.
    Great article, thank you.

  • My thoughts on the leaflet are quite straightforward, it is simply very tacky.

    However one thing that has amused me is that whilst it is perfectly acceptable for people replying on here to attack CAMRA for sexism and denigrating women, it is also acceptable to throw is phrases such as…..

    “beer-bellied beardies wearing socks and sandals”
    “bearded tedium”
    “beardy lonely lecherous old wankers”
    “group of men of middling years”
    “minority of old white men with views straight out of the 1960s”

    Rampant ageism, anyone?

    I’ve been a CAMRA member for 30 years, since I was @ 20 and I don’t recognise any of the definitions of the stereotypical CAMRA member quoted here. I have also never seen any of the perceived treatement of ladies also surmised on here, and for the record my wife is also a CAMRA member.

    CAMRA isn’t perfect, far from it, but change can only come from within. There is nothing to stop those with the loudest voices on here from joining CAMRA and putting themselves up for election. That is how to change things, the keyboard warrior has a track record of achieving nothing.

    • As I said in my inital response this is the impression I have of CAMRA. It’s not ageist to say that my perception of a group is that it’s “full of middle aged men”. If this widely held perception is infact incorrect then CAMRA really need to think about redefining their image to correct the stereotype and show people, who aren’t members, that their membership is diverse or at the least that they want to be diverse.

      CAMRA however, obviously aren’t bothered about being perceived as a group of men of middling years. If they did then they would have looked at their recruitment leaflet and thought “this isn’t exactly the image we want for our group”. Instead they thought this is a great leaflet, our student branch has already told us not to go with it but we will anyway. If I was in their student group I’d be handing my membership in, how condersending is it of CAMRA to say to their student membership “we want to promote CAMRA to the body of people you represent, so can we have some feedback?” ….. “Ohhh we don’t like that feedback, but we obviously know your age group better than you so we’ll ignore you and print it anyway”.

      So why then would any sane person look at that leaflet and think “this group looks really sexist and outdated but you know what I’ll give them my money in the hope that I can have some slim chance to be elected and change them from the inside”?

  • Its impossible to change CAMRA from within, as the only way to vote is to physically attend the AGM, and who but a handful of retired gents have the time and money to afford to do that?

    Its a masterful piece of maintaining the illusion of democracy whilst never having to actually listen to the membership about anything.

    Its great you’ve never seen any examples of sexism, I guess we must have made this leaftlet up then.

    Meanwhile CAMRA continues its valuable work in promoting negative images that put people off beer for life and destroying pubs.

  • I’m Brian and so’s my wife. I’m a CAMRA member, and for the record, so’s my wife. I couldn’t be sexist, I love women, lots of my friends are women, my mum even…

    Lee, you’ve quoted me. Me, a 41 year old beer shapen baldy man. (CAMRA member, and so’s me wife :) ) The issue isn’t that CAMRA IS run by beardy lonely lecherous old wankers. I only recognise that stereotype in a couple of the branch members I know. The issue is that even if there were no truth at all in the stereotype, it IS a perceived stereotype. Bearded, cardigan wearing, elbow patched, hiding out in the pub until dinner is ready, middle aged, prefer a tankard or glass with handle, haven’t seen own feet whilst standing in twenty years blokes – who end all sentences to the bar maid with “love” or “darlin.” It doesn’t matter if it’s a real image. It’s the very image CAMRA is trying to kill off by aiming this leaflet at the young demographic, and yet the very image CAMRA has presented by aiming THIS leaflet at the young demographic.

    It would make no difference if the powers that be at CAMRA were all 25 year old women. None of the commentary about coming across like “old white men with views straight out of the 1960s” would be any less valid.

  • Although I agree with one poster that the vintage pin-up look is not inherently sexist ( I have a friend who does this sort of modelling and burlesque) to use it to attract new young members was naive at best and disconnected from young beer lovers, possibly alienating potential young women and men who aren’t fooled by the “sex sells” theory.

    It shows yet another example of how CAMRA continue to miss the mark with a new generation of real ale and craft beer enthusiasts

  • “Its impossible to change CAMRA from within, as the only way to vote is to physically attend the AGM, and who but a handful of retired gents have the time and money to afford to do that?”

    Change wouldn’t necessarily come about py, even if you did go along to the AGM. Motions are vetted by some committee or other, and not all proposals are allowed to go forward to the conference. It’s almost like the whole thing is stage-managed. Believe me, I’ve been to a few AGMs in the past; mainly for the social side of things, as the debates are boring as hell!

    Just to put people in the picture, I’m not retired; can’t afford to, but I’ve been a member since the mid 1970’s when CAMRA WAS by and large, a young people’s organisation.

    This leaflet isn’t the first time that CAMRA has shot itself in the foot like this. Some of us remember the Ninkasi – Goddess of Beer campaign, or the NatruALE posters which featured both male and female models lying naked in a field of barley, with only a few sheaves to protect their modesty. Both campaigns were cringe-worthy and were rightly slated at the time.No lessons were learnt and now we have CAMRA repeating the same mistakes again! Perhaps they are even using the same advertising agency??

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