Episode 54: Racist Rhetoric

May 21, 2021

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Welcome to Interesting If True, the podcast that… isn’t completely racist…

I’m your host this week, Shea, and with me are:

I’m Aaron, and this week I learned that every time you feel like you’ve got a handle on how bad, pervasive, and grotesque the sexism in our society is, there’s a woman waiting to tell you her even more horrible story…

Fair warning, this week’s patron story is about women in brewing. We talk about their history then dive into stories that have rocked the craft brewing world this month. Mild content warning for the story, I avoid quoting specific accounts of abuse, but it is the undertone of the story.

Patrons this week will also get our much funnier, archived story on Great Lakes Brewing News as an outtake making this episode’s patron content nearly a full extra hour of the show!

And with that, I’ll turn it over to Shea for today’s super funny, uplifting, feel-good story…

Racist Rhetoric

Overt racism is easy to detect and has been brought to the surface for decades. It includes racial slurs like the “n” word, hate crimes, burning crosses, painting swastikas, violence against immigrants, dressing up in blackface or brownface, blatant use of stereotypes, registering as a republican, and more. It can be a jarring experience to learn a common word or phrase you’ve been using for years is actually kind of racist or sexist or homophobic. The harder you look, the more language you’ll find with problematic roots. While English certainly has its fair share of racist words and phrases, it also has a baffling number of synonyms and alternative ways of saying something. Fortunately, that makes it pretty easy to swap out the word or phrase you’ve been saying for a more innocuous one.

“Words like ‘slave’ and’ master’ are so folded into our vocabulary and almost unconsciously speak to the history of racial slavery and racism in the US,” says Elizabeth Pryor, an associate professor of history at Smith College.

But America’s reckoning with systemic racism is now forcing a more critical look at the language we use. And while the offensive nature of many of these words and phrases has long been documented, some institutions are only now beginning to drop them from the lexicon.

“Language works best when it brings as many people into communication with each other,” she says. “If we know, by using certain language, we’re disinviting certain people from that conversation, language isn’t doing its job.”

Here are some familiar words and phrases you might consider dropping from your vocabulary.

Off the reservation, pretty obvious that maybe this isn’t the most PC phrase. It’s meaning is to deviate from what is expected or customary, oftentimes used to describe someone acting not normal. In the 1800s, the federal government forcibly removed Native Americans from their land and sent them to live in designated reservations. The phrase “off the reservation” was used in government correspondence to report on whether Native Americans were complying with orders to stay within their designated living areas. Over time, it came to be used to describe anyone acting outside of what is expected, particularly in political situations.

Grandfathered In or Grandfather Clause is to be exempt from a law that has recently been adopted. But originally it had a much more sinister meaning. The terms “grandfathered in” and “grandfather clause” have their origin in America’s racial history. While the 15th Amendment, ratified in 1870, prohibited racial discrimination in voting, African Americans were kept from exercising their constitutional right due to states’ literacy tests, poll taxes and constitution quizzes. These “tests” were designed to disenfranchise Blacks. If they did not pass or pay the tax, they could not register to vote. These laws also hindered poor American whites. As a result, several states passed laws that made men (yes, I said men) eligible to vote if they were descendants of men who were eligible to vote before 1876 (a.k.a. white men). Enslaved African American people were not freed until 1865 when the 13th Amendment passed they weren’t granted the right to vote until the 15th Amendment was passed in 1870. They were not eligible for the clause because their grandfathers would have still been enslaved. In Aug. 2020, a Massachusetts Appeals Court decided to stop using the term “grandfathering” which was detailed in the footnote of a zoning dispute opinion.

Gypped or Jipped, meaning to be defrauded, swindled or cheated. The term, gypped, comes from the word Gypsy which is a derogatory name for the Romani people (also known as Roma) who originated in northern India and migrated around the world for more than a millennium. This culture has been stereotyped as thieves and child abductors which led to the use of the word “gypped.” Alternatives include ripped off or cheated – neither of which has its origins in racism.

Sold down the river: While this phrase now refers to a devastating betrayal, its history is more fraught. In the 1800s, Black slaves were literally sold down the river. Slave traders traveled along the Mississippi River, selling enslaved people to plantation owners further south. There awaited inhumane conditions and brutal labor that often ended in death.

