This text comes after Sandrine Goeyvaerts invitation, wine sommelier, writer and journalist, for male professionals to openly take position about sexism (and any other discrimination) in beer, wine and globally the hospitality industry.
Written within a day, then worked on with a team of a dozen other professionals, it was initially published 2020 March 8 (international women’s right day) on Facebook. Events and happenings should have occurred after it… then Covid happened.
Antisexist Support Manifesto: For more inclusiveness in beer
We taste professionals, defenders of the finest tables, of shared pleasure, parties, fine wines, divine banquets and other simple meals, have had enough. It has gone too far. For far too long we are witnesses to deeds from another age, deeds that make no one laugh, not even the least discerning of audiences.
The pleasures of the flesh are only worthwhile when they’re shared, freely agreed upon, when at last a true equality between all parties is full and entire, happily undertaken. However, it seems there might be a little confusion between the pleasures of the table and of the flesh, at the expense of our female colleagues. Now it is the time for a change.
Equality sounds too nice… if only on social medias
Equality looks nice on glossy paper, or on social media. No matter what country is concerned: we all hear and know of politicians who claim their support and make the gender equality cause their very own, hand on the heart. The very same politicians who with the other hand actively refuse pay equality, don’t listen when they’re told about any administrative deadlock when filing a sexual assault complaint, or simply denying any accusation of sexism in their own ranks. This double speech, inherent to our condition of beings of speech, is sadly still widespread.
However, we are weary of witnessing, dumbfounded and stunned, what before us, among us, in our own ranks, like an overplayed playlet with bad actors badly engrossed in the practices of another age, supposedly definitively over, tends to reappear.
Rejection, denigration, indelicacy, even abuse: we are shown a return to, or even an open-air trivialisation of the systematic de-subjectification, often accepted, sometimes encouraged, of a part of the population that should never have been considered as negligible. This is as much a question of substance as of form.
Let’s consider form: more often than not, we are confronted with “brilliant” marketing ideas that remind us of those years when half of Earth’s population was considered as objects, accessories, foils at best. A time when “someone’s wife” was the best things that any woman could aspire to, were she gifted, ambitious, or educated with a degree… Dubious names get put on the market, lurid titles regularly and proudly sit on labels or articles, and those who call themselves fellows, obviously proud of their play on words, their salacious reference, introduce beers like the satisfied toddler who happily reports his shiny stool. If such initiatives still exist today, that’s because they continue to provoke admiration, support, complicity.
We can also talk of those many slogans, way too well known, related to gender the way a fat belly is to football and its league.
If the style of any cultural expression informs on the quality of the emitter: what is to be concluded of those finger snaps towards our female co-workers, of those “tributes” for which none of them asked, of those so-called sex-equality defence committees only populated by grey-haired men?
On substance, now:
We could come back to that old-fashioned, heavily overused ad nauseam song: the famous “women’s beers”, which are as feminine as the sticky stereotype they keep on spreading. Don’t you dare think, woman: I know what is good for you, I know what you like. You agree with me, you just don’t know it yet. Beer, a man’s business.
Taste isn’t analysed with gonads, and whether we discovered supposed taste buds around the testicles doesn’t allow us to not use our prefrontal cortex (i.e. to think). But it seems that simply not using it has become to some of us a trademark.
Equally, being a woman doesn’t make the plate any less heavy, beer service any easier, clients any less demanding. Furthermore is it still intolerable to accept that, regardless of experience or capacities, we’d rather have men in leading positions, and women as subordinates.
Origin of beer – the forgotten role of women
However, whether it is remembered, understood, or simply denied: historically beer IS a woman thing. We could talk of production (from Mesopotamia producers to medieval London alehouses) or consumption, its muses (from Ninkasi to Inana, or Mucha’s engravings) or some of the major discoveries that structure it (one must only mention the legend of Hildegarde Von Bingen): our female co-workers are nothing close to being less deserving of respect. But – as at every situation of imaginary risk of castration – as soon as the owner of any erectile excrescent appendix feels threatened, they seize by force. “Mine”. Power is mine. You give birth? I lead. You charm? I cover you (and accuse you of tempting me). You speak out? I hit and strike. You think? Since when? You vote? Choose the ones I point out for you. You brew? You drink beer? You talk about beer? What next?
