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Around 7 months ago I started dating a pub manager. It was inevitable in many ways. Amongst the perks that come with being involved with somebody on the other side of the bar, came the dread of how to react in future to the interactions involved in bar work.   

It isn’t a situation I’ve been in before so it has required adjustment. I’ve never had a partner pull up a chair in the office and stare at me through part of the working day whilst occasionally ordering goods from me. So you don’t want to interfere in your partner’s work whilst still getting to enjoy the pub.  

You don’t want to suddenly take up a spot on the bar where you make gooey eyes at each other with every pull on a hand pump. You don’t want to be one of those possessive teenagers, watching like a bar hawk and scowling at any intimidatingly handsome pair of arms that makes your other half roar with laughter. You want to separate their work from your social life and allow everything to still be as effortless as before. The situation has changed but the before still existed.

There’s no point denying that there are a group of male regulars who see female landladies/managers in a certain way. My partner is already seen as property and metaphorical pub-wife to groups who have been going in the place as long as she’s worked there. Some of them are undoubtedly uneasy with this new presence that derails their pub wife’s attention. I’m public enemy number one amongst a small pool too.

For the most though, there is a lot of regular flirting that doesn’t register at all. I know how pubs work and as long as everybody is on the same page then there shouldn’t be harm done.

You can’t help, however, notice more than before the behaviour of parts of the male population and their attitude to  people that work in pubs. You notice more than before the comments, the shared jokes amongst groups, the nudges, the leers and the downright unacceptable. The strange demand for hugs and other physical contact. The odd innuendos fired at any member of staff.

Men who spill pints into their laps, open their legs and say to the SIXTEEN-YEAR-OLD glass collector, “Get a cloth on that, love.” The Andy Grays and Richard Keys of the world whose life is full of Bantz and the Lad Bible.

The phrase I consistently hear from deniers is that it's "just a bit of fun." But it's only fun for one person. It's hateful for the other. You might be having fun but the other person is hurt and undermined. That isn't fun. That is what we call bullying. 

"Come To Daddy." 

I came with my Pub Manager partner to Manchester Beer and Cider Festival 2017. We had a wonderful time and everyone involved in the festival can be proud. But as we walked through the crowds I heard her mutter "Oh No" before being greeted by a man I'd never seen before. 

Keen to allow her my non-jealous freedom I continued towards the bar whilst she said hello to this person and almost missed those words that stick with me now. 

"Come to Daddy." 

Arms outstrecthed like a red faced, ale soaked crab, whilst his entourage grinned and mentally high fived each other around him. He greedily put his arms around her like a leering Baloo. I don't want to think about what was said after she’d escaped this unwanted embrace.

He was a Sales Representative for Timothy Taylor's

I asked what he had said, as she came from the encounter, hoping that I had misheard. The reproachful look on her face was soon replaced with visible uncomfortableness. It was the first time that I'd seen somebody's skin actually crawl. It was a physical sight. She was visibly disgusted, yet she had said nothing to this creature at the time. 

The more I think about the scene, the more vulgar it becomes. But worse of all is the defenceless way she walked into it, knowing that every moment of it made her sick. She feels it’s part of her job. And with that I’m supposed to adhere to a roll of acceptance too – and I’m just not capable of that. 

The Way Things Are

When I wrote about sexism last, the grim acceptance of such antics was the worst part. I interviewed three people to try and get different perspectives. When I started to read the answers I wondered if the problem wasn't as big as I was expecting. I wondered whether my pool of respondents actually held the view I partly expected them to. I didn't click onto that horrible grudging acceptance straightaway. It’s not that they don't dislike all the horrible everyday sexism they face, they’ve just become so tired of fighting it they accept that that’s the way things are. 

And i see it now with my partner in those times when I do get aggravated by people's comments in the pub. When she sees me rise a little, prepared to be the unnecessary male defendant, she'll rush to their defence with "Don't. He's just a horrible old man."

Imagine being that person. Imagine being somebody so unaware at their personal repulsiveness that they could believe they are adored for their continuous witty banter. Imagine bragging to your friends about a particular member of staff's love for you without comprehending how much your presence actually fills them with rage. 

Why are we in a world where she has to discuss inappropriate comments as him just being a horrible old man? Why does she accept the vulgarity of sales representatives as being just part of her role as a woman? Why did she not want me to write this in fear it would UPSET THE FUCKING BREWERY?  

