Wine and Sexism and Me

The writer of this letter accusing me of exhibiting “toxic masculinity” and sexism did not want to expose herself to comments for reasons she states below. Her accusations are interesting but serve as a conversation starter rather than the conversation stopper she hoped to create.

Dear Mr. Wark:

I’m writing an email instead of posting a comment because I don’t want to be exposed to sexist comebacks and there is no need to embarrass you yet. 

Your recent article on Michelle Korsmo’s appointment as executive director of the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers Association outs you as a sexist mired in the kind of toxic masculinity that harms women and the cause of gender equality. Please take down the article and try not to write about women if you can help it.

Throughout the article you engage in “mansplaining”, as though Ms. Korsmo needs you to tell her about her industry. You are dismissive of her accomplishments and you are bullying. These are all classic symptoms of the kind of toxic masculinity that has been a constant part of our culture and society. 

Criticism of women in executive positions is harmful and you know what it does: it discourages other women and is just another attempt to keep women below the glass ceiling your gender has worked so hard on forever. 

Please take the post down, try to listen, try to learn.

The letter writer is talking about this post: New Enemy of Wine Consumers Appointed.

She’s got it wrong. But that’s not important.

What’s important is the question of the impact of sexism and even misogyny in the wine industry. There has been a bit written about women in the American wine industry and the impact of sexism on the careers of women in wine.

I personally can’t recall witnessing sexist acts in my nearly 30 years in the wine industry, but that might be for obvious reasons. On the other hand, 30 years is a long time and I’ve worked with and next to men who had every opportunity to display sexist attitudes. This observation, of course, is not good evidence for a lack of sexism. It’s only a personal anecdote.

One of the questions I have that I don’t know how to answer is this: what would be the evidence that sexism no longer is a significant deterrent to women succeeding and happily prospering in the wine industry?

Would it be a gender balance in the executive suite or in the cellar? Would it be equal pay for the same job? Both these things might be difficult to use as a proxy answer to the question I raise given that women remain far more likely to remove themselves from the workforce to care for young children than are men. Still, the question is important.

I won’t be taking down the post as the letter writer suggested.

Posted In: Culture and Wine


15 Responses

  1. Michael Barnes - August 8, 2018

    I reread the New Enemy of Wine Consumers Appointed…closely. There appeared nothing at all sexist from what I could see, yet alone approaching “toxic masculinity.” Other than the appropriate and respectful use of the honorific “Ms” I didn’t see anything gender related at all. Transposing the female references to male (or vice versa) made no difference in the nature, structure, or impact of the commentary. It is troublesome that critique would be viewed as gender biased. All genders/orientations should be equally held accountable for their actions and positions. If anything, all I can see is the letter writer displaying toxic over-sensitivity.

  2. Tom Wark - August 8, 2018


    You are entirely correct. However, the issue of sexism in the wine industry is an interesting and important one. One thing that interests me is the issue of measurement and metrics. How does one measure the degree of harm caused by sexism and the efficacy of solutions? I don’t know.

  3. Cat Sansing - August 8, 2018

    I. too, reread the post “New Enemy of Wine Consumers Appointed” and echo Michael’s comments fully. There is no sexism to be found. Critique and angst against the three-tier system? Yes.

  4. Michael Barnes - August 8, 2018

    My apologies for not focusing on your question regarding measurement and metrics. I am not in the wine trade (strictly a passionate consumer), but I imagine the industry has the same features of most, and will struggle with the typical executive suite mix, pay equality, etc. type benchmarks.
    Having said this, I tend to have more faith in big data and wider expressions by a market as better indications of trends. Therefore, one might look to consumer purchases/consumption by gender in developed liberal markets, on the theory that enlightened and free consumers tend to vote with their pocketbooks. Anywhere goods and services flow generally equally among the sexes might indicate an overall higher degree of gender neutrality (i.e. lower sexism)? Especially if the goods are purely discretionary and have no inherent gender orientation. That is, assume the market is efficient and concerned about sexist attitudes/actions by suppliers?
    Maybe not perfect, but would be interesting to see broad trends in developed markets for consumption/purchase/engagement by gender.