“Thus to be ‘sold down the river was to commence a life of crushing circumstances,” according to the Mississippi Encyclopedia, a project from the University of Mississippi’s Center for the Study of Southern Culture.

Americans may unwittingly evoke racism when they use phrases like this for exaggeration, said Jamaal Muwwakkil, a PhD candidate in linguistics at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

“It takes away the weight of the reality of chattel slavery,” he said. “You can, through hyperbole, water down the association of [that word] to slavery.”

Eskimo is a derogatory word for the indigenous arctic peoples. This was a term that Europeans used for a huge group of indigenous people living in the Arctic regions. Linguists believe the word came from the French word “esquimaux,” referring to one who nets snowshoes.

European colonizers used the term broadly, lumping all Native Americans in that region into one ethnic group.

Along these lines, after launching an extensive research and engagement process on the name three years ago, with an emphasis on listening to Inuit communities, The Edmonton Eskimo Football Club Board of Directors made the decision to discontinue the use of the word “Eskimo” in the team’s name to continue the tradition of being responsive to the community perspective.

Recently, Dreyer’s Grand Ice Cream announced it was changing the name and branding of its Eskimo Pie dessert because they “recognize the term is derogatory.”

Paddy wagon, meaning a police car or van. This 19th-century slang was used historically to reference Irish immigrants who upon being arrested were put in a police van, called a paddy wagon. The idea of ‘paddy’ is a police car that comes around to grab up Irish people who are no good drunk criminals, so it deals with a historical stereotype of Irish people as low lives.

A few of these phrases I had no idea had roots in racism and classism such as Peanut Gallery. Its current meaning is a group of people who criticize or heckle someone about insignificant things. Though it has origins in 19th-century Vaudeville era, the peanut gallery was the cheapest section of seats (with the worst view). Peanuts were sold at these shows, and sometimes people seated in the cheaper seats would throw peanuts at unpopular performers. Often, the peanut gallery was largely occupied by Black theatergoers. If the term isn’t racist, it’s classist at the very least, suggesting those who sat in the cheapest section were ill-informed and gave unwarranted criticism. And Vaudeville itself certainly had some racist elements — it developed from minstrel shows and often featured caricatures of Black people portrayed by white actors in blackface.

While the phrase sitting “Indian style” is often associated with stereotypical portrayals of Native Americans, some experts believe the phrase means “lotus position,” a cross-legged meditation pose with roots in India. It was first used in the early 1900s in the U.S. and means sitting cross-legged, but is rarely used in schools anymore, experts said.

The phrase “criss-cross apple sauce” is used in place of the phrase.

“It’s usually because of a lack of cultural knowledge. The words or phrases have become so institutionalized in society that people often do not know the origins of the words,” said Cedric Burrows, an assistant professor of English at Marquette University and an expert in African American and cultural rhetorics.

In the same vein, after decades of debate and court cases over its name and logo, the Washington Redskins have decided to change their name, which was an offensive term in reference to Native Americans.

A cakewalk is typically an easy victory or something that is easily accomplished. But I doubt you knew that cakewalk originated as a dance performed by enslaved Black people on plantations before the Civil War. It was intended to be a mockery of the way White people danced, though plantation owners often interpreted slaves’ movements as unskillful attempts to be like them.

Owners held contests in which enslaved people competed for a cake. Later, the dance — and the idiom — was popularized through minstrel shows, characterized by a “a high-leg prance with a backward tilt of the head, shoulders and upper torso.”

Uppity is an epithet used by White people in the Jim Crow era to describe Black people they believed weren’t showing them enough deference. It’s far more malevolent than a synonym for “arrogant,” though. Per PBS’ long-running “American Experience” series, many Black men and women were lynched by white mobs for seeming too “uppity.”

“It was and remains an insulting way to describe a Black person because it suggests that they are ‘too big for their britches’ or are demonstrating a sense of dignity or autonomy they are not supposed to possess,” said Krystal Smalls, an assistant professor of anthropology and linguistics at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

The insult was frequently lobbed at President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama throughout his two terms, usually by conservative opponents who claimed they were unaware of the word’s racist origins (yeah right). And American and British journalists have used the term to describe Meghan Markle, who is biracial, after she became the Duchess of Sussex.

