No, Seriously. 18th Street Brewery’s Response Was Utterly Predictable.

The most recent post on this blog is a guest post regarding 18th Street Brewery’s sexism. As the guest didn’t have a title, I titled it, “Your Sexism is Predictable and Boring, 18th Street Brewery.” And this is my take on the matter: 18th Street Brewery’s sexist response was utterly predictable.

Drew Fox (the founder & head brewer of 18th Street Brewery) has shown us before what he thinks of women. He’ll tell a woman raising concerns about the industry to “back the fuck off” and engage in policing what women and girls wear to try to derail the conversation at hand.

So, no, it comes as absolutely no surprise to me that not only would he not take critique well, he’d go attempt to derail the conversation by focusing on a woman’s behavior rather than his own1.

Then, when he got bored with it dismiss her as a troll, while also calling her garbage. Garbage is totally human, right?

It’s also not surprising he then doubled down by making the brewery’s Twitter avatar and header images the very images she critiqued as “objectifying.” And, let’s be clear, “objectifying” is the word she used. Not “offensive”.

This reaction? It’s exactly what I expected. Not just because of the first link in this post, which is Fox treating a woman like shit, but because, funnily enough, I’ve inhabited the world as a woman my whole life. And, often, this is the exact response you get for speaking up to men about casually sexist behaviors. Especially if those men are strangers.

I’ve experienced it before. I think every woman has experienced it before. Certainly every woman I know has suffered this kind of blowback for speaking up to men about problematic behavior. Even when the tone is mild, as in Lauter’s tweet asking if 18th Street would “consider” a change. And knowing you’ll face this kind of crap (and often much worse)? It’s silencing. This kind of reaction is intentionally silencing and, frankly, immobilizing. And its impact reaches far beyond each relatively small incident.

This very issue, Fox being sexist, has caused me trouble in the past. Allow me to explain:

For those who are new to my blog and my tweeting and me in general, let me say that I make no bones about breweries I won’t patronize, people I won’t associate with and why. I say when a place I love does something wrong. I will say things about you without putting your name right on it if you don’t seem to be the type to care and I will reiterate it to you directly if I have to.

Basically, like every other human on this planet, when I want to talk about something, I take the approach that makes the most sense to me at the time. Like every other human on this planet, I share things that are important to me. And like every other human on this planet, sometimes I misgauge and pick the wrong moment to engage or take the wrong approach entirely.

To this day, I am not sure if I really did take the wrong approach or picked the wrong time to share how conflicted I felt about 18th Street Brewery’s chances of becoming huge, or if that was a reasonable response to what I saw on my timeline.

Either way, I was met with one person, a rather respected beer writer, urging me to speak to Fox about his hugely sexist reaction.

To which I told him, how this has never worked with near strangers.

In the end, my impression is that I offended him when my response to Fox’s sexism was, in his words, “not only do nothing, but shade Fox online and not buy” his beer..”

Honestly, not buying his beer IS something. Not much, maybe, but it’s an approach that makes sense to me, especially when my lifetime of experience with unknown or barely known men says (and, unfortunately, seeing Lauter’s experience confirms) Fox is not going to be receptive to the point. He’s going to be hostile and attempt to derail and silence the point.

Derailing is claiming labels (his and others’) aren’t a problem and then shifting the conversation to something unrelated.

Insisting that “12 and 17 teen year old girls walking down the Mag Mile with half of there[sic] asses out in butty shorts!” somehow makes beer labels not worth discussion is an attempt to derail the conversation with shaming. Not to mention putting women in the place he believes they should occupy: that is to say, as objects if he perceives them as sexual.

I saw that. It’s very clear in his comment to Amy Cavanaugh (then of Time Out) on Facebook (above) regarding her Time Out Post “Time to Grow Up, Breweries”. And, yes, that informed my decisions on how to share my thoughts on Fox and whether to talk to him directly. As would my experience, lots of it, being a woman in the world. It’s a difficult decision – speak up loudly against objectifying and sexism, or stay out of the way and avoid being attacked myself? That’s a decision women make every day – EVERY DAY – when faced with sexist situations.

