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The Ugly Side Of Whisky Geekery — Dramming

The Ugly Side Of Whisky Geekery

by Oliver Klimek on April 12, 2015

Despite all efforts to interest more women in it, whisky is still very much dominated by men. And apparently it is a natural law that where there is an abundance of men, there is also sexism. 

It is mostly in advertising where you publically encounter sexism in whisky. Dewar’s “Meet the Baron” campaign in late 2013 was probably the most striking occurence in recent times. But every now and then it oozes through conversations among whisky drinkers as well. A recent thread on the Malt Maniacs & Friends Facebook page for example evolved into a series of distillery name puns that included references to female body parts and derogatory terms for women.

When confronted with the sexist nature of such remarks, the usual response by the men who make them is “It was all meant to be light-hearted fun”, sometimes followed by an accusation that those who criticize sexist jokes have no sense of humour.

Obviously people with this mindset are unable to estimate how such jokes can appear to women. Even if they might not have been meant to be offensive, a lot of women actually do feel offended by them. Because when a man says “Bruichladdick” it is not the same as when a man says “Lagavulva”. Firstly, ridiculing your own gender is in a way self-ironic while ridiculing the opposite gender can easily appear as rude. And secondly men have never beed sexualized and reduced to their bodily features in the same way as women.

As a member of the Malt Maniacs I feel ashamed that our name might be put into connection with creating a sentiment that women might not be welcome among whisky lovers because they feel disparaged. I know from personal experience that many men don’t really care about the issue of sexism, even if they don’t belong to the group who enjoy and propagate sexist jokes. But I also know from personal experience how women can feel in a group where these kinds of jokes are told.

I admit that I have been sensitized to the issue of sexism in male dominated areas. I met my wife after having had contact through a chat forum about stamp collecting where she was one of the very few female members. It was entirely the same process that was going on there: rude “light-hearted” jokes that eventually had the effect that my wife left the place and certainly also contributed to her stopping collecting stamps altgoether eventually.

With this experience I am not the least surprised when women prefer to quietly leave the Facebook group instead of engaging in a discussion where they would probably be branded as humourless feminists. 

Sexism in whisky is not worse than sexism elsewhere, as my stamp collecting experience shows. It is nothing unique to the whisky world, it is a problem of society at large. And if we as men honestly want to welcome more women to share our passion for whisky, we should mind our words – and thoughts.

{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

Shinshoku April 12, 2015 at 12:51 pm

And when Charlie hebdo got attacked, everybody was telling how important it is that we can joke about everything, even if we offend people, and that it was the basic of any society who claimed to defend the freedom of speech…


Oliver Klimek April 12, 2015 at 1:06 pm

Of course it is not illegal to make bad or sexist jokes, they are included in the freedom of speech. But freedom of speech does not mean that anyone has to accept anything that is being said. You can still sue for slander or defamation if you are personally attacked, for example. Also the Charlie Hebdo comparison is not really fitting. Those jokes had a political message after all.


DavindeK April 12, 2015 at 1:19 pm

Well said, Oliver.
It is not a question of freedom of speech, but whether we want to engage in conversations that make some of us uncomfortable enough to leave. This is whisky, not politics. Let’s keep it that way.


Shinshoku April 12, 2015 at 1:53 pm

I agree, the comparison isn’t perfectly fitting. And yes, you can sue someone for slander. But I don’t see how «lagavulva» is a personal attack. And I don’t see why bruichladick should be less offending. When it’s posted online, I don’t know if a man or a woman said it. If «lagavulva» is considered an offensive pun, bruichladick should be too. Saying that one is offensive because it refers to women and the other is not because it refers to men is interpreting something differently based on what gender it refers to, and that is sexist. Now I’m not saying that discrimination towards woman doesn’t exist, because it does, probably in the whisky world as well, but going after harmless puns such as «lagavulva» sends the message that this discrimination is just a problem of overly sensitive women whining over nothing, when it is, as you say, a real problem of our society.


