Tuesday, June 05, 2007

What is Wrong With This Picture?
















You see before you 5 of the 11 major contributors to the May 15 edition of Wine Spectator. The other 6 were men, too. I'm sure they are all very nice men, and knowledgeable about wine, and deserve their jobs. But women got the vote in 1920. Women currently spend more money than men on wine in this country. Some even say women have more sensitive palates than men.

So can somebody explain how Wine Spectator can have this kind of editorial lineup in 2007? Are you seriously telling me that there isn't a single woman in the world capable of writing on wine for Wine Spectator? In the unlikely event that there really are absolutely zero women who know about wine and can write well, then maybe the folks at Wine Spectator should consider going to some journalism programs and creative writing departments and recruiting some women into the ranks. I personally would like to see what would happen if Farley, Megan, Catie, and the Wine Chicks (Kristen, Jay, and Bree) were given access to the kind of tasting opportunities these guys have had. I bet the results would be spectacular.

And while we're at it, why are women consistently overlooked by waiters, sommeliers, wine store personnel, and bartenders? Don't believe me? Check out Farley's post, which is now starting to have echoes around the blogosophere. Sure, I know, there's Jancis/Andrea/Dorothy/Natalie and all the women bloggers, not to mention Divas Uncorked, Women for WineSense, and the Women Wine Critics Board. Still, it can be pretty weird to be a woman and to be interested in wine in this country.

For further evidence, here are some statistics from the May 15 2007 Wine Spectator:

# of pictures in entire magazine excluding advertising* that have women in them: 8
# of pictures of women that are food-related, including restaurant owners, diners, counter personnel, and waitstaff: 6
# of pictures of women that are wine-related: 2 (women sorting grapes in Chile, and the back of a woman in a tasting room).
# of columns written by women: 0
# of items of any sort written by women, according to byline: 1 (Laurie Woolever's 2 paragraph review of NYC restaurant Sant Ambroeus).

*apparently, women are useful in a wine magazine if they are tempting men into buying real estate/golf vacations/wine/cars/luxury goods

What's wrong with this picture?? Where are the women? And where are the people of color? Where are the Guys Without Ties? Is this really the face of wine in 2007? And if not, what can we do about it? Because this is more important than points, folks.

21 comments:

Catie said...

I will be happy to sign on as the Washington/Oregon wine reporter for the Women's Wine Spectator.

farley said...

That's exactly why, when people ask if I want to write for Wine Spectator upon hearing wine writing is my ultimate goal, my reply is "Hardly." I'm not an older distinguished white man. Like you said, they're probably great guys, they possess football fields of knowledge about my beverage of choice. But they don't want me in their club.

I actually touched on this in my wine column from last week. Will post a link.

jb said...

That's pretty incredible, but not very surprising (sadly). One would hope that the blogosphere would be more of an equal opportunity space, and I'm sure it is to a degree. At least anybody of any race, gender, ethnicity and religion can write about wine, or whatever. As far as readership and accolades go, that's another store...I'd be curious to find out what percentage of the American Wine Blog Award winners this year were women vs. men. I'm guessing (though I'm not sure) it leans the recognition leans the same way as traditional print media.

John said...

It makes me wonder if the same holds true for other publications, like Food & Wine, etc. Wine Spectator and Shanken’s other big publication, ,Cigar Aficionado, have a definite testosterone slant to them. I'm guessing they have have male writers because their readers are mostly male.

Which is interesting, because judging from my limited experience in retail sales, women do as much, if not more, wine buying than men. Women also generally seemed more interested in learning about wine. When I attend wine tastings, there are typically are more women in attendance than men.

If the Speculator isn’t writing to women, then they’re missing the boat. However, when it comes to my overall opinion on this matter, I’m with Farley. If I were a female wine writer, I wouldn’t lose any sleep about my byline not appearing in Wine Spectator.

It’s certainly not where I go to read about wine.

jb said...

I think Food & Wine skews more towards women and they have Lettie Teague who is a comical and insightful wine writer, though certainly she's not a reviewer in the traditional sense.

John said...

That's a very interesting point, JB.

It seems that male wine writers frequently write "traditional" reviews, while women may write about other aspects of wine enjoyment. WS is certainly working the "traditional" side of the street.

As a male writer who doesn't write "traditional" reviews, this subject is frequently on my mind - both in regards to who my readers are and what publications would be interested in my work.

joel said...

I noticed the mono-chromatic nature of those pictures as well as the lack of women. I have to say its a sad state for wine in 2007 but I will say that at the Wine 2.0 event (which I have yet to post about) it was much more representative, still a bit on the monochromatic side but not nearly as the Wine Spectator imagery. I think the new wave of social technology and how it compliments wine drinking will really democratize wine and bring more of an element of social inclusion. Before this wave of wine blogs, social networks, v-blogs, etc... connecting wine lovers of any type together and making peer-to-peer recommendations possible, how did you find out about wines? Publications like WS et al. With imagery like the above is it any wonder how wine gained its stigma over the last 30+ years in the US?

Dr. Debs said...