Are we still in the period of manly tutorship? Of the Pater familias? Is that the 21st century?
Time of change – and consciousness – has come
While it is apparently still possible to distinguish between the man and the work, and to cheer the work of people condemned for deeds that any morality would condemn, we must with renewed energy mark our political commitment, come out of the nice wood of lukewarm indolence which makes us guilty accomplices of what we denounce here.
For that matter, initiatives already exist, and they deserve our frank and full support, at the very least. Whether we’re talking of the Pink Boots Society, the Beers Without Beards, Vinifilles or many others: the time for evolution has come. A society that still organises its protagonists in a complementary way (meaning: unequally) must either evolve, or wither. We, signatories of the present text, have chosen. Feminism isn’t a choice, not anymore. In other words: when equality is a political commitment, and not only a laid down fact, there is a lot of catching up to do.
This basic cause of ours cannot suffer from such a silence that feels too much like being the accomplice of such an oppression so opposite to core beer values: sharing, pleasure, brother- and sisterhood, innovation and creativity, respect, implication and devotion. Those values, flagged at the very heart of our professions, can’t truly be respected at the cost of their workers, even a part of them. If we accept the claim of political commitment by inviting our clients to support craftmanship in the brewing industry (the famous “consum’actor”: buy locally, support small producers and not shareholders, etc.), we should think about our own ethical commitment. And while it can bear many styles, the one of segregation is neither negotiable nor acceptable. As long as we’ll accept among us such major contradictions to basic decency, we’ll be accepting for all of us the lacklustre image of the quantity drinker, the bag-in-box drainer, the uneducated uncle. We all suffer from it. However, we can’t ask for respect for craftmanship on the one hand and spit on a substantial part of its actors on the other.
Time has come for coherence, for the “what you see is what you get” claim.
We live surrounded by many potential Marie Curies: pioneers, audacious, brilliant. We owe them respect, deference, consideration. On the other hand, nothing allows us to reject, denigrate, mock anyone, and certainly not based on such arbitrary criteria as gender, sexual orientation, skin colour, disability.
We should no longer applaud when a job offer in brewery states M/F/X. Neither should we accept, or allow, sexist remarks, targeted jokes, or crass nicknaming, which are all so many hands on the backsides of our own sisters, mothers, wives. Enough with such name-calling, like “Man’s Juice”, “Slutte Triple”, and so on. It isn’t acceptable in 2021, as it should never have been 60 years ago.
We’ve all heard anecdotes. Sometimes we may even have taken part in such situations, which should make us blush, and not with pleasure (“the story of three women who walk into a bar”). Now it’s time for the shame which was felt by our female colleagues to change sides, be they brewers, sommeliers, waitresses, ice-cream makers, headwaiters, cream makers, winemakers, cellarwomen, bakers, banquet managers, chefs, maltsters, saucers, witches, farmers, distillers, whether we are talking about “little hands” or leaders, be they colleagues or employees : To denigrate any person under the pretext of belonging to an arbitrarily discredited category inevitably places the person who does so in a position that deserves neither complacency nor understanding. One can laugh with; laughing at, however, is no longer tolerable.
Let us not be mistaken. This fight, dear friends, doesn’t belong to us. We will in no case speak instead of our colleagues. What is at stake is not destined for us. We will never truly know what it’s like to be perceived as a piece of meat, touched like a disposable object, abused as if our integrity was not really ours, violated with an intrusive stare, a hurtful word, a gesture contrary to the most basic form of good upbringing. We have, however, the duty to no longer tolerate it, and even less encourage it. We must fight it, regardless of the age, hierarchical position, religious conviction or whatever other dividing criteria. It’s on this prior condition that we will ensure that shame, fear, disgust, will change sides. It is time. In an era of shrinking identities, around ever smaller, cleaved, hetero-exclusive cultural social units, supporting each other is becoming an increasingly obvious necessity. Together, we can move forward. The image of our profession, but more fundamentally, the well-being of our sisters, colleagues and friends, are at stake.
