Whenever I am asked about being a woman in the “male-dominated beer industry” I always get the sense that the person asking the question is waiting for me to respond with a story featuring an egregious act of discrimination based on my gender. And, truthfully, I feel like most of the times I leave them disappointed.
That’s not to say that serious things don’t happen – I certainly have friends that have been put in scary situations that go beyond sexism right into harassment – but I just don’t personally possess a story that everyone can point at and get angry about (a fact for which I am personally grateful).
But what I do have are accumulated experiences that, viewed singly, are incredibly trivial.
- I’ve walked into a beer bar with a male friend and he’s been handed the beer list, and I’ve been handed a flipped-over menu and told, “here’s the wine section!”
- I’ve been told that beer is probably “too bitter” and I might not like what I had just ordered.
- Every time there’s a costumed event, it is suggested that I should dress up like a “beer wench” serving brews in low-cut outfits at Oktoberfest.
- I’ve been on the receiving end of countless eyebrow-raises from bartenders when I order something high ABV, very hoppy, super dark, or sour.
- I’ve been assumed to be under the bar tab/bill of male friends without ever being asked (even when ordering at the bar).
- People at beer events greet me (the beer writer who often attends events solo) with a question about where my husband is (and why he’s not with me).
There are millions of little things like that in my beer-drinking life. And at any one time it’s something that I brush off, it’s something barely worth mentioning when I’m staring at the face of a hungry interviewer prodding for more. But it can be a daily part of being a woman in the beer world.
Those accumulated incidents have been hard for me to articulate. But the other day when I watched this, I realized I’ve never seen it expressed so simply and clearly:
I love what they’ve done here because it’s an expression of a common situation – one most don’t think twice about. There are a lot of assumptions out there about what women do and do not like – but beer doesn’t have a gender, and anyone is welcome to enjoy what they enjoy. The more we are all made aware of these biases (especially in such a simple and clear manner), the more action we can take to correct it.
However, in the YouTube comments affiliated with the video, some have accused it of being scripted, or picking just the incidents that fit their point. Others argue that it’s a pretty “stupid thing to get worked up about,” and that only terrible, distracted service staff would ever do this.
For what it’s worth, I don’t think it matters if this happened to the couples every time they ordered a drink, or it it took 5 times, or if it was in a busy bar or a slow restaurant. Stopping to examine our own assumptions is healthy and so is having empathy for those affected by the actions of those biases.
Let’s keep looking and make sure that we’re providing a welcoming environment in which to enjoy the beer that we all love.