Johanne April 12, 2015 at 3:24 pm

ok, as a female I’m speaking up: nobody would have thought that entire thread would have been intended as puns or jokes if you replaced the very initial post that used the word “whore” with any other word that represented minority group that involved race or religion… Now go ahead and tell me if, maybe, that changes the view on how the thread got out of hand and that some comments were indeed offensive in nature.


Shinshoku April 12, 2015 at 3:42 pm

I actually haven’t read the thread, I was just reacting on the article. Now, calling someone a whore is offensive. I have no idea in which context the word was used, but yes it is offensive. Now, if you make a pun about a distillery by changing its name so that it has whore in it, you’re not actually calling someone out, and I don’t see how you could find that offensive. It might not be funny, it might be pretty dumb, but I don’t see how that might be offensive.


Linda April 12, 2015 at 3:42 pm

Isn’t it about respect – for each other (regardless of gender) and the love of whisky? Just saying!


Maryse April 12, 2015 at 3:46 pm

Thank you for this piece Oliver,

people who know me can attest to the fact that one thing I am not is over sensitive… but I think it is important to understand that if Bruichladick is not as offensive as Lagavulva (even if just as bad taste), it is because men are usually not reduced to body parts the way women are… it is wrong, I will give you that, but it surely does not have the same impact. Men’s bodies have never been spoils of war, posessions to trade, own, rape, kill (and do not come back mentionning slavery because enslavering men had nothing to do with their gender).

A bad pun that impacts half the world population is not a personnal attack (and is not viewed as such) but a mockery and a reducing to a piece of flesh of an entire gender’s body. Charlie Hebdo made fun of fanatics, not a gender, not a race, not a nationality (although they have been guilty at times of mysoginy), so you cannot compare it’s attack to how people respond to bad puns and sexism in groups. Women (and Men) trying to get rid of such behavior are not over sensitive, they want us to see all as equal.

I think if we all simply saw eachother as whisky lovers instead of men and women, things would be much simpler and more pleasant.



Roscoe April 12, 2015 at 4:46 pm

Great article Oliver! It’s really a shame that we can’t get past who is actually drinking the whisky instead of enjoying a great dram with friends.


Mark @ Malt Review April 12, 2015 at 5:01 pm

When I spotted that thread I face-palmed. I’m not sure if such crude parlance something consigned to that particular group on Facebook, or a little of mob mentality, but I find the whisky community on Twitter to be far more progressive in its attitudes and discussion. That there are more women talking about whisky on Twitter than I ever see in Malt Maniacs possibly exacerbates that.


Johanne April 13, 2015 at 1:46 pm

Well said!!!


Valerie April 13, 2015 at 7:44 pm

I agree with you, Mark. I’ve not gone near the Malt Maniacs site for when I first started in whisky, it was a Malt Maniac who demonstrated an attitude I can describe only as cruel.
Although I have extended an appeal through a 2nd party to resolve the issue, even though the issue started with the Maniac, no response has been forthcoming. Therefore, it’s not a group I recommend for women.

On the issue of censorship. Whenever there is a group of people, all with varying degrees of value systems, there should also be a Code of Conduct, mutually agreed to, that clearly defines what is acceptable and what is not. I belong to a wine club that does just that. When a new member signs up, they are expected to adhere to the the CoC – a solid list of rules as to what will determine a member up being asked to leave the club.
As it should be with FB or any other group. Then it can fall to the site’s administrator to monitor and determine what stays & what goes.
I also agree with the many responses saying the comments on the FB feed being immature and not very funny.
However, the comments which were referenced in this article were quite forward. Yet, the references are often the same thing that is the end-result of thinly-vieled innuendo.
Typically, I will leave any conversation that has people snickering about their idea of a joke hidden within innuendo or face-palm quality verbiage.
Could one say that innuendo the birthplace of sexist or off-colour remarks?
If so, wouldn’t that be the starting place to affect change?


