It was 1989. It was two o'clock in the morning. I was a sophomore in college, nineteen-years-old, sitting on the floor in the living room of my college apartment. I can still remember the sounds of the screams; the feeling of shattered glass as it brushed passed me; and my roommate's voice asking if everyone was ok.
We were making posters to take with us to D.C. the next day for the Pro-Choice March on Washington. “Keep your rosaries off my rosaries;" “Pro-Choice = Pro-Woman;" “Keep your legislation out of my uterus;" our signs read. That was why we were now sitting in a room strewn with glass. That was why we were suddenly looking at a brick in the center of the room.
That brick had a piece of paper wrapped around it held in place by a dirty rubber band. I can't tell you why I remember it was dirty. But I do. I remember all sorts of minute details from that early morning because it was the most frightened I believe I had ever been up until that point in my life. No one said a word. My roommate rolled the rubber band off the brick and unfolded the note.
“Death to Feminazis and baby killers," the note read. We were all stunned. We cleaned up the glass. We talked nervously about whether or not to call the police. We were scared. And then we were angry. We went back to our sign making. The terrorists had failed. They didn't make us from our path. They only fueled our resolve.
That was nearly thirty years ago, and I still hear those words volleyed carelessly around – Feminazi, babykiller - and I am still stunned that denying healthcare to women is something people vehemently fight for and I am still puzzled at the arguments used as not one of them is valid or applicable. All I could think then, and all I still have to believe today, is that the battle is not about abortion or babies or human life. Never was. Never will be. The battle is over men controlling women's bodies.
It's not hard to see. A simple parsing of the “arguments" used by the anti-choicers. (I will not call them pro-lifers as they are not in any way supporting life). First they argue that life begins at conception not because of science but because of God. Well, seeing as believing in God is both a choice and something that the law says must be keep separated from matters of state, that's a non-starter.
Second, they argue that abortion kills babies, also a non-starter. Abortion removes cells that would otherwise develop into babies. Cells have no rights. Third, they argue that “life" must be protected. But these same people have absolutely no interest in the life of the mother. They don't care if her life is in danger because of the birth or because someone will kill her if they discover she's pregnant. And they have equally no interest in the life of the baby once she or he is born as the same anti-choicers who kidnap women to keep them from having abortions do not support governmental services to care for the child.
Photo Courtesy of QNS"They don't care if her life is in danger because of the birth or because someone will kill her if they discover she's pregnant."
So, they have no right putting their religion on other people's bodies, and they don't actually care about life. They just feign to in order to help their cause. They don't take issue with any other medical procedure. They don't take issue with men masturbating and wasting their seed. Shouldn't that sperm be saved to make a baby? And these are the same folks who are happy to see insurance cover Viagra. But if a pregnancy, even in the case of incest or rape is God's will, how is impotence not God's will? Clearly God does not want impotent men to procreate. Otherwise, he would have assured their ability to have sex.
The same arguments get played over and over and the fact that they are not arguments at all simply doesn't seem to matter. Over the years, the anti-choicers have killed doctors, kidnapped women, and blown up clinics. Yet, they claim they support life. Over the years, anti-choicers have argued that more women die when abortion is legal. Yes, they actually argue that more women die from safe, legal, accessible abortions then from resorting to having wire hangers and filthy knives and probes inserted into their vaginas while they lay on soiled sheets draped over tables set in dirty alleys and basements.
This is not about opinions. This is about statistics. This is about facts. This is about thousands of women a year who died when abortion was illegal. This is about creating a myth about abortion doctors chopping up babies and selling their parts. This is about control. This is about control. This is about control.
What anti-choicers actually want to is control women. They want to control women's bodies. They want to control women's sexuality. They see abortion as a method of birth control, as an easy out for women whoring around and carelessly getting pregnant at every turn. Take it from a women who has had an abortion. Who has walked through the screaming protestors at the clinic, who has laid on the table and heard the whir of the machine, who has suffered the pain of the procedure and the blood of recovery. Women do not have frivolously have abortions. They do not figure, “Why not have unprotected sex? Who cares if I get pregnant? I can always just pop on over to the clinic and have a painful, expensive procedure that will leave me cramping and aching and sore and bleeding for days to come."
And how do you explain the women who are anti-choicers? That's easy. Brainwashing. It is a powerful tool. It is a tool passed down generation to generation. The lies are set in place. God's law is law. Abortion kills beautiful little full term babies. A baby born as a result of a rape or a case of incest is a good thing coming out of something bad. Only sluts get abortions. There is a stronghold on the minds of women who still believe they in any way need a man to survive. Side note – they don't.
It's all wildly ridiculous and it is all wildly offensive. If anti-choicers were really about protecting life, why not stop things at the source? What about the men who get them pregnant? Why not control them instead? Why not give them reversible vasectomies? Why not teach them to be pure? Why not have them vow their virginity to their mothers until marriage? Why not teach them that birth control is their responsibility? Why not, hmmm? Why not? Why not indeed.
The abortion battle is not about abortion. It never was. The abortion battle is about reminding women of their place. The abortion battle is about controlling women and their bodies and sexuality. The abortion battle is about continuing the nauseating “boys will boys" mentality that will forever mean they need mommy to clean up their messes. They need women to be chaste because it suits the story they have created for themselves.