Our final bad word today was also a lesson for me. Moron is used to describe a stupid person and it was one of my favorite insults, not anymore, though! This word was originally coined by eugenicist and psychologist Henry H. Goddard, who used it to describe people he categorized as having low intelligence and behavioral deviance. Eugenics had to do with creating humans with “desirable” characteristics through breeding and preventing those with “undesirable” traits from reproducing. Goddard made it his mission to ensure “feeble-minded morons” did not immigrate to the United States, sending his staff to assess the “intelligence” of people coming into Ellis Island in the early 20th century. About 40 percent of Hungarian, Italian and Jewish immigrants were classified as “morons” and deported in 1913. Instead, I think I’m going to update my lexicon and start calling everyone a doofus.

We at Interesting if True are not here to tell you what words to use but we are here to enlighten you to information you may have never heard or come across. But I sincerely hope that if you learned anything today it is that none of us are getting off this planet alive so we may as well make it a little better for our neighbors.

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Brewing Sexism

Some listeners may remember the Great Lakes Brewing News debacle. Oh, and important note: Great Lakes Brewing News is not related to Great Lakes Brewing, they just both happen to be near the Great Lakes…

For those unfamiliar, I’ll do a brief recap.

There was, once upon a time, a bimonthly magazine called Great Lakes Brewing News, which covered… well.. brewing news. Then one day, for seemingly no reason, co-publisher Bill Metzger decided to publish a front-page, psychotically sexist, op-ed. Worse, it somehow made it past the editors of the paper who, despite having not seen or approved the article, immediately resigned and denounced Bill and the paper in the strongest possible terms.

The article began:

Like most men, I struggle with my primal self. It’s genetic. Put in Freudian terms, the battle between my id and my superego can be epic. And in the age of #metoo, the dilemma has grown. The pendulum has swung too far. One aggressive move and a man’s career can derail. I feel the walls closing around me, my room to move shrinking.

So yeah, the rest of it went about as well as you imagine. He laments not being able to satiate his “primal urge to breed” by getting his female colleagues drunk enough to give in to their “need-to-breed gene”; the loss of heroic, historic, Scottish rapists; and of course his righteous fight against “feminazi re-education programs” which are, to be clear, the idea that women are people too, spoken out loud.

As you can imagine, it was poorly received.

Brewers, bars, and enthusiasts alike expressed their outrage in a number of ways, my favorite being setting the paper on fire in a toilet—a step a number of brewers took. Bill of course issued a “sorry you’re offended” non-pology as advertisers fled the sinking ship. The excuse/apologies/reaction from GLBN effectively killed the magazine, and rightfully so.

If you’re interested, and because you’re patrons, I will put the entire Great Leakes Brewing News story in as an outtake. It’s a hilarious, sweary, mess. Enjoy.

In the two years since sexism in brewing has not gotten better…

Brewing has always been a hell of a boys club… I mean, if you like the currently popular interpretation of “always”, but if you prefer real reality then it’s just another thing some dude took, probably with violence.

Intensional brewing began in ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia sometime in the 6th millennium B.C.E., so, way back. We know this from ye-oldie grain bills—the fancy term for a beer recipes—stamped into clay tablets in cuneiform.

Way back when brewing was the only job you could have that was smiled upon by female goddesses, in this case, Ninkasi, Siris, and Siduri, who oversaw termination, was considered to be beer and managed the enjoyment of alcoholic beverages respectively. And this was because brewers back in the day were almost exclusively women.

If you’re interested in learning more about the ancient brew-misteresses check the show notes for a link to check out a digital edition of Women & Alcohol in a highland Maya town: water of hope, water of sorrow available in public domain at archive.org. It’s a quick 350 page read about feminist anthropology through the lense of ancient Mexico’s women brewers.

  • https://archive.org/details/womenalcoholinhi0009eber/mode/2up

Women were the brewers of ancient Egypt, historical Africa, Asia, and South America. In Native American tribes, they brewed maze/cactus wine called Tiswin. In the 1300’s you might find a village Alewife, or the first large-for-then-scale commercial brewers.

