Wednesday, July 9, 2014

I mean really? Is there really a need for an international women of whisky day? Really?

This year, day 3 of the Speyside Whisky Festival showcased an inaugural day devoted to "International Women in whisky" to which I and Alwynne Gwilt, Annabel Meikle and Angela D'Orazio were presenters. It was a FANTASTIC DAY and I couldn't have been prouder to be a part of. A few posts about it here:

Our classes were very well attended (a few sold out) and we had a great mix of men/women. We created a hashtag (of course) -> #IWOWD and asked people to post to social media. We had over 1200 photos, well wishes, etc..  It was so successful we plan on doing it again for the festival next year as well as make it bigger world wide.

Great you say, lovely story and congratulations and all that... so then why do I feel the need to write this piece and how do I create a blog about the importance of women in whisky without sounding like I'm a male bashing crazy feminist!?  Hmmmm, like I do everything else in my life:  One small step at a time...  

I'm a woman. I have a vagina, nipples and sometimes I like wearing pink or high heels. I make a huge assumption that almost 100% of people who read this blog know that. I love whisky, I think that's another easy assumption considering it's mostly what I like to write about. (You still with me? Good...) So if you are a guy reading this I assume you love whisky as much as I do and you have a penis, breasts and you might also enjoy wearing pink or in some cases heels. 

With me so far -> We are mostly alike except you have an "outie" and I have an "innie".  So what happens then, why are we treated so differently when it comes to the world's perception about drinking whisky? I can tell you a few huge differences from my perspective. When you go to one of my classes vs one of Davin De Kergommeaux, Charlie McLean or any other "guy" presentation, I guarantee, unless you are gay (and even then I'm not so sure...) that you will never look over at me and say: "I'd like to F_CK him, just look at that rack". Or watch one of the male participants slip their hand on Charlie McLean's ass and give it a little pat/squeeze... 

Don't think that really happens?? Yes, it does but thankfully less and less. The point I'm trying to make, in case you still don't get it is some men still are quite sexist. You would never hear: "He must have been hired because he's really sexy" or overhear a bartender say: "Excuse me sir, are you ordering this whisky for your wife?"...  

So, it wasn't until I walked into one of the most reputable whisky establishments in the Speyside region to pick up a whisky for my presentation that I was put in what I felt was an awkward situation. While waiting for the whisky, Graham mentioned that I was one of the four lovely ladies speaking for the International Women of Whisky (#IWOWD) and the man behind the counter literally clenches his fists and said: "Oh don't get me started! I hate it when women feel the need to have a day. Why do you have to have a day?" and the rant began. I stood politely trying to "justify" why we needed it.  In hindsight, I think I did a piss poor job. I simply floundered and it bothered me for months hence my need to write something about it.

The reality is most people (male & female) don't know many women who drink whisky. The statistics, based roughly on the top 5 countries clearly demonstrate we are the minority. On average 1 in 3 whisky drinkers is a woman. This could explain the lopsided attempts to advertise whisky to my demographic...


Or why people still see it as my father's drink and not my own. Or why women don't work in the whisky industry as much as men do?!  Do you know there has never been a female cooper at the Speyside Cooperage or that 99% of the distilleries don't have a female working on the "floor" in any capacity? Is it because they refuse to hire them... NO it's because women don't choose these places as part of their career path.  

But wait a second, has there been an abundance of female doctors, judges, heads of state, marathon runners or firefighters during the last 50 years or so?  Not really... and why is that? Was it partly because it's what "men" always did and women simply didn't? And what happened when women could be all those things and more... -> We simply started doing it. Why? Because the next generation saw it was possible. It started the wheels in motion and when we saw other women becoming top paid athletes or running their own corporations others started to follow. I graduated from a class of chemical engineering technologist in 1995. We were a class of 135, of that 12 were women. In 2015 the graduating class from that same program is expected to be 156, 83 are women. That's progress! 

Did it not begin to change how men saw women in those fields? I think so personally. I am respected and considered an equal in my field of project management and I would dare say any man that is a part of our whisky society seems me as an equal if not a leader there as well.

Let me reiterate why I'm stressing this point.  I'm not demanding that men "let us in".  I'm not bashing males. I'm not screaming from the soap box about GIRL POWER. What I'm saying is, the more we (men & women) show everyone that women exists and are respected in all sorts of dimensions of the whisky world:  we drink, we write, we judge, we make, we showcase, we market, we LOVE whisky then the more it will be become a gender neutral spirit that is shared by all. 

So... instead of rolling your eyes and getting all huffy that an international women of whisky day was created why not consider and help promote the following:

International women of whisky day was not created to satisfy a need to celebrate that we demand to be recognized in the whisky world. Au contraire mon frère: It was created with the hope that being "visible" will foster the fact that it's quite normal to see a woman drink whisky and even more normal to pick it as a career.  

The only way whisky will stop being a "man's drink" is if we are celebrated as the norm and we continue to show that it's simply a drink for people... with really good taste ;)  

And...  I might add to the gentleman who said to me: "I'm going to start our own movement and create a man's international whisky day" I wish I would have said:  "Be thankful you never needed one to begin with". 

Just one whisky person hoping to see/effectuate change...