Sometimes, our experience lets us predict that a person who says sexist shit will not react well when told sexist shit is not okay. And will react doubly unwell when they’re told by a woman. There are different ways to approach such situations and people, and it’s up to every person to decide how they feel comfortable doing so.

Sexism is easy to engage in, hard to cease engaging in and incredibly difficult to point out. People of any gender can find themselves being sexist or engaging in misogyny unthinkingly. It’s baked into the American cultural pie as surely as apples. I know I have been sexist in my lifetime, and I do not doubt I will say or do something sexist again in the future. That sucks, but it’s reality.

But I’ve said before that I will do the work, so I very much hope people will be willing to call me out or in when I fuck up. But more than that? I accept that some people won’t. Some people will see the fuck up and deem me not worth their time. And that sucks most of all, perhaps. But we all do it; because (AGAIN) it’s up to every person to decide how to approach any given situation and how comfortable they feel doing so. And opting to not deal with a person is a valid approach. Even if that person is me. Or you. Or your friend.

You know what sexism I didn’t call out at the time? Notte’s dismissal of my experience as a valid reason not to try to speak to a man I didn’t know about that man’s sexism. In fact, because sexism is so baked into our culture, I actually doubted myself, and wondered if he was right. If I’d done everything wrong. I called 18th Street Brewery and asked if there was some sort of media contact for Drew Fox, specifically. I was told to email “info@” and we all know that doesn’t go straight to the owner.

I literally spent some time trusting the opinion of a man I don’t know over my own life experience as more valid and reasonable. Sexism against oneself might be the worst kind of sexism.

Allow me to be very clear here: I do not even remotely believe Notte was intentionally sexist. I do not believe that if asked he would say that men’s opinions on women’s experiences are clearly more valid than women’s opinions on women’s experiences. I simply know that all people are trained from birth to trust men over women. And we all believe our understanding of the world more than we believe someone else’s, probably by instinct. So of course he was sexist, and of course it was probably unintentional. But it was still a sexist response.

I do not know Notte beyond this interaction and I doubt he is, overall, a sexist. I try (and will always try) to give people the benefit of the doubt that they are lovely human beings until I know they are not.

For the record? Drew Fox of 18th Street Brewery is sexist. Maybe that will change someday. I sure as fuck hope so.

1 And, yes, by his own admission, this is Fox tweeting all these things.

16 thoughts on “No, Seriously. 18th Street Brewery’s Response Was Utterly Predictable.

  1. It’s always great when you tell someone they’re being racist/sexist/bigoted/offensive/rude and their response is to double down on their bad behavior. This is why it’s so hard for me to work up the courage to speak up when colleagues or coworkers or acquaintances say something horrible. Maybe I need a thicker skin, but I’ve been on the internet long enough to be VERY aware of how easily things can turn nasty.

    So I just disengage, walk away, avoid a product or a store or a person. Does it do enough? Absolutely not. But sometimes it’s all I feel safe doing.

    I don’t know what the answer is.

  2. It’s rare I comment on posts.
    It’s rare I keep my mouth shut when a voice is needed.
    So rare it it.
    Tasha: THANK YOU for speaking up. It’s incredibly uncommon for a perpetrator of reprehensible actions & behavior to see the error of their ways and self-correct.
    I laud your speaking up, strength to do so helps those who know that sexism is damning and damaging. You’ve got my full support, as one who’s seen it all too often as well.
    Onward. g

    • Ginger, thank you! I know it’s rare, which blows. But I continue to have knowledge that people can change, faith that some do, and hope that folks want to do better.

      It’s very hard, especially because it’s just so part of life. I’m just trying to speak up, since I can. I know that’s privilege, so I’d best use it well.

  3. You articulate this really well, Tasha. With thoughtfulness, empathy, an open mind, and introspection, I feel like you leave no room for your opinion to be argued as trite, combative, or unproductive. I admire your ability to communicate what so many of us think and feel.

    • ERICA!!!!!! I didn’t think you’d have much ‘net access in your adventures!

      Thank you so very much for your comment and compliments. I try to be empathetic, because I really have been there. I get combative sometimes, my very first response to Pig Mind’s, for example. And sometimes it’s appropriate to do so. But here, it just felt useless. I don’t want a fight here. Here, it’d be pointless. What I want is to give people the chance to see WHY some of these behaviors are wrong and why we should trust people’s lived experiences. Particularly if it’s impossible for us to have had those experiences. (Notte with sexism, me with racism, etc.)

