South Africans over the age of 15 drink an estimated 11 litres of pure alcohol per year, the equivalent of the alcohol in about 264 quart bottles of beer. One in seven South Africans admit to being binge drinkers.
Alcohol abuse in South Africa is one of the key risk factors to both perpetrating and becoming a victim of violence, and is linked to violence against women including sexual violence, domestic violence, and intimate partner violence.
In essence, alcohol abuse is bad for society, and it is particularly bad for women.
Yet, recently two alcohol brands have tried to address women in their advertising.
Following the #HoldMyBeer movement on social media, on International Women’s Day Castle Lite issued an apology to women for portraying them as sex objects / props in their advertising for men and not acknowledging that women can drink and be anything they’d like.
They commit to doing better and being more inclusive in their advertising around beer drinking.
The message – women should keep drinking beer and soon Castle Lite will have an ad that features us too.
It might have been more meaningful if they suggested that women deserved respect, even if they didn’t drink their beer.
In a more direct link to violence against women, Carling Black Label paired up with advertisers Ogilvy & Mather and introduced the #NoExcuse campaign, aimed at raising awareness of violence against women, and encouraging men to pledge not to use violence and to take action against violence in their communities.
This is positive in that it encourages men to take responsibility for preventing and responding to violence against women.
Yet the campaign website and the pledge itself include no commitments related to reducing alcohol consumption or information linking alcohol abuse to violence against women.
In short, this campaign says to me – we know that drinking too much is linked to violence against women but we’re too scared to say that in case you stop drinking our beer.
To be fair, at a recent PSL game between Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates the all female #NoExcuse choir sang the well known soccer song Masambe Nono, but changed the lyrics detailing the situation of a woman whose partner returns home from the soccer drunk and abuses her.
In front of 85 000 spectators this choir raised the issue of women abuse and the links between alcohol and this abuse.
Yet, when Twitter users critiqued the campaign for its lack of depth and for using violence against women as another way to advertise their own beer, Carling responded that alcohol was ‘part of South African society.’
In 2016 The National Liquor Policy was introduced, suggesting that we need to take note of the huge social harms that alcohol consumption causes, and address these through restricting advertising to youth, at sports events, addressing and raising awareness of the harmful impacts of alcohol and ensuring proper licensing of alcohol selling establishments, amongst other measures.
To me these two examples of alcohol brands ‘including women’ and ‘taking note of violence against women’ are hollow without the commitment to advertising the harmful effects of alcohol use and abuse – including the links to violence.
They are gimmicks by alcohol brands who are looking for a new market or advertising companies who are trying to win a Loerie in the public service category.
Sorry Carling and Castle but until you address what impact your beer has on women, you can keep your cute ad campaigns. I’m not drinking the Kool-aid.
WATCH: Castle Lite's apology to women on #InternationalWomensDay #HoldMyBeer