Hello everybody! Stuck in meetings all day but wow, what a lot of comments to come home to. Catie, if I were in charge, you'd be hired. And Farley, this is my point. It's not that you couldn't write for them because you're not good enough or couldn't learn what they've learned--it's that you can't imagine yourself writing for them given the "face" they project.

I agree, jb and John, that the blogs open things up a lot, although I do seem to remember that the vast majority of AWBA winners were men. That's kind of sad, isn't it? And again, not because the winners didn't deserve to win. Women may be more than 50% of the population, but they aren't more than 50% of the wine bloggers, that's for sure.

And Joel, that's great news about Wine 2.0. Though I hope the monochrome world of wine writing changes--and soon. As you say, it's a miracle that any women or people of color at all are interested in wine given the very prominent role that Wine Spectator plays in shaping wine consumption and wine culture in this country. It may not be where we go to learn about wine--or at least not the only place--but when I was starting out Wine Spectator was my #1 resource. And what it was telling me, on some level, was that I wasn't part of the club.

Sorry for the long response--but you all had such great comments. Keep 'em coming!

Sonadora said...

They can keep their magazine....I refuse to pay money to subscribe to those magazines when there's so much great information on the web from people I have grown to trust and admire. I suppose the same could be said for the wine magazine critics for some people, but bloggers seem more real to me. Plus, bloggers are willing to hang out with me when I visit their states and share there wine...I sort of doubt the same could be said for professional magazine critics!

Then again, I get doubly hit with the fact that I am a woman wine lover and a rather young one...people tend not to take me very seriously at first.

Catie said...

I have been thinking about this all day today. But you know something, when I first started my blog in 2005 I honestly felt that I was out of my league and most of all, gender. I felt like I was all alone and in a "man's world" and in this case, not so much a white haired distinguished man's world, but a "hip, edgy and young man's world." With time, I seem to find a bit more acceptance.

But as far as these wine blog awards, I feel I don't have a chance in hell because I am not a "cool and edgy kind of dude." Phhhttt -- I'm not even a young, cool and edgy kind of dudette!

winedeb said...

Gosh, I go out for a day, I come back and dr.debs is stirring the pot and rightly so! Sorry I am the late comer on this one, but I am in total agreement with all of you. I like Catie's idea of the Women's Wine Spectator! But I agree with Sonadora that you can get better info on the web, more specifically the blogs. I do pick up a few magazines now and then just to reassure myself that I know I love the wine blogs!

Anonymous said...

I think this thread suffers from some misperceptions about Wine Spectator.

Our goal is to write for all wine lovers, and our ciculation data suggests we are succeeding; according to MRI, the authoritative media analyst, our 2.3 million readers are 52% men, 48% women. Such balance is very rare in the world of magazines.

On our editorial masthead there are 20 men and 13 women -- clear evidence there is no policy against hiring women here.

I am always looking for qualified contributors -- people who are knowledgeable about wine and skilled as writers. It seems, however, as if the women posting on this blog are not even interested in working with us. That's a shame, for them and for Wine Spectator.

Thomas Matthews
Executive editor
Wine Spectator

Dr. Debs said...

Thomas, thank you for stopping by. I am one of your subscribers, and have been for well over a decade. Though I subscribe to your publication, and make up part of the 48% female readership you describe, I remain concerned that Wine Spectator still tends to put a public, male face on the world of wine. I look forward to Dana Nigro's columns (and indeed am looking forward to receiving the June 30 issue, with its story on Green Revolutionaries). Still, she is one of the few female "faces" at your magazine despite the assistant managing editors, copy editors, editorial assistants, assistant coordinators, administrative assistants, Art Department Director, Deputy Art Director, Assistant Art Directors, Photo Editors, Assistant Photo Editors, Promotions Designers, Imaging Assistants, and advertising personnel who are women. These women all work very hard for the magazine, as I know from my own experience in publishing. But they are not the public face of Wine Spectator.

By drawing attention to the way in which women are often not part of the public face of wine in this country, I hoped to highlight just this kind of discrepancy. Women are working everywhere in the wine industry and in wine publications, and women are deeply interested in wine, but they are often overlooked. And based on my analysis of the May 15 edition, I think Wine Spectator is still overlooking them, their interests, and their contributions in important ways. Yet still I remain a subscriber.

I agree that it is a shame that there seems to be a disconnect between such an important wine publication and women wine writers, consumers, and wine merchants such as those who have left comments here. Were I on the staff at Wine Spectator, such a disconnect would be a matter of concern, and I would be seeking ways to understand it and redress it.

joel said...

What about the other aspects of demographics...i.e. underrepresented minorities?

And, no, "Dana Nigro" doesn't count...

;-P

(Sorry, couldn't resist...)

gopaz said...

