Is "Whiskey Woman" The New Manic Pixie Dream Girl?

Photo: Courtesy of Danny Clinch/Jim Beam.
Meet Manic Pixie Dream Girl 2.0: the "Whiskey Woman," our new favorite stereotype to emerge from the collective consciousness of the common bro. The latest in male-gaze trendspotting comes from writer Courtney Balestier in this post on PUNCH, “Let Us Now Retire the Whiskey Woman.”

This is not a new thing (there’s even a rad old song about this elusive megababe archetype) but it is a problematic thing. Balestier’s post points out that what may have started the generalization that women and strong liquor were somehow naturally at odds is its antiquated association with sex workers. “Prostitutes were even featured in 19th-century whiskey advertising, galvanizing a connection that continued through to Prohibition,” which led liquor companies to stop advertising to women at all until the late '80s(!). Today, the woman ordering a whiskey (bonus points for “neat”) is a sexualized tomboy, looking to send bar-going bros the message that she’s looking for a good time.

From bro-targeted ads and magazines to our actual dating habits, the Whiskey Woman is a prevailing gender-reversal fantasy. Take the old elitist archetype of the bearded patriarch, lounging in his study in a smoking jacket with a glass of bourbon at hand, and put a buxom model in his place. Lose the smoking jacket. That’s the unattainable archetype the Whiskey Woman sets up for us all.

Citing data pulled from dating sites showing women are more likely than ever to play up their alcohol preferences as a pre-meet vibe gauge for potential dates, Balestier’s post raises the question whether or not some women pretend to like, or “learn to love,” whiskey in order to seek men’s approval. It happened in an episode of The Mindy Project, so it must be true (“Think Like A Peter,” Season 2, Episode 19). But the idea isn’t to shame women out of ordering a stereotypically masculine drink at the bar: It’s to give men a reality check.

It’s common that our behavior gets a bit off when we want to attract attention. But, if you think about it, tailoring our drink orders to project a certain image is actually an age-old practice. Think of the so-'90s sex appeal of the Cosmopolitan circa Sex and The City in its heyday, for example: For a while, the Cosmo was a pre-Starbucks cup status symbol. On the other hand, Zach Braff’s lovable JD from TV series Scrubs? He loved his appletinis, and he gave not one single damn that his favorite cocktail made him look "girly." (RIP Scrubs.)

It would be a relief if a woman didn’t have to think about the many reasons why some men might judge her, from her twee outfit to her booze of choice. We agree: It’s time the bro demographic retire this trope. Meanwhile, we will continue to drink whatever we please, no male gaze in the equation. Today: whiskey. Tomorrow: tequila?

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