Selling Sex and Beer

It used to be that guys out camping, talking around a campfire about their day in the wild and drinking Stroh's Old Milwaukee beer, could say, "It doesn't get any better than this." But, say you parachute in a few gyrating, blonde, near-naked women known as the Swedish Bikini Team. "It did get better," the guys say now.

Maybe for them. But certainly not for women. And especially not for the women who work at the Stroh's Brewery Co. bottling plant in St. Paul, Minnesota.

On November 8, 1991, five female employees of Stroh's filed lawsuits against the company, charging that its "sexist, degrading" advertising campaigns--including the bikini team television commercial and promotional posters showing scantily clad women in provocative poses--foster a work environment that encourages sexual harassment.

Complaints detailed in the suits include repeated subjection to lewd comments and behavior, unwanted physical contact, and instances of intimidation. The women have been grabbed and touched, had lies spread about their personal lives, had their toolboxes sabotaged and air let out of their tires in the parking lot, been told to get "women's jobs," and been subjected to displays of condoms and obscene pictures, according to the suits. One poster hanging inside the bottling plant, according to the women, lists 13 reasons "Why Beer Is Better Than Women," including "After you have had a beer the bottle is still worth 10 cents" and "Beer doesn't demand equality."

The women allege that they were threatened with physical assault if they reported sexual comments to supervisors, and that, when they did report harassment, company officials offered little response. The suits name 25 male employees who the women charge have participated in acts of harassment or failed in their duties as supervisors to stop it.

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Sojourners Magazine February-March 1992
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