I am throwing a stab in the dark here, but could it be that we are placing blame where blame shouldn't be totally placed - on the old-school gentleman's club? Being a wine drinking, food loving female, I doubt males, or Wine Spectator, are the only ones to point fingers at. I remember when I was a child and my best friend fought tooth and nail at playing ice-hockey. The neighborhood fought her, her girlfriend's fought her and the male dominated sport fought her. Years later, she won the Olympic Gold metal for representing the US women's hockey team as their goalie in Japan; however, the resistance she faced didn’t stop her from changing the social norm. Her success was as a result of her BELIEVING that she could play and proceeded in breaking the barrier of our own limited idea of what "females" should and should not do. Yes, Wine Spectator may need to open their doors a bit to our gender, and I will put myself as one who is happy to begin submitting some articles, but more than that, it takes females getting their voices out there! We need to submit to mainstream media and take an active part in the process. The imagination is the most powerful tool we have. If we believe we are being oppressed in any way, the only way t change it, or so I believe, is by first believing you can change it and then making the change a reality by living the new reality everyday. SUBMIT! Write. Draw. Sing. Do whatever you have to do to make yourself heard if you feel your voice is being shut out regardless of your perceived oppression.

Tish said...

Fascinating, thread. Passed along by a woman friend and now I will check th blog regularly. I think Tom Matthews is sincere; WS is not discriminating against women in any way. In fact, their educational programs are run by a woman, and Dana Nigro is as pluged in to the wine industry as any woman. The real issue here, I think, is that WS caters to OLD SCHOOL wine drinker-collectors. Blogs like yours are the next wave; America will catch on eventually as long as you keep your focus on the FUN side of wine. Here in NY, I ran two public "Sexy Wine" tastings in the past three weeks; two thirds of attendees were women. ALso important to remember: twof the best wine writers on the planet are women: Jancis Robinson and Mary Ewing-Mulligan, who write clear, gender-free prose without an emphasis on ratings. On the other hand, is the Wine Adventure magazine, supposedly aimed at women, making any kind of waves at all? Food for thought. Keep up the good work. -- Tish

Dr. Debs said...

Thanks for the additional comments, Joel. Gabriella, I don't feel oppressed, but as a female reader of Wine Spectator I would like to see more women represented in their magazine. And of course more women wine writers and bloggers would be great, too!

Tish, thanks for coming by, and for leaving your response. I agree that the Wine Spectator is sincere in its desire to write a magazine that is for everybody. And I subscribe to it! I just thought it was worth pointing out that this is not necessarily the message they consistently send in the pages of their publication. All of the women writers that you mention are among my regular reads--but few of them have a high public profile in this country. I hope this changes with the internet, and with wine blogs such as this one who provide links to their work and highlight their contributions.

Jack said...

Er, there are quite a few female sommeliers in the US; a much higher percentage, for example, than female posters on eBob.

And then: Women buy more bottles of wine than men, but spend less per bottle, right? And most wine collectors are white men, right? So, it makes sense (in a twisted way) that the WS is all about collecting expensive wine based on a rating, along with living the "wine lifestyle". What part are you confused about? :)

Anonymous said...

This post has all the shaking, foot-stamping rage of proto-feminism. From its multiple question marks at the end of one sentence to the unintentionally hilarious "Where are the Guys Without Ties?", I cannot help but laugh at this tirade. Thematically, this post seems a trailing shadow of the New York Times crusade against Augusta National to open its links to women. Yes, I understand this to be a wine blog, but wth?

"Some even say women have more sensitive palates than men."

I imagine that if someone reversed the men and women this sentence you'd have a federal case filed within moments. Isn't this the kind of sexism you purport to deplore? Or is that only when directed against one gender, your own?

Please, don't let a sense of proportion get in the way.

You seem to believe that a woman (yourself, perhaps) has a right to be in this group of contributors. Has it occurred to you that maybe no woman worked as hard as these men to gain these positions? Is that possible? Or is it easier to implicitly blame (wait for it...) The Patriarchy? What a load of bullocks.

"Because this is more important than points, folks."

Indeed.

Gulliver

Dr. Debs said...

Welcome, Jack. That's an interesting statistic about women sommeliers. Thank you. What I remain confused about is that WS says it isn't writing for high-end wine buyers or collectors but (to quote Thomas Matthews) "to write for all wine lovers." Presumably that includes those who spend less per bottle and don't have collections?

Welcome, Gulliver. I'm sorry that you read my comments that way. I certainly wasn't angry or stamping my foot. I did an analysis of the photos and print in the copy of WS sitting on the top of my reading stack. The discussion of female/male palate sensitivity is an ongoing one in the world of wine. If you would like to read some more about this, see Jancis Robinson (http://tinyurl.com/24y533), Tom Wark (http://tinyurl.com/yu8pyh). I have not been able to find a scientific study that proves or disproves this claim, which has to do with why women may not react the same as men to heavily oaked wines. That is why I said "some believe." It is not sexism, so far as I know, to report in a wine blog on a discussion that is of great interest in the wine industry since it related to wine making and marketing.

And actually I was trying to be hilarious with "where are the Guys Without Ties" remark I'm so glad I succeeded.

Catie said...

Gulliver's comment - he said:
"This post has all the shaking, foot-stamping rage of proto-feminism."

I'm concerned about that comment -often when a woman gives an opinion then it gets played down and dismissed as a feministic rant.

I don't see any women here stamping their tiny feet or pointing sexism. I don't feel that the Wine Spectator is being purposely sexist either. I think the point is the need to take a look at a potential and wider audience.