Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Women's work

I visited Master this weekend, and as we walked down the sidewalk we noticed an unopened bottle of Corona. "You know, the Corona beer company is the only one owned by a woman," Dan said.

"That's really interesting because beer brewing used to be a female-dominated business," I replied, recalling a recent history lecture.

"What? When?"

"During the middle ages. It was one of the few ways a woman could own her own business. It was said - and there's some scientific evidence to back it up, but it's kinda eeeeh - that women are better at discerning temperature, and temperature control is really important during the fermenting process."

"Have you ever thought about brewing beer?"

I shrugged. "I've thought about making dandelion wine and the like, but not beer. I thought it'd be too difficult."

"I think you'd be really good at it," Master said enthusiastically. "I mean, you like science, you like chemistry - "

"And I like beer," I finished with a laugh.

"What if I got you a microbrewing kit? Would you like that?"

"Yeah, I would."

I've been thinking about the idea of femininity as a subculture. Like, there are activities that women have traditionally participated in, stories we've passed to one another, that kind of thing. How much of this culture should be cherished and carried on, and how much should be discarded as patriarchal baggage? How can we differentiate the two?

If I take up brewing beer because it used to be a feminine endeavor, am I being empowering? I want to say yes because the idea of anything beer-related being feminine has fallen far from society's consciousness. Also, beer-brewing used to be an avenue of power for women; I'd like to think I'm honoring those women who used brewing as a way to get some measure of control over their lives in a world that was far unfriendlier than the present day's.

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