      We have to trust people with their own lives. And we have to listen to them about it. I’m trying to drive that home, I guess.

  4. There are those in every community who want to be the standard bearers and take great risks to do so. Perhaps they are braver or their calling is simply too great to succumb to the natural fear a minority has in addressing discriminatory behavior by the power/majority. Good on you for stepping up. I hadn’t seen the original exchage with Carla, so sending vibes her way, too.

    • Carla definitely got some bullshit abuse for a very polite query. I’m grateful she brought it up. Though I’ve lived in 18th Street Brewery’s for years, a year and a half ago I decided I wasn’t buying their beer ever again, so I didn’t pay a lick of attention to it. She did the hard work of revealing the label. I’m just ready and willing to talk in depth about why it matters.

      Sometimes I’m too tired to be clear (I suspect my replies to these comments aren’t amazing, for example; I just did a seven hour shift behind the bar), but don’t doubt I want to try.

      Thank you, Astrid.

  5. Thanks for being a clearheaded, intelligent voice. Sometimes that is the only weapon we have against people who don’t have one but seem to have the biggest microphone.

    • Thank you, Penny. I do my best. I don’t have a big mike myself, but god knows I try to use what I do have.

  6. I just made a comment on the page of a chef friend who commented on an article he posted about a few female in butchers, that they were “hot”. I said pretty casually and basically, hey do we really have to make it about being hot instead of just that they’re badass butchers (because all butchers to me, are)? His response was, “come on, can’t we just be cool about it?” or something along the “lighten up” line. They’re everywhere… They just are.

  7. Tasha,

    I don’t always see sexism without a nudge, it is often like background noise to me. I do however take notice when given a nudge. It is never directed at me, but has been directed at women I know, love and admire. I now know it when I hear it in music, or see it in a video game, or hear it in political speech.

    Thanks for the nudge. I have hundreds of choices between competing microbrews and 18th whatever brewery just isn’t on the list anymore. I’ll probably cross a few more breweries from the list because now I’ll be looking for objectifying labels.

    Keep up the good work, some of us need a nudge.

  8. what I’d love to know is, if Notte himself said there was enough of a problem that it should be addressed, why the hell didn’t he do it himself?
    I suspect it’s because he didn’t want to be bothered himself. It’s not his fight after all. So he hangs back while other people argue about the thing and if status quo wins it’s no skin off his teeth and if the other side wins he can leap on the bandwagon going “I supported the person who fought this battle for me!” and crown himself Mardi Gras king or whatever.

    Guys, the rule is, either stay all the way out of it (not recommended, just an option) or get your damn feet wet and speak up. You don’t get to play both sides against the middle and call yourself a winner no matter the outcome.

    I mostly drink Guinness, a beer with a fricking harp on the logo, not a schoolgirl with a short skirt or the equivalent. If you need to put crap on your label to get people to buy it, that pretty much says that the inside of the bottle is crap too.

    • I wonder, I must admit, if it’s that he didn’t think it was that bad and wanted me to feel bad for mentioning this in that thread (which was started, initially, based on a piece he wrote). If so, his reaction was effective, but less effective than the other person telling me it had literally nothing to do with the topic at hand. The combination, though, was pretty potent. I internalized it for awhile.

      Thank you for your comment and support. It’s deeply appreciated.

    • Charles, I’m pretty sure you didn’t intend it to come out that way, but as a person who often chooses beer based on the “crap” on the label, I bristled a little at the last bit of your comment. It’s great that you buy and enjoy Guinness despite the simplicity of their logo, but they also have over a century of history backing them up – a newer brewery needs its offerings to stand out a little and catch someone’s eye on a menu or in a display.

      To ignore label design is to ignore everything about marketing and advertising and human behavior. Like it or not, we judge things by their covers. There’s a reason that companies spend so much money redesigning their logos, and a reason why dudes drive Chevy Tahoes and not Chevy Twinkies. There’s a lot of great art on beer labels, and I think it needs to be recognized.

      That said, trying to sell sex instead of beer is bullshit, and I think it does say an awful lot about the brewery behind the offensive labels.

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