THE #METOO OF WINE, WHAT CAN WE DO TO CHANGE THE SEXIST CULTURE?

We came out in the open, we denounced the abuse, we got indignant, we started an ethical conversation on social media, we pointed the finger at those who abused their power to discriminate, heads have been cut, we invoked the change of leadership, someone even returned the sommelier’s pins. In the past few days, the U.S. wine community has faced a real tsunami that has generated from what newspapers have renamed the #metoo of wine. It was and still is a delicate, tense and promising moment at the same time: having taken an active part in the earthquake that generated this wave, through my personal denunciation, I felt conflicting feelings. First the shame, then the anger, then the comfort of the awareness of not being alone, then the sense of helplessness in the face of a reality that we cannot change, followed instead by the sense of strength given by the community and the practical consequences, namely the resignation of those who were responsible for so much suffering among many women of the wine industry.  (LEGGI LA VERSIONE ITALIANA QUI)

The New York Times story, the sex scandal at the Court of Master Sommeliers

It will certainly not be a handful of resigned leaders at the Court of Master sommeliers who will change an entire sexist culture, the problem is not solved by changing the men or women in charge, a cultural change must start from the bottom, from each of us. I hate the fact that the battle of women for equality in the world of wine has been exploited and politicized as unfortunately often happens in other areas. What started out as a spontaneous, uniform, generalized denunciation of violent abuse of power against women, in the space of a few days, has become the class struggle of a certain political party that has put the wide hat of universal discrimination on a conversation born with precise premises. Every inequality must be denounced, we all agree, but every cause has its victims who have the right to speak for themselves, without having the megaphone torn out of their hands by those who pursue their own, albeit just, different battles, such as the one against the establishment. Sometimes behind the struggle for equality there is actually a struggle for power: I did not like the attitude of those who took the pretext of denouncing the abuses to completely destroy an entire organization, like the Court of master sommeliers: among the rotten apples that must be absolutely ousted there are many serious professionals who have built their careers on the title of master sommelier, we must take this into account so as not to generate injustice on the rubble of other injustices. 

That said, today, the day after, when the storm has subsided, I want to promote a proactive rather than destructive attitude. I want to nourish a culture of action instead of gossip, shame and public humiliation. So what can we do?

The work is not finished with the denunciation, with a few days in which the scandal is on the front pages of newspapers. The work starts right now. 

It is up to each of us to recognize, highlight and change sexist and discriminatory attitudes in everyday life, those of others but especially ours. How? 

1. Question your preconceptions and bias.

Every time a sexist comment emerges, recognize it and repress it. The negative judgment towards a woman who chooses a career and leaves her children to the nanny, the ill-concealed condemnation in front of a friend who has put on a few pounds because she stopped going to the gym, the poisonous comment to the extramarital relationship of the husband of a colleague who is always traveling and does not devote enough attention to married life. When you think that a scantily clad woman goes looking for trouble, and almost deserves it. These are all observations that seem “harmless”, but are the result of preconceptions: a woman must devote herself to the family, not to her realization, a woman must be attractive (therefore thin), if the husband cheats is the fault of the wife who neglects him. If a wife cheats, she is a prostitute. All this feeds a deeply sexist culture. And we do not even realize it. We must begin to recognize these bias and isolate them. 

2. Be the community you want, be the change.

Make a declutter of your social media by stopping following all those accounts that spread sexist content: the posts of naked women with a glass of wine in their hands, the profiles that praise the culture of diet promoting the idea that women should deprive themselves of pleasures for (male) eyes pleasure (assuming that being attractive is their only purpose), the pages that paint women within certain stereotypes and leave no room for other possibilities, objectifying them. Instead, choose accounts with positive messages of inclusion, open-mindedness, cultural stimulus. Our mind stores the stimuli to which we submit it daily at an unconscious level, so we have the moral duty to make wise choices. Just as we are very careful about what we eat, we must pay attention to what nourishes or undernourishes our mind, our values. 