There are even certain breweries that the pub doesn't like dealing with, because those that deliver the beer, frequently the brewers themselves, make the pub manager feel uncomfortable to be in the pub or cellar with them. Their very personality and aura makes her uneasy. She won't be the only pub manager/worker to feel like that from them,. 

Imagine being that person. 

All of this is beyond the general everyday sexism regarding choices of beers and styles of glasses that is still prominent, especially at some of the older beer festivals. That seems to be a real nuisance but not quite as hurtful; not as much as that sense of unease or even dread that men are capable of giving. It still has no place. It never has. 

I hear a lot comments like, "I can't believe it's like that. It's not 1975 anymore." No, it isn't. But it is still very much 2017. It is still the norm in 2017.

Just grab her by the pussy

"Come to Daddy." The more i think about it the more I hate that I became part of the problem by not saying anything. I love having someobdy that I want to be at beer festivals with; after always being with people I didn’t want near that part of my life. I don't want to now ruin that by turning it into a sleazy Friday night unnecessary showing of machoness. I am plagued by that feeling to not turn a should-be-friendly beer festival into a scene from Cops with Cameras. 

Equally she doesn't want to ruin it for me, by accompanying me only to be infuriated by such people around us. So we do nothing. And it’s ruined for us anyway.

But then there has to be a solution. There has to be a way to stop the cacophony of vulgar slurs that Donald Trump would consider to be locker room talk. Why not just grab her right by the pussy? I mean that's what all female bar workers wanted when they took the job anyway. 

"It should have been dealt with at the time." 

I know some of you will be thinking it. I’ve already had it said to me. The most unhelpful, privileged, stupid viewpoint to take. It should have been dealt with at the time. Retrospective punishment is illegal. You had one chance to deal with the situation and didn’t. It covers all bases doesn’t it?  

"My partner was abusive for years." 

"Why didn't you just leave him?"
Should have been dealt with at the time. 

"I suffered racist abuse at work for years." 

"Why not just get a new job?"
Should have been dealt with at the time. 

"He was sexist towards me." 

"You had a one hour gap to call him out on it. Otherwise you are a cry-baby."
Should have been dealt with at the time. 

"My father's alcoholism ruined our homelife for ten years."

"Should have just put him in rehab or left."
Should have been dealt with at the time. 

The situation will remain and the world can continue under the excuse that this is just the way things are. Or there’s the dealing-with-at-the-time path where I start confronting people immediately because that is the only solution as far as some are concerned. So look out for me at future beer festivals holding people up by the throat for some outlandish lewd comment thrown in the direction of my partner.

Perhaps I wish I had dealt with the issue better but its the continued sense of unease after the event that has really hit home. I can’t stay quiet any longer.

I don’t want to feel my blue eyes turn green whenever those regulars greet their pub wife in front of me. And I won’t. But I will look at those parts of the beer world we have consistently normalised and have ingrained a level of intolerance acceptance into another generation. Amongst customers and punters it is going to be a challenge, but when it exists within those that work in the industry then there is a real problem; a problem that needs rectifying very quickly. 

The image at the top is from a brewery selling their wares at the trade session. Initially that was going to form part of the comment on this article, but instead I'll leave the pumpclip at the head of this article without comment. 


Unknown said…
A few years ago (2012, I think) I was working at the St Albans Beer Festival. I've noticed that some of the customers that turn up early can be a bit odd. Some very nice but quite timid - maybe not so good when the crowds gather - others a bit more repugnant. As so it was that two late-middle aged fellows arrived around 11am and started solidly drinking. By around 3pm they were slouched across the bar scoffing pasties and crisps with guttural snorting sounds and creating a carpet of crumbs, gob and flaked pastry on the bar top which really pissed me off. If I sidestepped left or right to get out of their ambit, they'd always end up in front of me. Anyway, a young woman approached the bar and enquired about wine which we obviously didn't have. It was as she walked off that they laughed and one nudged the other "Ere! Must've been a black lady!" I gave the other volunteers an evil look which was unfair. I was basically insinuating that they were the same age-bracket, they should deal with this shit. I buggered off for a while. Once I was released, another guy constantly found me wherever I went. He was hell-bent on bringing up education, wanted to slip me beer vouchers to a Croydon beer festival and kept pushing chocolate bars at me. I felt like I was being groomed! To top it all, he found me again on the balcony, started speaking and spat in my beer. For a moment, I thought I was going to toss his sack of a body over the railing. But there you go.... I think you were right not to react at the time and write something meaningful like your post instead.
Unknown said…
That should have read "bringing up immigration" on line 10
Andrew Leyshon said…
Where as I completely agree that sexism has no place at all in any work place and indeed a bar, I believe you have unfairly brandished the good name of Timothy Taylors, when in fact you should have shared the sexist pigs name, not sure what his profession has to do with anything, your also right about the fact you should have dealt with it at the time, face to face in order to resolve this, instead of posting your issue while sitting behind a desk like a coward!

