Yesterday, Johnnie Walker announced that it was changing the strident icon on its scotch bottle temporarily to “Jane Walker.” Time reports that the black outlined lady in a hurry to go out riding or something “will appear on 250,000 bottles nationwide in March. For every bottle produced, [brand owner] Diageo is donating a dollar to organizations that promote women, including Monumental Women and She Should Run.”
Stephanie Jacoby, Johnnie Walker, VP, noted: “We really see Jane as the first female iteration of our striding-man icon,” she said. “We like to think of our striding man and our striding woman as really walking together going forward.” But she put her foot in it as she tried to explain: “Scotch as a category is seen as particularly intimidating by women. It’s a really exciting opportunity to invite women into the brand.”
Even on our Takeout staff, there were varying differences of opinion over whether to be pleased or outraged by this new female whisky icon. So we decided to go to the mattresses—eh, online boards—to duke it out like ladies.
If it wasn’t for Johnnie Walker VP Stephanie Jacoby’s comment about Scotch being “intimidating to women,” I would be all for a woman on a whisky label. (How is Scotch any more intimidating than tequila, or bourbon, or beer?) If Diageo didn’t make such a fuss about it, a label featuring a woman like Jane Walker could actually be a step—ha!—in a direction where whisky advertising depicts both men and women. Marketing of Scotch tends to still hew to the Ron Burgundy-esque leather wingback/cigar/tuxedo cliché; I was excited about this Macallan ad until I realized that the women weren’t holding Scotch, just little dogs and purses. So if Jane Walker was just another face of the Johnnie Walker brand, I’d give her a thumbs-up. I dig her confident riding boots, her tailored jacket, the mysterious gaze under her hat—she definitely doesn’t seem like the type to put down her glass in favor of toting around a lap dog. [Kate Bernot]
Of course marketing straight to women works: Just ask Virginia Slims. But I have such a bad, knee-jerk reaction to bullshit like this. It suggests that the alternate is also true: That a man would never drink St. Pauli Girl beer or eat a Wendy’s hamburger, when we know that’s not true. Why kow-tow to the ladies with this meaningless, temporary new label? I have similar feelings about Reba McEntire’s Colonel Sanders for KFC. Whatever level of feminist I am, seeing a Colonel Sanders in drag isn’t going to make me feel better about earning 79 cents on the dollar, y’know?
So while I appreciate the label’s donations to female-forward causes, I feel like the implication that women have to be catered to does a great disservice overall. Like you, Kate, I hate that line about scotch being intimidating to women. Guess I better run straight back to my wine coolers, stat; hey, I can’t drink this, it’s not dainty enough! It doesn’t have an umbrella in it! It’s enough to make me want to run into a bar and demand shots of whiskey, so apparently the marketing ploy works. But that unfortunately would probably make me throw up instantly, so… mixed messages. [Gwen Ihnat]