The following is a post in our ongoing welcoming of guest writers to the Bottomless Pint. Find out more about Susannah in her bio below the article.
It starts with the feeling of being invisible.
After several attempts to join the conversation going on immediately around you, to no avail, you realize your attempts are futile. You could say anything right now and it would go completely unheard and unacknowledged. Or, conversely, the ground could open up and swallow you whole and, unfortunately, still nothing. Because you are a woman… a woman at a beer event.
It doesn’t matter how many articles about beer I write, how many free media passes to beer events I get, or how many facts I spout off about Brettanomyces lambicus, the fact remains that most people (women included) working behind the taps at beer events completely ignore my existence and choose to only speak to, engage in conversation with, acknowledge or even make eye contact with my (male) fianceé. I can’t tell you how angry and disappointed this makes me. First of all, in the words of our Prime Minister as well as, you know, common sense, it’s 2016! No matter what the scenario this behaviour is unacceptable, but since I don’t have enough years left in my life to write about all of the feminist travesties happening around us constantly, let me, for the moment, focus on my experience as a woman in the beer industry.
Let me begin by saying that I know for a fact that I’m not alone in my experience, and that far worse happens to women who are more deeply entrenched in the industry, brewers, brewery owners, etc., but someone else’s experiences don’t negate mine, and I can only speak to my own. Frankly, I am fed up and disgusted with some of the behaviour I have seen, and treatment I’ve received, from people serving at these pricey beer events that people are paying good money to attend.
It is unfathomable to some of these people that I’M the one who earned these media passes and that I, a wittle girl, could be knowledgeable about beer. Every single time this happens, my fiancé makes a point to say I’M the beer writer, and to try to bring me back into the conversation that the third party has decided I’m not worthy of, but by this point we are usually so discouraged and we just move on. This has happened at the booths of some of my favourite breweries, and these are not one-off situations.
The sexism in the beer industry is known to rear it’s ugly head in many different ways. Whether it is me being unable to profile or promote certain breweries because when I try to ask questions about their brews they completely ignore me and talk to the man beside me (penis = beer, didn’t ya know?), or when we order our samples (10% double IPA for me, 2.8% Berliner for him) and they mindfully hand him the strong one (this happens 9/10 times).
Luckily, I’m an aware and confident enough person that I don’t take it personally, rather I take it generally on behalf of all women, which makes me even more rage-y. Let it be known that, as a general rule in life, I believe in giving everyone the benefit of the doubt (I even call it the B of the D in case you needed further proof of my easy-going and understanding nature). But when I’m covering dozens of events over the course of the year, and see the same behaviour over and over again, it’s time for me to get on my soapbox, mainly because I’m 5’2″ so I mean, if I want anyone to see me… Now, do I have sudden urges to turn the tap on them and blast their faces with Sriracha stout? Of course, but where would that get us beside wasting delicious craft beer?
So instead I turn to you.
You, the breweries, brewers, readers, event volunteers, coordinators (… uh, humans?) to stop the cycle, and stop perpetuating the stereotype that women are good enough to sell beer (what half-naked young women have to do with beer I’ll never know, this coming from a former promo model) or be the face of beer (if I see another friggin’ pin up girl or “sexy” cartoon woman on a beer can I’m going to scream, use your imagination, creatives!) but couldn’t possibly actually be knowledgeable on the subject. This way, it can appear to be an inclusive industry, without ever actually having any intention of including women in this world. If we get rid of preconceived notions and perceptions of this former boys-club and eliminate sexism in the beer industry, maybe it’ll spill over to other areas in life, and the world will become a little more equal. (See what I mean? Total B of the D, you may say that I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.)
So what say you? Let’s smash this Pilsner-glass ceiling together and all drink from the same stein, shall we?
Wait… oh my God… you haven’t heard a word I’ve said, have you? You’ve been talking to the guy behind me this whole time haven’t you?
Susannah Kiernan is a writer, actress, singer, and comedian who currently resides in Toronto. She has worked extensively in stage, film, and television in Canada and the United States. Her female comedy duo, “L’il RasGALS”, writes and performs shows across the country and regularly
in Toronto, and were nominated for “Best Sketch Troupe” by Now Magazine. In the summer of 2014, Susannah sang back-up for the band Heart at some of their Canadian tour stops. She is also a graduate of the Fashion Management Program at George Brown and is acting as Managing Editor and writer at Chloe Magazine and is a writer for Bev Nine to Five. Find her on Twitter and Instagram.