Steffen Bräuner April 12, 2015 at 6:08 pm

I actual find MM and Friends a very mature site, and considering it’s amount of members very little unappropiate and offensive goes on. Especially considering it’s a world wide community with members from the whole world

Now we see people defending their rights to post offensive posts, just because they don’t find them offensive themself. I don’t see myself as a sexist. I am hard to offend (apart from selfishness) but basically I just find a thread like that immature and not very funny.But it only takes 20 people out of 8000 to start something like that, I guess it’s something that will pop up now and again, and the place have admins to stop it when it happens



Carl April 15, 2015 at 1:59 pm

Some people need to lighten up! Im a man so I can make jokes about male body parts in a name, but not womens body parts? Im a christian so I can make jokes about christians but not muslims? They in turn can both make jokes about my body parts or beliefs? I can assure you the majority of women do not get offended by this if its a joke and not directed at them and therefore if a woman gets offended she needs to get out more! p.s. I used to collect stamps when I was a kid then I grew up, maybe it’s time stamp collecting sensitive people should as well?


two-bit cowboy April 15, 2015 at 5:09 pm

Great headline Oliver. It points out a side of the world with which I’m unfamiliar, and your treatment of the topic didn’t compel me to visit MM’s facebook page.

My wife and I have hosted more than 100 single malt Scotch tastings with crowds that average in the twenties. We enjoy the company of about a 50-50 mix of ladies and gentlemen, and none of them have ever exposed us to the scenarios you describe. Lucky for us — and them, for they’d have found themselves ushered out the door they used to enter our home.

This is nothing at all to do with sensitivity, but rather it has everything to do with respect. It has nothing at all to do with “I” but rather everything to do with “all of us.” The Golden Rule is a better measure of rights than any “Freedom of [pick a phrase]”; however, even it allows for “I-centric” attitudes so prominent in our world today. No “Freedom” is absolute; each is bounded by others’ rights based on dignity and respect.

As ever, thanks for offering up this space for discussion.



Frank Murphy April 15, 2015 at 6:15 pm

I must add some context to this discussion. The original post, in the thread alluded to, was “I’m an Aultwhore.” The self-referential mockery was the core of the pun. The thread, as it continued went astray from the original premise, and the original pun was lost. It may have been judged by some as immature. Whether it was funny is always a personal thing. Taking offence is also a personal issue.

But to castigate someone as sexist, for, among other reasons, the use of a word that, while accepted as being derogatory to a greater or lesser degree, refers to a person of EITHER sex working in a trade that predates Jesus, and more pointedly, refers to themselves, is to tar everyone with a thick-bristled brush that covers everything with the same smelly pitch. As was also said on the thread, men objecting to the perceived sexist remarks on women’s behalf is to deny that the women have their own voice.


Toby April 15, 2015 at 9:54 pm

Sorry, Oliver, but this is the sort of daisy duck feminism which is just hilarious.


Jeff April 17, 2015 at 11:16 pm

Right, I much prefer the Mickey Mouse thinking that frames using “Aultwhore” and “Lagavulva” as the basis of some kind of civics lesson and championing “real” feminism, which Is even more hilarious. To stand up and say that something is wrong when you’re not the victim is to “deny the victim’s voice”? I don’t know if bullies thought that up, but they must love it because it makes their job so much easier – then they can just turn to the victims and say “hey, you’re just being too sensitive, nobody else sees anything wrong”.


Patrik April 20, 2015 at 8:54 am

i’m with Carl and Toby here, the vast majority of women who get actually offended by “jokes” like this are internet tmblr “feminists”, outrage manufacturers rather than women’s rights activists. most will just find it (rightfully) stupid and really not funny (mostly because stuff like this has been done to death and has stopped being funny when people were still in high school)


Oliver Klimek April 20, 2015 at 9:04 am

Sorry Patrik, I know some women how feel offended by this, and they are neither “outrage manufactures” or feminists in quotes nor activitsts. They are just normal women. Interestingly I see very few women defend this (one commented on the Facebook thread but that’s all). But unsurprisingly it is mostly men who think this is just childish silliness and deny any sexism.


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