The following is a guest post, written for The Bottomless Pint. See the end of the article for this writer’s bio. Have an article idea? Drop me a line – beermostly AT gmail.com.
Let’s set the scene. It’s a Saturday night after a Toronto Sports Game (go sports!), and whether I like it or not, I end up at a Front St. bar, meeting with a few friends who had also been at the game. I head to the bar to order a beer, I grab the menu to take a look at their surprisingly awesome beer list. I’m about halfway through the list, when a large, burly looking, inebriated white dude leans in and says “You know, I really like number 6.” Annoyed and unprepared, I say, “Oh yeah? Why’s that?” Much to my surprise (not), he didn’t really know what beer he was drinking, he had no tasting notes or real recommendations, and he seemingly just wanted to hear himself speak. So, I told him not-so-politely that I didn’t need his recommendations, and I was fully capable of selecting a beer for myself. I’m paraphrasing, but if you know me, you can imagine what I really said. And then, I tweeted this:
Granted, this dude absolutely chose the wrong lady. I’m not the bright-eyed and bushy-tailed rookie that I once was. This stuff happens to me too much, and so I tend to be a bit saltier than most women might be in the same situation. So I sent out this tweet to make light and bring humour to an all-to-familiar situation, took a deep breath, and then I let it go. Cut to the next day, where the tweet has 80+ likes, 2 retweets, and 8 different replies; mainly in the form of hilarious GIFs asking whether or not this dude was still alive. There was even a good one from the owner of this blog, comparing me to Ron Swanson in a Home Depot (I chortled approvingly). As I read through the replies and watched the likes roll in, I started realizing that there are a lot of other people, men and women, who are just as tired and -yes, salty- about this stuff as I am. It was humbling, enraging, and inspiring.
So where do we go from here? Well, let’s talk. The concept of toxic masculinity is really what seems to be at the core of instances like this; the same concept that empowers men to cat call, mansplain, and generally Act a Fool. As a woman in the beer industry, I face situations like this quite often. I’ve spoken on sexism in this industry several times, including here and here. But when I talk to my male friends about this, they are still surprised and in shock, and they sometimes can’t believe that these types of things happen to me. For those of you who are still blissfully unaware of these microaggressions, I’ve compiled a small list.
Some of the real things actual people have said to me (and my sassy inner dialogue during these moments):
“So, do you like beer?”
NO THIS HAS ALL BEEN AN ELABORATE RUSE, I HATE BEER I JUST DECIDED TO BE A BEER SALES REP FOR THE MONEY.
“If you like beer so much, how are you so skinny?”
Imagine if I came to your workplace and asked you about your weight?
“So, what, does your dad own the brewery?”
Yes, that’s the only plausible reason I could have a job at a craft brewery.
“Is that your boyfriend’s car?” (Referring to my branded brewery vehicle)
SING IT WITH ME, LADIES. Shoes on my feet, I bought em. Car I’m driving, I bou- wait, actually it’s technically a company vehicle… but anyway I DEPEND ON ME.
“So you’re just the pretty face then?”
When I get this one, I usually I just stare blankly while a piece of me dies inside.
“Wow, you actually know a lot about beer!”
I love a fresh, spicy, backhanded compliment in the morning.
“You’re sexy when you’re angry/serious/bossy.”
As if my sexiness was dependent at all on moods, *tosses hair.* But seriously, when thoughts like this enter your head, have you ever considered just not talking????
“You remind me of my ex-wife.”
She was probably a Goddess, you are trash.
And if these little treasures aren’t enough to convince you, here are a handful of things that happen to me, and not to my male colleagues:
- Needing to be walked to my car because I was catcalled in an LCBO parking lot
- Getting followed for several blocks and targeted in a parking lot
- Being told my appearance has to do with why I’m good at my job
- The use of subtle gendered language like “abrasive,” “aggressive,” “intense,” “demanding,” and my personal favourite, “bossy.”