But it's a story that simply does not make any sense. It's a vision that perpetuates that virgin/whore complex. It's a vision that infantilizes women. It's a vision that kills women. It's a vision that leads to unwanted babies. It's a vision that simply cannot be tolerated any longer.
It's simple. A separation of church and state is still the law of our land. So, there is no reason to make abortion illegal because the religion of some does not support it. Women have a right to their bodies and healthcare. So, there is no reason to make abortion illegal just because men want that control instead. Lives are saved when abortion is safe, legal, and accessible to ALL women. So, there is no reason to make abortion illegal because some people refuse to accept the facts that women die when abortion is illegal and babies suffer and die when they are unwanted.
This resurgence against abortion, like the horrible and devastatingly restrictive laws just passed in Mississippi and Iowa is a distraction. It is an attempt to chip away at women's autonomy. It's the same as suggesting insurance shouldn't cover birth control. It's the same as offering no sex ed or abstinence only education which is the same or worse. It's the same as purity balls.
My mother was so upset when she found out I was headed to Washington for the Pro-Choice March. She wasn't upset because I was supporting abortion rights. She was having upset that I was having to march for the same rights she had marched for decades prior. It is insanity that we are back here having this conversation again, or perhaps more to the point, still.
We have to pay attention. We have to vote in elections. We have to protest. We have to educate. We have to fight. If you think Handmaid's Tale could never happen. Think again. Walls come down one brick at a time until there is nothing but rubble. Abortion rights must stand lest the world of freedom and equality that we are still at work building is at risk of crumbling to the ground.
I walk into a room full of men and I know exactly what they're thinking: "What does she know about whisky?"
I know this because many men have asked me that same question from the moment I started my career in spirits a decade ago.
In a male-dominated industry, I realized early on that I would always have to work harder than my male counterparts to prove my credibility, ability and knowledge in order to earn the trust of leadership stakeholders, coworkers, vendors and even consumers of our products. I am no stranger to hard work and appreciate that everyone needs to prove their worth when starting any career or role. What struck me however, was how the recognition and opportunities seemed to differ between genders. Women usually had to prove themselves before they were accepted and promoted ("do the work first and earn it"), whereas men often were more easily accepted and promoted on future potential. It seemed like their credibility was automatically and immediately assumed. Regardless of the challenges and adversity I faced, my focus was on proving my worth within the industry, and I know many other women were doing the same.
Thankfully, the industry has advanced in the last few years since those first uncomfortable meetings. The rooms I walk into are no longer filled with just men, and perceptions are starting to change significantly. There are more women than ever before making, educating, selling, marketing and conceptualizing whiskies and spirits of all kinds. Times are changing for the better and it's benefitting the industry overall, which is exciting to see.
For me, starting a career in the spirits business was a happy accident. Before spirits, I had worked in the hospitality industry and on the creative agency side. That background just happened to be what a spirits company was looking for at the time and thus began my journey in the industry. I was lucky that my gender did not play a deciding role in the hiring process, as I know that might not have been the case for everyone at that time.
Now, ten plus years later, I am fortunate to work for and lead one of the most renowned and prestigious Whisky brands in the world.. What was once an accident now feels like my destiny. The talent and skill that goes into the whisky-making process is what inspired me to come back and live and breathe those brands as if they were my own. It gave me a deep understanding and appreciation of an industry that although quite large, still has an incredible amount of handmade qualities and a specific and meticulous craft I have not seen in any other industry before. Of course, my journey has not been without challenges, but those obstacles have only continued to light my passion for the industry.
The good news is, we're on the right track. When you look at how many females hold roles in the spirits industry today compared to what it looked like 15 years ago, there has been a significant increase in both the number of women working and the types of roles women are hired for. From whisky makers and distillers to brand ambassadors and brand marketers, we're seeing more women in positions of influence and more spirits companies willing to stand up and provide a platform for women to make an impact. Many would likely be surprised to learn that one of our team's Whisky Makers is a woman. They might even be more surprised to learn that women, with a heightened sense of smell compared to our male counterparts, might actually be a better fit for the role! We're nowhere near equality, but the numbers are certainly improving.
It was recently reported by the Distilled Spirits Council that women today represent a large percentage of whisky drinkers and that has helped drive U.S. sales of distilled spirits to a record high in 2017. Today, women represent about 37% of the whisky drinkers in the United States, which is a large increase compared to the 1990s when a mere 15% of whisky drinkers were women. As for what's causing this change? I believe it's a mix of the acceptance of women to hold roles within the spirits industry partnered with thoughtful programs and initiatives to engage with female consumers.
While whisky was previously known for being a man's drink, reserved for after-dinner cigars behind closed doors, it is now out in the open and accessible for women to learn about and enjoy too.
What was once subculture is now becoming the norm and women are really breaking through and grabbing coveted roles in the spirits business. That said, it's up to the industry as a whole to continue to push it forward. When you work for a company that values diversity, you're afforded the opportunity to be who you are and let that benefit your business. Working under the model that the best brand initiatives come from passionate groups of people with diverse backgrounds, we are able to offer different points of view and challenge our full team to bring their best work forward, which in turn creates better experiences for our audience. We must continue to diversify the industry and break against the status quo if we really want to continue evolving.
While we've made great strides as an industry, there is still a lot of work to be done. To make a change and finally achieve gender equality in the workplace, both men and women need to stand behind the cause as we are better collectively as a balanced industry. We have proved that we have the ability to not only meet the bar, but to also raise it - now we just need everyone else to catch up.