The Beer Babe: What’s in a name?
[A note: You may notice that I’m not writing this on my blog — this is deliberate. I am writing this in an attempt to follow up on a discussion, not drive traffic to my own website (though I do not get any revenue from clicks to my website).]
Hello, my name is Carla Jean Lauter.
I’m a beer writer and blogger. In 2007 I first started to explore the nascent craft beer scene in New England, USA and decided to create a blog to document my efforts. To do so, I needed a username (and a blog title).
As one of the scant female writers at the time, I chose a term of endearment: it was a nickname, bestowed to me by a friend (not a lover), but it seemed to fit: The Beer Babe.
I stuck with the name mostly because it was similar to other writers online at the time that I followed: The Beer Goddess, Two Beer Guys, The Beer Nut, etc. Many of these fine folks continue to write today and the old-fashioned blogrolls on everyone’s websites were filled with “The Beer _____.” The alliteration was a bonus, and helped the name get remembered.
In the early days of beer blogging, were online communities like Ning and Yahoo groups thrived, you were often known only by your username (or in some cases, blog title). I even began my blogging efforts under the naïve delusion that I’d be anonymous the whole time — this mysterious female beer reviewer of whom no one knows the true identity (à la the “Phantom Gourmet”). I still don’t know the first names of some of the people I followed back then — and, additionally, some of them have since launched new blogs or stopped writing under a “blog name” at all.
In my case, the first year’s growth of my blog occurred right at the same time Twitter launched — and I was an early adopter who picked up an account in July of 2008. Back then, it was all username-only, and I chose what matched my blog and online identity at other sites: @beerbabe
So why am I telling you all this?
I am aware that when you haven’t met me, “The Beer Babe” on the surface can have sexual or sexist connotations — perhaps conjuring images of large-breasted blondes in low-cut dirndls. And if all you know of me is the name then I can understand why you might see that image in your mind, it has been quite pervasive in the context of beer and beer marketing, especially in “big beer” ads. If you met me you definitely wouldn’t think that. I’m a geek, through-and-through.
I love Twitter, and I see it as my online home for interesting beer discussions. I use it to speak my mind and ask other people what they think about the topics that I am wondering about. Just like with my regular writing — I try to maintain a professional demeanor at all times — and I do genuinely enjoy talking with people who may not share the same views.
In my blogging/writing career to date, I’ve done my best to maintain a professional and mature approach to my work and my personal brand. I don’t use sex in any way to promote my blog, and have never consciously exploited the “beer babe” nickname in a sexual way for my own gain.
Over time, my readership and following has grown, and I am now far from anonymous — craft beer is a community of people that interact in person and online, and I gladly leapt in as a part of that community.
I’ve also started to write and discuss topics that move beyond beer reviews: investigating trends, asking questions, and commenting on the entire craft beer enterprise and community. This includes several posts about the role of women in the beer industry and the challenges that they face entering a mostly friendly, but mostly-male world.
However, after commenting on a beer label that I thought was inappropriate due to its label art (not even close to my first time doing so, by the way), my credibility to comment on that issue was called into question because of the name with which I am blogging. Some have commented that it is on dubious moral ground that I can question anything’s sexism or level of objectification when I, myself, have chosen a sex[-ist, -ual, -y] moniker to write under.
I’m not unaware of the potential problem, especially to people who have not interacted with me in the past, and do not know my body of work or my professional demeanor or history.
Over the last two years, I have been actively shifting my online identity from the Beer Babe to my own name: Carla Jean Lauter. This has been helped by the fact that this is becoming the norm for most bloggers who have “graduated” from the early days of Ning and Blogger into the 2016+ blogging world of Wordpress and personal branding.
When my byline appears in Beer Advocate, All About Beer magazine, etc., it reads: Carla Jean Lauter. My instagram handle? CarlaJeanLauter. My Twitter display name? Carla Jean Lauter.
I wish I could say that I deliberated for weeks about what to name the blog back in 2007, and, subsequently, what name I would be known online for the rest of my beer writing career. But, I didn’t. And the above story is how I got to today — where you’ve asked me about my name.
This is not the first — nor the last — time that the weight of my opinion is being challenged because of who I am or how I represent myself, and is incredibly mild compared to what happens when some underrepresented groups dare to speak their minds. I’ve been contacted by women in the industry that have thanked me for bringing up issues they did not feel comfortable to voice themselves, and I will continue to do that as long as I am an active member of the community.
Despite this challenge to my blog identity, I still believe strongly that discussions about inclusivity and gender and stereotyping are valuable and necessary for the beer industry to continue its maturity and development, and I have no desire to avoid those topics in the future.
I invite your further comments either here or on Twitter.
Carla Jean Lauter