One of us rightly points out: yet another text. That’s all well and good, but what good is it going to do, if not to brush your nose hairs with it? That’s a good question. Let’s see if this little Verlaine-style pamphlet will come to precious little. However, here are a few ideas: the creation of a cross-business badge (producers, workers, users), which we would proudly display on our clothes, labels and entrances to establishments. A charter of good conduct (“education” they call it) to be shared, defended, advocated at all costs? whatever. But we will not let these infamous exactions go on. Our commitment is firm, and if we refuse to take over this fight, we are ready to help.
Ladies, we are by your side.
Cedric Jamar (Zythophile troublemaker, Agalmalt)
Laurent Mousson (Beer Agitator)
Lucas Borgnon (B Maker CEO)
Alexandre Dumont (West Homebrew Club President)
Yann Douay (Blogger at lesousbock.com)
Cédric Dautinger (Beer.be Journalist)
Romuald Arnould (Headbrewer, Hepta Brewery)
Florian Degornet (Cavist, barman)
Arthur Lemoine (Brewer)
Jean van Roy (Cantillon Brewery)
Nicolas Jaegert (Street cavist, La Cave en Tournée)
Geoffroy Lardeux (President, B Maker)
Nicolas Clerget (Barman, Capsule, Lille / Manager de l’Abbaye des Saveurs)
Hubert Brouard (Ex-brasseur du Mont Aiguille)
Quentin Chillou (Brasseur)
Antonin Iommi-Amunategui (Auteur et éditeur)
Anthony D’Orazio (Directeur, Beer Invest)
Roderick Gaston et toute l’équipe du Hopscotch Pub & Brewery
Thomas Barbera (Blogueur, Happy Beer Time)
Maxime Halbert (Discobeery)
Angus Jeanne (DBI, Paris)
Jean-Aimé Rugiero (Brasseur, Saint-Avold)
L’Annexe (Brasserie, Bruxelles)
Stéphane Lagorce (Auteur)
Adrien Havart (Président du Beer Potes)
Fabien Adda (scénariste / beer blogueur)
Benoit Barnabé (Podcasteur chez Bière et Moustache)
Antoine Pierson (Gérant du Malt Attacks)
Fabien Claes (Co-fondateur de Brewjob)
Jonas (Bardaf, Bruxelles)
Brasserie du Singe Savant (Lille)
Brasserie de la Senne (Bruxelles)
Axel de Ville (Brasserie Illegaal, Bruxelles)
Mathieu Huygens, Nina Carleer, Hadrien Bouton (Brasserie la Source, Bruxelles)
Benoît & Jérémie (Patrons, Chez mon Ex, Bruxelles)
Léon-Christophe Etilé (Collabfut)
Maxime Dumay (Brasserie No Science, Bruxelles)
Guillaume Perrin (Journaliste vin)
Stéphane Bonjean (Vigneron, Auvergne)
Antoine Desitter (Barman/Responsable du Beer House, Lille)
Laurent Le Coustumer (Caviste, Paris)
Baptiste François (Distillateur et ex-malteur)
Quentin Figueres (Sommelier)
Nathan Suire (Barman, Lorient)
Antoon Jeantet-Laurent (Vinificateur, Dégustateur)
Éric Daout (Douelle de rêve)
Jonathan (Dudes & Beers, Paris)
PEK (Conducteur de train, Bière à la Main)
Bruno Parmentier & Greg Malcause (Bières de Quartiers, Bruxelles)
Ludovic Thonat (Caviste, La Presse Clichy)
Paolo Bouquin (market dev. Manager, Heineken France, Paris)
David Triaud, Ivan Mouchard (Barmen, Hoppy Corner, Paris)
Paula & Valéry (Brasserie Atrium, Belgique)
Antoine Lavis (J’irai Brasser Chez Vous, Belgique)
Headbang Brewery (Bussy-Saint-Georges, France)
Charles Desprez (Patron, Sur-Mesure, Lorient)
Julien Goebels (Formasa Brewing Company)
Dominique Hutin (Journaliste et œnologue, France Inter, France)
Marion Mochet (Gérante, Le Bar d’en Face, Lorient)
Brasserie de la Pleine Lune
Quentin Corcelle (Crafty Pub Tours)
Thibault Schuermans (consultant en biérologie)
Grégory Giacalone (Blog The Beer Lantern, coordinateur import/export))
François Vignaud (Bière de la Lanterne)