Sexism will continue unless we address it head on and when such comments are made. You article is just as offensive as the comment that was made to your wife!
StringersBeer said…
"sitting behind a desk like a coward" sez "unknown".
Mark Johnson said…
See above - why don't you tell us all who you are?

His profession has everything to do with the line of power he feels he possesses when the pub deals with Timothy Taylor's. It won't be the last time she hears from him. I don't know his name but if people like that are employed by a brewery I don't quite get where you are reading "the good name of Timothy Taylor's." What good name is this?

People like you are absolutely the cause of such problems in the world. Whilst countless people have thanked me for sharing the story and the event and for highlighting the issue, you are the only person to have called me a coward. You alone. Imagine how pathetic you must feel.

My e-mail address is on the blog. If you like face to face meetings then drop me an e-mail and we'll arrange one to discuss this coward comment further and come to a resolution. Nice to know you Unknown, you brave brave soul.
Mark Johnson said…
I can't believe this story. I've read it around 5 times already. It is quite unbeliavable. Thank you for saying you felt I did the right thing though. This highlights the issue more I suppose.
Unknown said…
Thanks for writing this. It starts the conversation. I know from personal experience that it's hard to face up to this kind of abusive banter, especially "at the time". I hope though that we can empower women to deal with these situations and educate men and boys to not be like this in the first place.
Unknown said…
Thanks for writing this. I'm a 40ish white male. I'm very into beer, and a regular at a couple of beer festivals (even involved in organising one to a degree) but don't ever set foot in pubs unless going with someone else for some social gathering or other. It's not because I'm antisocial - I'm just not comfortable with the kinds of people I encounter in pubs. I know I'm generalising, but if even only a couple of people in the place are these "lad" types, the whole place is spoiled with an oppressive atmosphere. I know your post is about the beer industry as a whole, not the customers, but stepping back, it's also about the fact *society* accepts this "harmless locker talk", and pubs tend to attract the type - on both sides of the bar.

I also agree with your point about tackling it at the time - sometimes it's not wise to inflame a situation, or worse still put yourself in danger. An example was standing outside Wetherspoons in the city centre with my 10 yr old son. We were waiting for my wife to finish in a nearby shop. Imagine having to explain to a 10 year old boy, why nobody stopped the man with the cigarette and beer glass in his hand yanking a hijab off a woman's head as she went past. I was livid, but I was also outnumbered, and I'm not exactly the fighting type. If I'd said anything, I had no idea how it could have gone, so I stood silently, hopefully not close enough to look like a participant.

That was 6 years ago, and I still feel ashamed for not stepping in, and relieved that I had the sensible caution not to do so.

I only wish we had the language and frameworks to deal with this kind of thing, without accusations of "nanny state" "lefty snowflake" "pc" "hand wringer" etc.
Unknown said…
Sometimes it isn't always possible to deal with it at the time, especially when it involves a professional relationship like your partners situation. I've been a victim of sexism from an account manager but in a very different way.
I'm 24 and the assistant manager of a brewery tap just outside the Thames Valley and we work very closely with a local wholesaler for the products that aren't from our brewery. One of the Heads of departments for this wholesaler is a gentlemen of a certain age and completely ignores me and all because a young female. If we have a meeting he doesn't listen to me, only my male 28 year old manager. If he drops in on a whim and can't see my manager he won't talk to me or the female members of the team but will happily talk to the male members of staff, all of whom are under 21 and often can't provide him with the info he needs. I didn't know how to deal with it when meeting with him in person without being very rude or looking like a whiny little girl however I reached a point when I decided enough was enough and made a formal complaint. It turned out I wasn't the first to complain. They had received complaints from other bars and even from their suppliers. One had even refused to deal him with because of his attitude towards women.
I'm guessing he has recently been spoken to about it as when he has visited over the Christmas period he has been respectful and has spoken to me.
I'm glad I didn't deal with it at the time and waited for a bit. Personally I felt it was far more professional and has improved the relationship my bar know has with this particular person.
Jules said…
Last time I went to Chorlton beer festival I was told on the door not to worry as there was "cider for the ladies"
Jules said…
This comment has been removed by the author.

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