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Conversations About Sexism In Beer

Another week, and we are finally into what seems to be a lasting streak of sunshine!

While bars, taprooms, pubs, events and social lives slowly break back into regular routines once again, it’s important to ensure that these experiences are enjoyable for all of us. We thought we’d take a bit of time to talk through and write out our thoughts on recent events in the beer sphere, in addition to some steps forward that we all ought to be taking in an increasingly open world.

 

The main thing that we want to speak on and acknowledge is the recent outpouring of attention towards the sexism (and specifically, sexual harassment) that unfortunately plagues this industry.

Below are some links in which some highly respected writers and figures in the drinks industry speak on the matter, though do be aware that many of these contain reference to assault and misogynistic abuse.

The floodgates opened when Brienne Allan of Notch Brewing Co in the United States asked women to message her with their experiences of sexism in craft beer, which can be found pinned on her Instagram page. Siobhan Buchanan has also collated messages focused in the UK on her Instagram page, and is working on an article for Burum Collective to be out soon. (Burum is a beer, wine and cider community group that aims to provide a platform for underrepresented voices in the above industries).

[Update 07.06.21 - Siobhan's piece has now been published on Burum's website, and can be read here.]

These two recent articles by Beth Demmon are particularly apt, and well worth reading (as well as containing sources to some other fantastic and well-respected writers in the business).

For Vinepair, she sums up the recent turns of events and how things have continued to unfold since Allan initially published the messages she was receiving, as well as conversations between other beer industry figures on how best to respond and recover from these issues.

In this Good Beer Hunting piece, she speaks to several women in the industry of the way that the intrinsic risk of harassment or other misogynistic acts spills over into financial implications and career limitations, as well as the psychological burden attached.

Additionally, Melissa Cole (celebrated beer writer) and Charlotte Cook (head brewer at Coalition Brewing) spoke on Woman's Hour on Radio 4 just this week about the issue - which, while being only a short piece, is a great move to bring these discussions out of the craft beer bubble. Listen on BBC Sounds here (starts at around 46 minutes in)

While it’s been no secret for any amount of time that the beer industry is largely a boys’ club (often masquerading as more inclusive than it actually is, with superficial displays of subverting corporate culture), the massive spike in awareness of late is something that we believe should not be allowed to die down, and that should continue to be addressed with an aim to create a more even playing field and a safer, more enjoyable environment for every person that wants to enjoy any part of this industry.

There are many things that we wish to say that have already been laid out eloquently by the above individuals, but mainly we want to express our keen intentions to continue to listen and work with our friends in this business to collectively improve the future of craft beer for everyone, as well as our heartfelt solidarity to every person who has spoken out regarding abuse.

We believe it is on all of us, regardless of which side of the bar we’re on, to call out inequality and mistreatment when we see it, no matter how “small” a matter it may be.

It's incredibly important even just to remind your mates at the pub not to be crude about the women at the next table, or to ensure all beer people you encounter are treated without any condescension or assumptions of their knowledge. Sometimes, it might feel petty or like a conversation that’s too awkward to have but it all contributes to making it known that intolerance or disrespect are not attitudes we want to be allowed to ferment here.

Moreover, while it might feel to you like it's "difficult" or rocking the boat a bit too much to call out the people in your life, not only will it hopefully result in those individuals thinking twice before acting that way again, but it additionally is a genuinely important act of solidarity to those who are the butt of the joke and negatively affected by those actions in the first place. It can be incredibly isolating to be the only woman in a space filled with or run by (and often subconsciously geared towards) men, and to need to defend your own presence becomes exhausting very quickly. By having those "difficult" conversations with your friends, we can make it instantly less difficult for others to exist in these spaces.

 

We really love this industry, which is why we can see that we need to work together to improve it.

Both Burum and Women On Tap are community-led initiatives headed up by great people, and are well worth following and reading into. Both are consistently running events and making noise about great causes, and coming up very soon are some industry meetings to discuss how best to improve the experiences of disenfranchised or underrepresented demographics in beer and hospitality.

Coming up soon, Burum Collective are hosting a Common Ground Conference with many industry figures and representatives across brewing and hospitality, with an aim to discuss implementing policies to improve the industry from production through supply chain to retail and customer. This is to be the first of many meetings, and we are looking forward to the change it ought to bring. The meeting will take place on Monday June 7th.

Additionally, the Women On Tap festival has also teamed up with Chalk Back to discuss means of preventing gender-based harassment in public spaces – a donation-only live event which will include announcements of new campaigns and educational measures to improve experiences of public spaces by all. We urge readers to participate in this survey collecting data on harassment experienced or witnessed by staff and customers of all genders, as a launchpad for the discussion scheduled to take place on Weds June 9th.

 

This weekend past, Charlotte (our marketing manager) headed into London to join Joanne & Tori to guest on another recording of the A Woman’s Brew podcast, this time around commissioned by Women On Tap.

Listen to the previous episode here or on any major podcast platform, and be sure to give Joanne & Tori a listen and a follow. It was incredibly refreshing to be able to enjoy some pints in person and talk about virtual drinking spaces and creating room for women in a male-dominated industry. The title for the episode is “The Pub That Didn’t Exist”, and will be released on June 11th with some talk of online events, beer forums and groups, and the levels of inclusivity across virtual and in-person drinking spaces.

 We hope that we start to see some real changes for the better, and that all of us can feel a little more emboldened to speak out about harassment or abuse for ourselves and on behalf of others. The time to be quiet has passed, and thankfully we are bloody good at being loud.