Comments on the Missing Female Perspective

NOW Magazine
NOW Magazine, July 10, 2014

Truth be told, I get a little stressed when I publish anywhere but here on the ol’ blog thingy. The comments at the bottom of my other articles – often from single-minded folks that narrow in on one element that goes against their own learning – get colourful, and sometimes get personal. Snarky shits that once read something contradictory feel the need to bleat out their poorly conceived opinions as though they’re gospel.  It’s exhausting just to read. Replying is utterly useless – no one changes their opinions based on flame wars.

My last piece for NOW received zero comments, which is how I like it. If web editors routinely filtered through the more asinine remarks I’d feel differently, but most media would rather expose their writers to public beatings than silence the trolls.

Although the comment box stayed quiet for the Beer Guide, there was a related letter to the editor. It wasn’t published, but it is worth discussion. A reader noted that the Beer Guide was woefully absent of any female perspective. Claiming 16 males were named in boldface and nary a woman consulted, the sender – a male, by the way – also pointed out that “Toronto is home to Mirella Amato, the first Canadian to achieve the level of Master Cicerone (a beer sommelier) and only the second woman in the world. She gets to speak and judge beer competitions all over the world but, as usual, gets no love at home.”

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Despite some inaccuracies (I only counted 12 male perspectives throughout the guide and I did interview / quote Lisa Murray from the LCBO – I don’t control the formatting), it’s a fair point to say that women should have been given a bigger voice in this.

For my part, my editor suggested two interview subjects (Roger Mittag and Michael Hancock) when I was assigned the piece. The other, Kensington’s Brock Shepherd, was my own choice, based on several factors:

  • he’s in the process of going from contract brewer to full-on producer, with the new facility nearing completion
  • Kensington’s award-winning watermelon wheat was recently denied a listing at the LCBO, compelling him to sell at The Beer Store
  • a year ago Brock was on TV defending the province’s current distribution model – I wanted to know if his recent setback changed his opinion
  • he’s chosen not to be a member of Ontario Craft Brewers

Not all of what we talked about ended up in the story – there just wasn’t enough room – but Brock’s viewpoint was crucial and I wasn’t going to sacrifice that for the sake of gender parity. KBCo has a compelling tale. It belonged in my article.

A lot gets made of the Prud’homme / Cicerone rivalry (BTW: the “beer sommelier” reference above, was the letter writer’s, not mine) and I’ve never been shy about telling people I’ve completed two of the three Prud’homme levels, but that doesn’t affect how I choose my subjects. Mirella Amato wasn’t left out of my piece because I don’t value her opinion; one of the very first articles I wrote for the Toronto Standard leaned heavily on her insights.  I didn’t give much thought to not including her in this piece because, again, there’s only so much I can fit in one spread and despite the letter writer’s statement that she “as usual, gets no love at home,” if you’re reading this you probably know how far from the truth that is.

In fairness to NOW, the covers of both the July 10th issue and the glossy Beer Guide insert each featured enormous photos of a female drinking beer. The other two contributors to the beer guide (accounting for about 80% of the content) were Sarah Parniak and Sabrina Maddeaux. The editor who assigned me the piece was Susan Cole.

The subject of the letter to the editor was fair, but please know the issue wasn’t put together by a bunch of indifferent dudes.

Although I’m not upset the comments section didn’t light up the NOW Magazine server, your feedback here is always welcome.

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