We're Getting A Little Better About Talking About It
Last year when I wrote about sexism in the beer industry, I was really nervous. I had seen what has happened to women calling out problematic issues in the restaurant and tech world, and I was worried. Thankfully I had the support of everyone at Folly and they felt it was an important message. And you did too. We received many, many supportive messages and responses to the blog post. When I posted the sign-up for our International Women’s Collaboration Brew Day event, I had to restructure the event so as to include as many women as possible. So, thank you. It’s been a frustrating year politically and that event was a shining light for me. We also made a kick-ass beer (Bechdel Brett). We also opened up the Folly bottle shop last spring and used this beer as the first special release - which was a very proud moment for me. Thanks for coming in and buying just about all of it during the first weekend!
While this was a fantastic event, and got a lot of people discussing the issues around women’s representation in the beer industry, it still stings whenever I see a new beer in Ontario (or anywhere) using objectifying images to sell their beer. It stings when I am only seen as a means to sell beer - when I am not visible as someone capable of making or drinking that beer.
Last March I attended a “Tech Talk” hosted by the Ontario Craft Brewers Association called “Growth & Opportunities: Women in Craft Brewing.” This event included a panel of women from the beer industry that I admire very much. I asked the group of women if they had advice on how to handle feeling invisible next to their male peers. The advice they gave was that I need to develop a thick skin - that I would need it as they felt it was a problem that might never go away. This advice felt pretty bleak. I was on my way out after the panel, with a heavy heart, when I was stopped by a QC Analyst. She told me they gave terrible advice and I don’t need a thicker skin. She said the route to change and feeling visible was to surround myself with people who will stand up and make sure everyone in the room feels equal.
So, well, that’s what I have been trying to do.
Despite how exhausted I am over what can feel like a constant onslaught of sexist marketing, feeling invisible while working or representing my work, I keep reminding myself of the people working to fight it. In addition to brewers and brewery owners working hard to create inclusive environments and products for employees and customers, there has been a lot of fantastic writing about sexism in beer. Robin LeBlanc wrote about it for Torontoist. Ben Johnston wrote about it on his personal blog. Even legend Stan Hieronymus used his personal blog to gently state his own frustrations about sexism in the beer industry.
There have also been many, many groups and events that aim to promote women - both working in and consuming beer. The Society of Beer Drinking Ladies is still creating fantastic, usually sold-out events. Queens of Craft in Guelph, Ontario offer exciting talks to engage women in exploring beer. The Craft Brasserie in Toronto is about to have its second Women in Beer event, where women from all aspects of the beer industry brewed special one-offs for the public.
These type of groups and events can be found across Canada and are totally worth your time if you want to explore beer in a safe space.
So, yeah, it’s getting better. If you work hard, you can surround yourself with people who will stand up and make sure everyone in the room feels equal. How as a consumer and beer lover can you do this? Voice your concern. It doesn’t have to be a public outcry on Twitter. Just strike up a respectful conversation with your friends, your homebrewing group, your cat, your bartender - anyone. I have watched a lot of online discussions regarding sexism and inclusiveness in beer derail quickly. If we only talk about this during the 6 weeks leading up to, and following, International Women’s Day, it’s going to take a long time for these types of conversations to get easier. Not everyone is going to agree about what is sexist, sexy, and infringes on someone feeling included in an industry. That’s ok. Even though it can be frustrating, we need to respectfully talk and hear all sides of a discussion. That’s how progress is made.
Also, we can make some beer. That’s usually how I vent my frustrations. On March 11th we’ll celebrate International Women’s Collaborative Brew Day at Folly by making something awesome. If you’re a woman (or identify as a woman) and are interested in beer, brewing, homebrewing, or maybe interested in the beer industry as a career and want to hang out while brewing something weird, keep an eye out for a sign-up sheet. Last year we had a huge range of participants - professional brewers, brew master students, beer writers, homebrewers, beer bar servers, and women just getting into drinking craft beer. They made an awesome beer. I’m excited to see what we brew this year.
The sign up sheet will arrive online in the next couple of weeks. Make sure you have your eye on our social media, as we filled up fast last year!