(This is an English translation of my Swedish text “Förlåt att jag tränger mig på”)
That’s another fair done, this time at sea with the popular Cinderella Whisky fair… And how lovely to make my debut during their tenth anniversary no less. Thinking back though, it is not clear what they did to celebrate the anniversary and make this cruise more special than previous ones, which is a shame. Having heard so much good about this boat fair beforehand I was really looking forward to experiencing it for myself. I was probably a bit confused, as always when experiencing something new for the first time, so I was both surprised and amused when I saw people wander round with red shopping baskets of liquor as if it was a normal Tuesday afternoon at the local food shop. (This is a common sight in most countries, except Sweden where alcoholic beverages only can be traded on the monopoly Systembolaget). I had a great time in the company of some lovely people, got to try a lot of exciting whisky, and had many good conversations with both exhibitors and visitors.
But this text is not about my experiences from one specific fair. It’s not about a particular whisky from a special distillery or bottler and there will be no trace of scent, taste or other sensory impressions. I want to talk about the joyful world of whisky’s dark and sad underbelly – the male dominance, the sexism and the good girls. Because if there is something this bubbly little world suffers from it is exactly that, men left and right. Of course, most of them are very pleasant and even competent.
I believe the male dominance probably has to do with our culture and history but there are still a lot of people who seem to want to believe that whisky and masculinity are synonymous with each other for some ancient reason. I can’t even remember all the unsettling situations and tactless comments I have endured at various whisky related events such as “oh, a girl who drinks whisky, that’s cool” or “you seem to know a lot about whisky for a woman.” Sure, these comments might be well intended but it is still pretty strange. I can’t for the life of me understand why it is so surprising that a woman can enjoy drinking whisky or work in the whisky business in one way or another.
If men dominate society as a whole, I promise you that the same norms are rife in the world of whisky where women are in the clear minority. Sexism and a strange sort of macho culture is widespread and has a belittling and oppressive effect on women. In addition, there are loads of know-it-all’s that can leave even the liveliest person completely exhausted. I am sick and tired of being belittled and called “sweetheart” in all the wrong situations, of constantly having to prove that I know what I’m talking about or of feeling invisible at whisky events where I’m mostly surrounded by men. I have also encountered resistance in the form of both jealousy and competition, something that I was blissfully unaware of a year ago. Let me give you an example; since I received a scholarship from the Swedish whisky magazine Allt om Whisky I have been told that it was probably because not that many other women applied, and that’s why I got it. For many, it seems completely impossible that representatives of Allt om Whisky and Old Putney chose me on the same merits they chose the men who applied. I’d rather not know about the competition at all, but I can’t ignore the fact that I am not afforded the same opportunities to develop my interest even though I invest just as much effort, time, energy and money as my male friends. This rivalry has to do with other factors than just me being a woman, but my personal experience is that I am offered fewer development opportunities than my male colleagues and that, of course, hurts. I don’t want to be complemented for my work and be offered opportunities by people in this industry to then have them hit on me the very next second or to be told it’s “a shame” that I´m married, I have encountered these gems a few times too.Out of pure frustration I have started texts like these a number of times before but every time I have stopped myself for fear of how they would be received and what the effects might be, and that in and of itself is sad. But I don’t want to stay silent about the reality women in whisky face any longer; the sexist comments, the smarmy invites and the lack of opportunity. It needs to be acknowledged and talked about because it is not okay. That is why it is my ambition to highlight this issue and to enrich my blog Sinnen och Nyanser with the stories of other women in whisky community.