  5. Simon - August 8, 2018

    Sexism is inapplicable to WSWA neutered puppets. Puppeteers behind WSWA are bullying entire industry and even beyond. Taking the post down just because of one nameless woman causeless complain is incomprehensible.

  6. Gabriel Froymovich - August 8, 2018

    There was nothing sexist in your article. It would be sexist not to criticize an organization due to the gender of the representative. I do think, however, that there is sexism of a sort on crush pads and in vineyards. On crushpads, I think women are generally appreciated, since most organizations like to see the diversity. That being said, there are assumptions made about women related to the physical nature of the job that may be limiting – though I’ve never witnessed that influence hiring practices. In vineyards, on the other hand, I regularly see segregation between female tying crews and male pruning crews. Typically, vineyard managers run gender-segregated crews to eliminate risks of sexual misconduct. But pruning is a coveted skill and the crews assignment of responsibility is based largely on biology (pruning takes more strength than tying.) That most certainly would preclude some totally capable women from a chance to become more valuable to their employers. Just my two cents based only on my anecdotal experiences.

  7. Annette - August 9, 2018

    That article was not sexist in any way

  8. Jen - August 9, 2018

    In regards to metrics, the metrics are when you see more women staying in the industry. People stay in a job/career if it makes sense to. Would you stay in a job if you never got a raise or a promotion, or saw less-qualified people promoted ahead of you? Of course not. Yes, women are biologically the only ones who can give birth. But they’re not the only ones who can care for a baby. When deciding who will stay home, guess what wins out? The person who has it better at work.

  9. Tom Wark - August 9, 2018


    Thanks for commenting. I wonder if that is true yet…that the woman will stay working after a birth if she has the higher salary. From a straight economic perspective that makes sense. But I wonder if that is true in practice. That would be a really interesting metric to test. I wonder if it has been looked at.

  10. Matthew Harris - August 9, 2018

    Unfortunately, your statement about women leaving the workforce to have children may seem innocent, but it affects job opportunities for women. I have personally seen very qualified women be passed over for positions because the person doing the hiring takes into account that they are either of child-bearing age or have young children and therefore might have to skip a few hours of work to care for a sick child. I’ve never heard of a father of young children being questioned because he might have to stay home with a sick child.

  11. Janette - August 9, 2018

    Science has revealed to us that reptiles can flip their gender when it gets too hot.

    Following The Reptilian Elite Conspiracy Theories reptilians probably can flip their gender too when needed. If this is true then doesn’t really matter who is in charge.

  12. Joe Czerwinski - August 9, 2018

    Now you have: On one occasion at a previous employer, I took a sick day to take care of our child. It was later reported to me that when the head of our division was informed, he said “Doesn’t he have wife to do that?”

  13. Patrick - August 9, 2018


    When I first read hir critique, I thought ze must surely be putting you on. It’s so over-the-top I thought surely this must be a parody by some cis-sexist hetero-patriarch as ze managed to force in every platitude in the victimhood dictionary.

    If the author of the critique was legitimately offended by your thoughtful piece, then I challenge hir to show us how it “should” have been written.

  14. frances mae - August 9, 2018

    You posed a legitimate question about whether Michelle Korsmo will execute her new authority consistent with the ideology she promoted in her last job. This was a wish for intellectual honesty, not an expression of toxic masculinity. The letter writer misses the point. (By about a mile. In fact, I she was so far out there, I checked to make sure I was reading the right column.) Moreover, broads like her give all us broads a bad name.

  15. Bill Bertram - August 11, 2018

    I agree with all respondents, I see no sexism in your article, one can change all your female references to male without changing the substance of your piece at all. An interesting thought occurred to me though, perhaps this was a male troll writing as a female in order to ” stir the ***t”.

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