3. Teach your children a new gender culture.

If you are a parent, your contribution to a better world in the future is extremely important. Teach your children that there are no pre-established roles for men and women, that everyone is free to pursue their dreams and passions without limits, even choosing to be a mom or dad and give up a career that is not the only way to achieve a wholehearted life. Teach your children the respect of every man and woman. Be an example in your relationship and in the way you use language. In this regard:

4. Pay attention to language.

If a woman is a career leader, she is often called cold, calculating, rigid. If a man is a leader, he is defined as charismatic, determined, strong. If a woman in her fifties is not married, she is a sad spinster who will die surrounded by her cats, a 50 years old single man is a bachelor and if he jumps from one relationship to another he is also considered a cool guy. 

5. If you suffer or witness an abuse of power, report it.

This is the most difficult part: in 90% of the cases we all prefer to look away and mind our own business. But history has shown us that this is not a winning strategy to change things. I am not only talking about great violence or striking gestures, but also about small daily humiliations, like a sexist joke, an inappropriate comment (on our body for example), an inappropriate question towards a woman, like the fateful “why don’t you have children?” . If we all noticed these nuances and made it clear that they are unwelcome and out of place on every occasion in the long run people would feel embarrassed to ask or affirm certain offences, even if only as a joke. 

6. Create healthy gender respectful habits at your workplace.

Why not invest in training colleagues, collaborators, employees on the issue of inequality? It would be enough that each restaurant, winery or wine shop had its own protocol of equality, a set of good practices for the respect of gender differences to create a climate of respect and mutual trust. I would like this decalogue or protocol to be drawn up by the Wine Women’s Associations (there are several in the States and in Europe), perhaps through a survey collecting the opinions of all professionals in the sector. 

7. Feed your mind with a culture of equality.

Books, TV series, podcasts, articles in magazines and newspapers: today ignorance is not allowed. The theme of gender inequality is more topical than ever in years of smart working when the burden of caring for the family is still too often only on the shoulders of women, already penalized from the start. Try to build a critical conscience on this issue to be able to recognize unfair practices at work or in everyday life. Below I leave you a list of resources: movies, documentaries, podcasts and books that I found particularly inspiring and that opened my eyes. 

8. Believe in change.

Last but not least, the theme of change. Too often I hear people say “it’s been like this for too long, we can’t do anything about it”, resignation is the perfect excuse and the ideal environment to perpetrate a retrograde and conservative culture. Think about twenty years ago: it was perfectly normal for us to light a cigarette in a bar or even in the office at work in front of our colleagues. Today we would be stoned to death in the public square if we did such a thing. And yet we had been smoking for almost a century, for many decades it was even cool, all Hollywood actors and actresses were cigarette addicted, in every movie the diva or the star on duty smoked to assess his or her independence or sensuality. Today? Not anymore. Result? Many less smokers and the tobacco industry forced to invent electronic cigarettes to stay afloat. It’s not the ideal world (without any kind of cigarette, even electronic), but it’s definitely better than 20 years ago. 

Well, what we can and must do is to give our children a world less discriminatory than yesterday and today. 

TV SERIES, MOVIES:

  • Mrs. America, Hulu original 

Mrs. America tells the story of the movement to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), and the unexpected backlash led by a conservative woman named Phyllis Schlafly, aka “the sweetheart of the silent majority.” Through the eyes of the women of the era – both Schlafly and second wave feminists Gloria Steinem, Betty Friedan, Shirley Chisholm, Bella Abzug and Jill Ruckelshaus – the series explores how one of the toughest battlegrounds in the culture wars of the 70s helped give rise to the Moral Majority and forever shifted the political landscape.

  • The Handmaid’s tale, Netflix 

The Handmaid’s Tale, both the popular Hulu series and the classic novel by Margaret Atwood, has become a symbol for modern feminism and the global fight for gender equality. The story, set in a dystopian version of our not-so-distant future, underscores the importance of granting all people in society equal access to economic freedom and other human rights.

