Yes, J.Crew, Women Drink Whiskey, Too
I really don't want to hate on J.Crew. I don't usually have a lot of die-hard brand loyalty, but an embarrassingly large percentage of my wardrobe is from there.
"J.Crew knows my soul," I once told an incredulous friend of mine. I was dead serious.
But sometimes even the things we love disappoint us.
For the second year in a row, J.Crew has included whiskey and cocktail paraphernalia in the men's section of the holiday gift guide, and only in the men's section.
Last year it was a flask. This year it was an emergency cocktail kit.
When people ask me about the discrimination women face in the whiskey world, I tell them it's rarely something explicit or actively exclusionary. I've never been refused service, or been straight up laughed at. Usually we face micro-aggressions: being offered the wine list instead; or being asked if we think we're sure we can handle the strong drink we just ordered.
These at least are instances where, however subtle, the discrimination is apparent and can be corrected then and there. A polite, yet firm, "No, I'd rather see the whiskey list," or, "Yes, I'm quite sure," will put any condescending server in his place, at least for the evening.
More insidious are instances of discrimination that we're not even aware of, and that's where selective marketing comes in. How am I supposed to know that I'm being denied the opportunity to purchase something if I don't even know it's for sale because it's not in the section targeted to me?
I get that some things are for women, and some things are for men (although even this is debatable). We do usually wear different clothes and accessories, so it makes sense to put those in different sections for more streamlined searching. But a lot of things are for all people! Why not have a general gift guide section, for non gender-specific items, and then within it tag things as women's or men's apparel and accessories?
Last year J. Crew even had different names for the different men's and women's gift sections.
We get throw pillows, they get flasks.
As you can see, I - and others - were rightfully indignant about it. (Urban Outfitters was guilty of it too, although I have seen a flask emblazoned with the words "Hot Mess" in purple glitter for sale at UO, so at least they're targeting both sides, however tackily.)
Apparently J.Crew didn't get the message.
Honestly, it's not even about the stupid cocktail kit. Frankly, paying $24 for a miniature bottle of bitters, a napkin, a spoon, and two sugar packets is highway robbery. But just because I wouldn’t buy it from J. Crew doesn’t mean I don’t want to be offered the chance!
I've written before about gendered marketing, which in almost all cases like this is pandering and condescending. But at least Heaven Hill acknowledges that women drink whiskey, even if they think we can only handle it watered down, fruit flavored, and infantilized.
This is one more instance, one more data point in the sea of micro-discriminations. And it's especially frustrating to see it coming from a company that has in other instances been on the forefront of dismantling gender stereotypes.
Just when I think that maybe Women Who Whiskey is starting to become superfluous, little things like this happen and remind me that our work is nowhere near done.