- Receiving lines of questioning about my relationship status and sexuality while trying to work
I just feel like my lady ancestors did not pioneer the art of brewing in the 18th century for this type of nonsense happening in 2018. You know? Whether you’ve been on the receiving end of unwanted attention or whether you’ve seen it happen, I think it’s fair to say that we’ve all been there. Recently, I’ve had male colleagues and friends ask me what they should do in these situations. Or, they explain to me that they witness similar occurrences and they come to me wondering if they could have done more. To me, these conversations mean the world. I’ve only been in the industry for a few years, but it feels these aren’t conversations that we were having even 2 or 3 years ago. Men bringing these important questions to the forefront makes me feel validated, it makes me feel acknowledged, and it shows that they are tired too. They want to be a part of the solution. If you’re reading this, I’m sure you do too.
Realistically, there is no prescription. There’s no one answer, no objectively perfect thing for you to do when you want to interfere and shut a toxic interaction down. But what I can tell you for sure, is that there have been countless times where I’ve wished someone was there to step in and help me. Someone to be the one to put an end to unwanted attention, when I felt the confines of my job and upholding a brand image would have been jeopardized by shutting it down myself. This happens all the time with servers, bartenders, brand ambassadors, and plenty of other customer-facing positions; the microaggressions are shrugged off so she can save face and continue doing her job. In this industry specifically, it can be a really hard thing to navigate – interpersonal relationships are the foundation of how business is done. Creating meaningful relationships while keeping it professional is not easy.
For my final list, here are some things that I have put together that I, as a woman beer rep, want people to start doing. I want to acknowledge that these are based on my lived experiences, and experiences that I know enough about to comfortably speak to. Please understand that there are various intersections of marginalization that I cannot authentically capture or represent.
Things you can do:
- Believe her, when she comes to you saying she’s experiencing something unwanted or uncomfortable.
- Ask her, discreetly, if she wants help. If yes, step in. Sometimes, she’s got this.
- Change the conversation. If you hear someone making comments about her appearance/making an advance, be the one to commend her on her skills, talent, knowledge, etc.
- Stop assuming. Don’t ask her male colleague technical questions before you ask her. Don’t explain rudimentary concepts to her that you wouldn’t go out of your way to explain to a male in the same position.
- Be observant. Check in with your friends, notice if someone is making her uncomfortable. Don’t shrug it off.
- Call him out. Male to male accountability, specifically, is a very impactful thing. It’s problematic that boys prefer listening to other boys, but hey. That’s kind of where we’re at.
- Check yourself. Is your opinion needed? Is your advice solicited? What are you adding to the conversation? It’s good to listen.
- Ask questions. Look outside of your own experiences, think about what it’s like for people that walk through the world with less privilege than you.
- Give her a platform. Turn to her expertise, let her take the lead. Call your male coworkers out when they interrupt her. Ask her opinion, and respect it.
- Do more. Don’t settle. Demand more of your peers, your colleagues, your employers. Raise your expectations for your friends. Stop being complacent. Challenge yourself.
That’s all I’ve got, for now. But I think it’s a good start. If you have more to add, or want to talk, or maybe need a hug, reach out – I’m here for you. The most important thing is just to have these conversations and to be brave enough to ask for better from each other. I didn’t write this piece to bum you out, though. So I leave you with this: the link to the twitter thread where you can see all of the hilarious replies to the tweet that started at all. To each of you who took the time to respond, you are a beautiful internet unicorn and I adore you.
PS- If you made it all the way through that and are still here, here is a bonus tweet about some really special human beings. They know who they are.
About The Writer
Victoria Rombis is a Sales Rep for an excellent Ontario Craft brewery, but her views are her own. She’s written for The Bottomless Pint intermittently during her career. She likes crushing the patriarchy and getting caught in the rain. Follow along on her journey on twitter @_VictoriaBrews and on Instagram @victoria_r.