Clown Shoes: Provocation Was the Goal

There's a brewery in Massachusetts called Clown Shoes. A couple weeks ago, I spied them at a beer shop in Portland, ME and raised an eyebrow at the risque, look-at-me-labels. Those labels created a firestorm last week in a discussion on BeerAdvocate--followed by discussions across the beer-o-sphere. The question: are the labels sexist/offensive? The responses ranged across the board, with the usual analysis. Even the female artist weighed in with support for the non-sexist view. (Sample argument: "A woman who is comfortable in her own skin and likes how she looks is a sexy woman. Sexy is not sexist. In fact, sexist is rarely sexy.")

This controversy was, of course, the goal of the labels. They're designed to provoke. Pity the poor brewery that slaps self-consciously outrageous labels on its bottles and receives no attention. This isn't even a close call. If anyone could claim there was some gray area in the question, a glance at the text on the labels dispels it:
  • On Tramp Stamp: "Like a stamp on a tramp, this is about not so subtle seduction."
  • On Lubrication: "Lube? Hey, get your mind out of the gutter!"
It's possible to take this discussion in a postmodern, third-wave-feminism direction and pose various questions about the nature of sexuality and agency. I absolutely guarantee that wasn't the intention of Clown Shoes. They knew there was a line dividing sexist and sexy and they danced across it with smirking delight, and in case anyone missed this act of transgression, they made the point clear in their text. I have no idea whether CEO Gregg Berman ("the labels were meant to be modern, adventurous, and fun. Maybe even provocative.") is sexist, but I do know he used these labels to draw attention--and sales--to his beer. Mission accomplished.

The question isn't whether Clown Shoes' labels are sexist; the question is, as a consumer, how do you feel about the fact that they are?