I Do; Maybe I Should Not

CW: Rape, victim-blaming

A tweet saying, "i never stay at any event where men outnumber women because it isn't safe and if anything happens first question will be: what were you doing there #inourshoes."

I have made a substantial portion of my life in traditionally male-dominated spaces. Currently, it’s the beer industry.

Beer, the beverage, is alcoholic. The beer drinker is predominately male (64% of US men vs 29% of US women consume beer2). The beer blogger is exceptionally male (82%3). The beer festival attendee is usually male (>50%4).

In other words, to do that which I love these means going to a lot of these spaces where I will be outnumbered by men, while most of us have been consuming some or a lot of alcohol. And I think about it every time I attend a beer event.

Alcohol is assumed to be a huge factor in sexual assaults. Sure, the National Institutes of Health subgroup, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism found that alcohol was consumed “by the perpetrator, the victim, or both” in roughly half of all sexual assault cases. That said, alcohol is involved in roughly half of all violent crimes. Meaning sexual assault isn’t particularly unique here.

Despite its similarity to other violent crimes, we perceive sexual assault differently. Everyone from prominent people to worried parents to acquaintances warn women to avoid alcohol. Hell, Emily Yoffe of Slate wrote this piece explicitly telling women to stop drinking. Not men. This is despite the fact that she even cites that drinking by both men and women is an issue. At best she “[hopes women’s] restraint trickles down to the men.”

Should I be assaulted at a beer fest, it will be bad. Not just the assault itself, but the number of people who will ask me how much I’d had, if I should even have been there, why was I there in the first place and more. Questions that imply my assault wasn’t the fault of the perpetrator, but mine, because I somehow could have prevented it.

That, right there, is victim-blaming. And it is what our society dishes out, regularly, to victims of a variety of violent crimes, but particularly sexual assault. And we dish out at least a helping per axis of oppression. The victim-blaming would be so much worse for a white trans woman, a ciswoman of color, and even more so for a trans woman of color. And I’m not even getting into those who don’t identify as woman or man; I believe a lot of the treatment would come down to that person’s race and perceived gender (and gender conformance).

It’s rampant. I can’t blame @uzamantungwa for the stance. Again, I think about it every time I go to an event, every time I buy a ticket, every damn time. My life literally involves assessing how traumatic things could be if I’m wrong about how safe any given event is every time I decide whether to attend an event.

This is why I’m so aggressive in calling out problematic behaviors in the beer community. There’s no way to improve things without speaking up. Not everyone can speak up. and not everyone who can will. So, I speak up.

But speaking up doesn’t mean I don’t assess each time. I gave up one of my favorite beer events, Festival of Barrel-Aged Beers, because I don’t believe the Illinois Brewers Guild will take it seriously if I am assaulted at one of their events. I don’t trust them to keep me, or any other potential victim, safe.

Why? Two reasons. First, in the midst of the Pig Minds rape-encouraging label outrage last year, Justin Maynard, the executive director of the Illinois Brewers Guild, went out of his way to support them publicly. When he doesn’t publicly support a number of breweries that are, theoretically, in his fold.

Because it isn’t the first time he’s had a run in with alcohol-related rape jokes. He, almost a year prior, also retweeted this gem (which he did later delete, after several women chastised him):

A tweet saying, "Men's Life Lessons: How to Get Some Action. cc @IllinoisBeer (jk) (kinda)." Retweeted by the IL Brewers Guild

So I curtail my activities; I don’t go to anything that the Illinois Brewer’s Guild runs, because I don’t believe it’s safe. Specifically, because I’m a woman. Because how many chances should I give someone to show me they, at best, find alcohol-fueled rape funny?

And because there’s too many men, like Maynard (executive director of the Illinois Brewer’s Guild) who find rape jokes funny. Who then try to insist there’s no rape joke there.

I’m not alone.

So, folks, whatever your gender, I’d like to know your thoughts here. Do you find yourself assessing every event? If you’re a woman or perceived as one, do you leave events that appear to be male-dominated? Men, did you know this calculus happens?

I do stay in male-dominated spaces. Maybe I should not.

Related reading: Bryan Roth takes a crack at addressing our whiteness over at This is Why I’m Drunk. I didn’t touch on race much in this post, because I am not qualified to do so. But what I did say, above, that everything would be worse for PoC is especially true given how blindingly white the beer community generally is.

1 Given I am writing this piece…

2 As of 2013.

3 Based on the 2013 respondents to the Beer Bloggers Conference survey.

4 This has long been my instinct, that attendees were mostly male, but it took a couple of sponsorship pages for beer fests to confirm that. I will say it feels like beer fests are trending toward gender parity if one assumes a gender binary.

8 thoughts on “I Do; Maybe I Should Not

  1. Thanks, Tasha, for including this perspective. It’s an important conversation to have, especially in order to share a point of view that – per the numbers you point out – many (male) beer drinkers may not consider or even know about.

    • I don’t think you need the parenthetical, honestly. Many beer drinkers of any gender don’t consider such things. Some women & non-binary people likely don’t give it a second thought. And that’s fine as well.

      I don’t want to try to estimate how many do think this so much as to point out that I’m certain others do, since I know I do. And that it’s important to consider on a wider scale so that, hopefully, we can stop worrying about it each individually.

  2. Preach! There are too many stories to even begin to tell. But the louder we talk, and the more women who actively join the community, the harder it is for this sort of behavior to continue.

  3. I definitely have changed my behavior because of fear of the same things and often when I’ve told male beverage professionals this, the way they react is very telling. They often say my fears are unfounded, even though I’m speaking from personal (and terrifying) experience. I won’t go to events known for over-serving (FOBAB) and I didn’t even know the icky stuff about the tweet and Pig Minds, but that definitely seals the deal.

    When I go to events I drink less than I think I would if I trusted people and I feel jealous that this is something I can’t enjoy like men.

    • I can’t help but wonder if the training at FoBAB explicitly directs over-serving, or just implicitly insists on it (I’d bet the second, but wouldn’t be surprised by the first).

      I am regularly told my fears are unfounded. And I’m done not speaking to it. Thank you for also sharing.

      FWIW, I also share your jealousy that I cannot enjoy this like men do.

  4. I don’t know that it crosses my mind until or unless it’s already happening. Maybe that’s not a good thing? I dunno.
    I know that I’ve noticed, once there, when I’m in an overwhelmingly male environment. It doesn’t automatically make me uncomfortable, but that said, there have been situations in which I have felt that way- bars where some of the drinking public were becoming aggressive or loud where I felt unsafe. I’ve felt that way around some groups of women, though, too, to be quite honest, when they’ve been overserved and are particularly looking for an argument or someone to push around.

    It makes me think I should think about it more than I do. And as much as I like to think I’m unaffected or not overly wary of the guy-girl ratio, I know there’s times when I’ve been alone on a street walking back from something I’m covering and there’s been men behind me that I’ve felt threatened or worried, or times when I’ve been at an event and felt the same. I fight with the thought that I’d feel safer if my SO was with me and what that means.

    I’m not sure this is an answer so much as a ramble, but that’s my…thoughts?

    • I don’t know that you need to think about it more than you do, honestly. You do you, as they say. I know I think about it more than I used to, and that’s not always a good thing. But that has a lot to do with the face of the Illinois Craft Brewers Guild making me hyper-aware of how things can go wrong with all of the behaviors I described in the post.

      Thanks for your thoughts, Marielle. I really appreciate all the conversation around this.

Comments are closed.