  • On the basis of sex, movie 

The true story of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, her struggles for equal rights, and the early cases of a historic career that lead to her nomination and confirmation as U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice.

BOOKS

  • Wine Girl – Victoria James

Victoria James is one of the brave women interviewed in the New York Times story about sexual abuse in the wine industry.

Her book is an affecting memoir from the country’s youngest sommelier, tracing her path through the glamorous but famously toxic restaurant world

At just 21, the age when most people are starting to drink (well, legally at least), Victoria James became the country’s youngest sommelier at a Michelin-starred restaurant. Even as Victoria was selling bottles worth hundreds and thousands of dollars during the day, passing sommelier certification exams with flying colors, and receiving distinction from all kinds of press, there were still groping patrons, bosses who abused their role and status, and a trip to the hospital emergency room. 

It would take hitting bottom at a new restaurant and restorative trips to the vineyards where she could feel closest to the wine she loved for Victoria to re-emerge, clear-eyed and passionate, and a proud leader of her own Michelin-starred restaurant.

  • Untamed – Glennon Doyle

Soulful and uproarious, forceful and tender, Untamed is both an intimate memoir and a galvanizing wake-up call. It is the story of how one woman learned that a responsible mother is not one who slowly dies for her children, but one who shows them how to fully live. It is the story of navigating divorce, forming a new blended family, and discovering that the brokenness or wholeness of a family depends not on its structure but on each member’s ability to bring her full self to the table. And it is the story of how each of us can begin to trust ourselves enough to set boundaries, make peace with our bodies, honor our anger and heartbreak, and unleash our truest, wildest instincts so that we become women who can finally look at ourselves and say: There She Is.

  • We should all be feminist – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (ANCHE IN ITALIANO) 

We Should All Be Feminists includes anecdotes and analyses about what it means to be a feminist. She argues that “feminist” isn’t an insult, but rather a label that should be embraced by all. While feminism advocates for equity and equality between men and women in all aspects of life, the fiercest opposers of women’s liberation believe that feminism is a social movement that focuses on reversing gender roles and making men inferior. Adichie’s “We Should All Be Feminists,” succinctly unearths the need to transform social beliefs and gender constructs that promote the disparity between men and women. In essence, we should all be feminists not only as a commitment to women’s liberation but also as a way of encouraging men to hold conversations with women on sexuality, appearance, roles, and success.

PODCAST

  • BBC Radio 4 Women’s hour

BBC Radio’s Woman’s Hour offers a much-needed coalescence of current events affecting women around the world. If anything, by highlighting news for and about women, it only goes to show exactly how excluded women are from every other hour of news reporting. 

  • Encyclopedia Womannica

History class often paints a portrait of the world that excludes about half of its population. That’s what Wonder Media Network’s Encyclopedia Womannica sets out to fix, by releasing 5- to 10-minute episodes on women who made history in a certain field. Each month focuses on a different area of expertise, which most recently included activism and music.

  • Morgana di Michela Murgia e Chiara Tagliaferri  (ITA)

“Sono io l’uomo ricco”, storie di donne che non hanno avuto bisogno di sposare un uomo con i soldi. Donne fuori dagli schemi, controcorrente, strane, pericolose, esagerate, stronze, a modo loro tutte diverse e difficili da collocare. Donne che con le proprie vite e il proprio lavoro hanno contribuito o contribuiscono a colmare il gender gap proprio partendo dalla possibilità e capacità di gestire in autonomia il proprio denaro.

VERSIONE ITALIANA DELL’ ARTICOLO QUI


3 thoughts on “THE #METOO OF WINE, WHAT CAN WE DO TO CHANGE THE SEXIST CULTURE?

    1. Thank you Stacie, I would love to have a chat with you about the gender issue in the wine business… I bet you have a lot to say!

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