Top Totty Beer Causes a Bitter Backlash

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In desperate need of a break from studying? Has procrastination become your number one hobby? I’m sure that the answer is a resounding YES! In my weekly update, I will be offering the weird, wonderful and certainly wacky news from the world around us.

A “stunning blonde beer” (aptly titled Top Totty) has been withdrawn from The Stranger’s Bar in the House of Commons. So is the “Top Totty” beer a sexist and derogatory labelling of women, which adds to the debate surrounding gender inequality in Parliament? Or is it a bit of fun which should be looked upon with a sense of humour?

The Staffordshire beer was withdrawn from the parliamentary bar last week after Shadow Equalities Minister, Kate Green, lodged an official complaint. Speaking in the Commons, Ms Green said that she “was disturbed last night to learn that the guest beer in the Strangers’ Bar is called Top Totty and there is a picture of a nearly naked woman on the tap.” Her objection was to the Top Totty Beer which displays an image of a scantily clad woman, donning a pair of suggestive bunny ears on the pump.

Sally Bercow, the Speaker’s wife (who has appeared on Big Brother and has posed nearly naked with just a sheet….) has labelled the sale of the beer ‘outrageous’. No offence to Mrs Bercow, but I don’t think that she is the best person to be taken seriously about such an issue.

This debacle takes us back to David Cameron’s famous quip in the Commons to MP Angela Eagle when he uttered the words ‘Calm down, dear’. The Prime Minister’s comment to Ms Eagle did cause a lot of controversy. However, the reaction proved to be divided. Many argued that it was a sexist and patronising remark, with others (such as Conservative Michael Winner who is known for the catchphrase) attributing Cameron’s turn of phrase to his sense of humour.

To look at the issue more seriously, the name “Top Totty” can be seen as a derogatory term, presenting an over sexualised and demeaning representation of women. The Commons is known as a male dominated setting hence the sale of the “Top Totty” beer is risky. Ms Green also has to be commended for raising the issue and achieving a speedy result- the beer was withdrawn within 90 minutes of her complaint.

But I have to say that I am inclined to agree with Claire Fox, the director of the Institute of Ideas, who made the following point: ‘What really demeans women: the idea we’ve no sense of humour’. When I first saw the reports, I couldn’t help but smile; at the end of the day, the beer comes across as a bit of harmless fun. I am certainly not blind to feminist issues and will support any worthy fight for equality. But for this particular debate, it does not come across as the sort of issue to channel all of our energies into.

All in all, the sale of a beer named “Top Totty” in such a location is a little misguided, further fuelling debates surrounding the integrity of many MP’s. That said, during a time in which our economic climate is looking greyer by the minute, amongst many more issues, we should perhaps aim to keep a sense of humour. Besides, there is no point in being “bitter” (!) all the time is there?

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