The alcohol industry has a long history of objectifying women and using sexist marketing. However, in recent years in the western world, Big Alcohol has moved on to pink washing alcohol products and exploiting the feminist movement targeting alcohol sales to women. Movendi International is documenting and exposing these strategies and called the industry out on their own contradictions.
The craft beer industry has so far escaped critical examination as they have succeeded in portraying themselves as different from Big Beer. But this carefully crafted image is showing cracks. There’s the aggressive lobbying that mirrors Big Alcohol; there’s the downplaying of alcohol harm; there’s the aggressive marketing of alcohol; and there is pervasive sexism.
A stream of revelations from women within the alcohol industry, specifically the craft beer industry, shows that sexism is systemic in the craft beer industry, as it is in their Big Alcohol brothers. These women have revealed harrowing accounts of facing sexism, of being treated less than, being ignored, being paid less, and in the worst cases being sexually harassed and assaulted in their line of work.
A wave of #MeToo reckonings were sparked when Brienne Allan, production manager at Notch Brewing in Salem, Massachusetts, got tired of the sexist remarks at work and decided to share her experience on her Instagram account. Then she invited women in the craft beer industry to share their stories of sexism and harassment via her Instagram account, @ratmagnet.
The experiences that streamed in were probably even unexpected for Brienne. However, she has stayed true to her promise and shared all the experiences of women who messaged her. The accusations are now saved in Ms. Allan’s Instagram stories and summarized in a public Google doc. Ms Allen has even received threats of lawsuits for sharing the content.
Craft beer’s patriarchy
The craft beer industry is notorious for being a “boy’s club” and dominated by white men. A 2019 report from trade publication Brewers Association showed that just 7.5% of brewery employees with the title of brewer were women and 88% of craft brewery owners were white. This results in women and people of color being discriminated in the work place.
The companies and individuals that have been accused included Jacob McKean, founder and CEO of Modern Times Beer; Søren Wagner, founder and head brewer of Copenhagen’s Dry & Bitter Brewing Company; Evil Genius Beer Company; Tired Hands Brewing Company; Pollyanna Brewing Company; Hill Farmstead Brewery; Notch Brewing; BrewDog and more.
Fear stops victims from reporting
One of the steps that has been recommended to companies and beer festivals is to institute a system for victims to safely report the incidents of sexism and sexual harassment. However, such systems only work if those who face harassment can trust that it will work and won’t make matters worse. No one will ever use such a system if it exists in a company culture where female or minority employees assume or fear that nothing will come of it.
In fact many of the women who shared their experiences on Brienne’s account did take the proper course of action. Unfortunately they were fired from their positions. Many women are keeping quiet because they fear the loss of their jobs. This much was clear in the open letter BrewDog’s former employees published. They accused the company and the co-founder James Watt of fostering a culture of fear.
The single biggest shared experience of former staff is a residual feeling of fear. Fear to speak out about the atmosphere we were immersed in and fear of repercussions even after we have left,” wrote BrewDog’s former employees in an open letter as per Propel.info.BrewDog’s former employees
Sexism in and by the alcohol industry: A pervasive, perpetual problem
Most of the companies which were accused have issued statements, apologies and said they will take concrete steps to tackle the problem. Some perpetrators who have been called out have resigned or been fired. But, the question is will that be enough?
These kinds of stories have effectively become a cycle at this point, ebbing and resurging annually throughout the #MeToo era, and every time things go pretty much the same way,” writes Jim Vorel from Paste.
Outrage flares up around an inciting event, inspiring brave women and others to share their stories. The industry acts horrified and naive about the scope of the problem, with luminaries saying “we need to do better.” A few new diversity promoting positions are created. Occasionally, a few scapegoats are identified and successfully removed. And then slowly, the white-hot anger and drive to hold breweries accountable peters out.”Jim Vorel, writer, Paste
Evidently, this is not a new problem in the wider alcohol industry. In fact, the issue of sexism in the alcohol industry was also exposed in the recent past by The Wine Enthusiast. Again in 2019, The Conversation covered a piece regarding sexism in the beer industry.
Internally and externally the alcohol industry is sexist and harming women and minority groups. The problems is pervasive and perpetual. It ranges from racist and sexist alcohol marketing to harmful workplace culture dominated by toxic masculinity.
San Diego Magazine: “Local Breweries Pledge to Combat Sexism Plaguing the Craft Beer Industry“
THE VINGUARD: “SEXISM IN THE WINE INDUSTRY“
Wine Enthusiast: “It’s Time We Talk About Sexism in the Alcohol Industry“
The Conversation: “Beer has a sexism problem and it goes much deeper than chauvinistic marketing“
Drinks Business: “In focus: How the drinks industry is tackling gender inequality“
Drinks Business: “Gender pay gap at UK beer, wine and spirits companies revealed“
Movendi International: “Time’s Up For Big Alcohol Exploiting Feminism“