What happens when a brand you love does you wrong? Chloe Sargeant reflects on her breakup with Coopers, and requests suggestions for new beers to align herself with.
By
Chloe Sargeant

13 Mar 2017 - 4:54 PM  UPDATED 13 Mar 2017 - 4:56 PM

I've probably drunk 100 times my body weight in Coopers over the course of my adult life; I drink Pale Ale in summer, Dark Ale in winter, and as a South Australian, I scowl at people in interstate pubs who order a 'schooner' of the stuff by saying the colour of the label rather than the type. 

The first beer I ever had was a Coopers Pale. I didn't roll it, and I used a bottle opener to take the top off—two cardinal sins in the Church of Coopers. Every South Australian (and most interstate beer-drinkers, too) know these are grievous errors, and I only admit this to you now in a time of mourning.

I'm a proud queer woman from the south of the country, and watching the past 24 hours of controversy surrounding my beloved Coopers... well, I'm left completely and utterly heartbroken. 

In case you missed it, Coopers released a milestone beer to celebrate the 200 year anniversary of the Bible Society, a Christian charity group that equips Australians with a copy of the Holy Bible. On the tin of the light beer, Bible verses are printed.

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Shortly after, a video surfaced on the Bible Society's Facebook page, showing two Liberal MPs debating the legalisation of same-sex marriage. Tim Wilson is shown as 'for same-sex marriage' and Andrew Hastie is shown as 'for traditional marriage'. The video's tagline is 'Keeping it Light', and appears to be sponsored by the iconic bewery—the three men featured in the video are drinking the memorial beer, and gratituious shots of the bottles are scattered throughout the video.

Backlash has been swift and unmerciful, and a boycott was called within mere hours. While the video has either side of the debate seemingly represented, many boycotters have stated that a beer company shouldn't be aligning itself such a strongly religious group, politicians shouldn't be doing strange native videos for a beer company, and most of all, a conversation about a marginalised group's human rights should not be, and cannot be "kept light".

By engaging in this partnership, it's widely stated that Coopers has alienated a really major demographic - not just the LGBTQIA community, but anyone who believes in marriage equality (which current stats say is around 75% of Australians). 

Along with the posters and companies above, I am one of the people who has also chosen to boycott the company I once loved dearly. I've proudly and exclusively drank Coopers all my life as a mark of South Australian pride. I boasted that Coopers was the 'SA Great' option during the Carlton United Breweries boycott of last year. I've always backed this company, but no longer feel like I can.

I feel as though Coopers' political expression and collaboration with the Bible Society do not align with my personal values, but mostly, my queer identity. Queer Australians are still denied the right to marriage in 2017, and the LGBTQIA community has a right to avoid people and companies who vocally contribute to our continual stigmatisation and deny us our societal equality.

Let's be clear: it is absolutely true that businesses are allowed to express political and religious opinions - but this always has risks and consequences. Risk: alienating some of your customer base. Consequence: consumers also have the right to disagree with your political opinions, and will often stop purchasing your products. Unfortunately, Coopers alienated the statistical majority, and now they seem very nervous about the consequences.

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Since this backlash, Coopers have released two very different statements - the first vaguely backing the message of the video, and the second completely denying any involvement with it. The Bible Society has now also released a statement, saying Coopers weren't involved - despite originally saying they had "teamed up with Coopers" to create the video. 

So, despite my many years of loyal patronage and dedication to the brewery, as long as Coopers make the decision to tie themselves to the Bible Society and thus remain tied to "light-hearted" videos that downplay the historical and modern-day struggle of the LGBTQIA community, I, along with many others, cannot remain a loyal devotee. 

You can try to 'keep it light' all you want, but unfortunately, Homophobia Lite™ is still homophobia. I have respected Coopers all my life, and it was crushing to realise that as a queer person, they don't respect me.