Lifestyle & Living

This Jane (Walker) ain’t cutting it for me

I believe whiskey and taste buds are gender neutral. According to Whiskey Women (by Fred Minnick) women represent nearly 40% of whiskey drinkers today, up from 15% in the 90s. Women drink Whiskey because we like it. So bugger off Jane, and bring Johnnie Walker back. Women are making their own drink(ing) choices. You’re too late to arrive on the scene.

Every time the bar-tender across me takes five shocked seconds to process my choice of Whiskey — neat, large, no Rocks, and poured into the right glass – I smirk a smile of victory. It has been my preferred choice of social drink for a very long time, and I’m loving it. It was also my initiation 15 years back into the `big boys club’ invited to share a Scotch, a rare Cuban Cigar and intense political conversation when I had come into my own. When my Mother joined me recently over a glass of Whiskey at my house-warming aftermath party, I had really counted my blessings to know that my Mom too was much ahead of her times, and still beautiful, graceful and fierce as a button to boot. She’s 70.

So, negative marks to Ms Stephanie Jacoby, Vice President, Johnnie Walker, for homework not done correctly on Indian women (and women at large). You must know, Ms Jacoby, that we are not `intimidated’ easily by Scotch or crime, we hold our own head to shoulders in a `man’s world,’ and are certainly no damsels begging to be rescued. That wagon lost its wheels with Cinderella asking for a divorce (Am I the only one who finds renegade stories like these?).

Surely, India consumes 48% of the world’s whiskey. Our own home-grown Whiskey brands stand tall in the face of fierce international competition.  With 19 million new consumers entering the legal drinking age each year in the country, every brand worth its two pence is hawk-eyeing the Indian market for profits. Our women as target groups too. However, when a brand comes and dumb us down turning all `girly’ and posturing for `women’s rights,’ I’m insulted. As a woman, and as a Whiskey drinker.

I’m not alone. Voicing their displeasure are women across borders, who know their Vera Wang gown from an original to a fake, and bourbon from blends. We are not terrified of Scotch. Least of all, your Scotch.  As you know by now, there is a fine line between pushing gender equality and patronizing a target audience. While it’s all fine, lofty, commendable good intentions to push `Jane’ as a symbol for more female representation across board rooms and CEO offices, or, donating a dollar on every 250,000 limited edition bottles sold to organisations that promote women, here’s what we actually want Ms Jacoby: Women want equal pay. Women want to be made inclusive in social, political, economic opportunities and conversation in the dynamics of life and quality. Women want to be appreciated, celebrated, understood for their diversity. So, please let’s send this Jane home.

What I would have really loved – since Diageo now has asked for it – is a powerful representation of Johnnie and Jane striding together (not separately) on your label, going forward purposefully in an gesture to re-engage and re-visit the conversation of equality, as the dire need of our societies and communities today. Men and Women are required to stitch back a fractured humane sensibility. Not divide us further. When a brand thinks beyond regular gender compartmentalisation for its products,and makes an evangelical stride to address and champion a joint solution to women empowerment, then only do you have my (and our) attention, wallet and loyalty.

Writer Jelisa Castrodale of The Munchies echoes her displeasure as well, “There are better ways that Johnnie Walker could have expressed its support for women, and even acknowledged its own efforts toward workplace equality. But instead, it dressed a woman up in Johnnie’s clothes and called it a day. That doesn’t necessarily make me want to drink Scotch but, good lord, it does make me want to drink something.” As I said, Calamity Jane this!

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Ethel da Costa
Fashion & Lifestyle Journalist, Founder-CEO, Think Geek Media


  1. It’s a surprise that people still can’t accept that women can handle the so called men’s drink. Why Jane if jonnie is enough for us.
    I still can’t forget the surprise of the bartender’s face when I asked for Jack Daniels. I hope another Jackie Daniel won’t come

  2. Wow. That is a self burn by Daiego. If at all they wanted to do, I agree, that they should have had Johnnie and Jane on a single bottle first. Once both feature together, then after a while if you wanted to bring a special one for Jane, it would make sense.

    Also what is apparent that the brand does believe that its customers may get offended and hence did not want to tinker with original brand. Sad.

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