In 13th-century Holland, women were so important to brewing that the government actually limited the amount of beer men could make according to Beer in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance by Richard W. Unger.

Brewing was an important part of life in the colonies. Most people have, I’m sure, heard about Thomas Jefferson’s enthusiasm for brewing—a tradition of Presidential brewing that continued into the Obama administration (no idea if Biden brews, pretty sure Trump is too stupid to let wet plant mater rot correctly), but did you know that Martha Jefferson was the renowned brewer of the family? Oh yeah, her wheat beer was much sought after. In fact, the first recorded commercial brewer in the colonies was Mary Lisle, who opened a brewpub in Philadelphia in 1734 (the brewery in 1713 in its back yard).

Unfortunately, in the mid 18th century women were forced out of the profession and relegated to barmaids, pub staff, bottlers, secretaries, and the like.

Tara Nurin, a freelance journalist and the beer and spirits contributor for Forbes, attributes this to “three forces that have basically kicked women out of brewing and put men in, and those are religion, politics and economics.”

Because there is nothing religion can’t make worse.

In the 60’s and 70’s women began moving back into the brewery space by way of chemical and bio-engineering degrees. Working with Yeast, water, etc., female brewmasters began re-entering the picture… to much resistance. Women still make up a mere 7.6% of brewers in America according to 2019 report From Brewing Society.

As fascinating as the history of female brewers is—and it is, I’m sure I’ll come back to this at some point—what we’re here to talk about is sexism in brewing now. So, women are re-entering the brewing space, often with far greater qualifications then their male counterparts (and the degrees to prove it) but they’re still met with derision and force to justify their existence in this space.

One such brewmaster, Teri Fahrendorf, started the Pink Boots Society in 2008. Today it has more than a thousand members, all women brewers, and seeks to empower women in the beer industry so that, hopefully, they don’t end up in @ratMagnet’s Insta story.

https://www.instagram.com/ratmagnet/

Who is @ratMagnet? That’s Brienne Allen, production manager at Notch brewing and former leader of Boston’s Pink Boot Society. Following release from Covid lockdown, Brienne was looking forward to returning to brewing. On her first day back she was cred-checked twice by men who approached her demanding to know why she was at the brewhouse.

Frustrated, and rightfully so, she turned to Instagram and posted “What sexist comments have you experienced?” to her female brewer friends. As replies came in she screenshot them and posted them to her Insta story… which is now greater than 800 unique and terrible stories.

She said she expected it to get a few replies of people blowing off steam. Instead, it’s snowballed and become the beer industry’s own #MeToo moment (or really, another).

“I think it’s sickening, horrible, and unfortunately, not surprising in the least,” says Robin LeBlanc, beer columnist, author and podcast host of The Ontario Craft Beer Guide.

The stories range from almost incalculable number of women reporting patrons asking to talk to their husbands, boyfriends, or nearby penis-havers instead of them, to stories of brewers driving female employees out into the middle of nowhere to assault them.

Companies like Brew Dog, which has been called out recently for firing LGBTQ+ employees and “ugly women”, are again reeling from the blowback.

Dry & Bitter has sent brewer Soren Wagner on a leave of absence, the light beer of reproductions.

Tired Hands Brewing founder is stepping down after a number of the Insta stories alleged and corroborated accounts of sexism and racism within the company and specifically from Jean Broillet IV himself. It was apparently a “boys club” that was just… wow. His wife Julie was also named as a prime contributor to the toxic work environment. They’re plan going forward is to deny that there’s an issue and promising to do the absolute least.

For our part, Interesting If True acknowledges that these are currently only accusations.

Wiley Roots Brewing, one of the most reported breweries, issued a statement from co-owner and head brewer Kyle Carbaugh. He apologized to everyone, including his co-owner and wife, for being a massive asshole just, all the time. They followed up by providing Allen with “substantial documentation” discounting reports from former employees which prompted Allen to remove Wiley Roots related stories from her Insta.

In unrelated, but probably related news, there’s now a GoFundMe to support Allan as accused breweries threaten legal action against her for the terrible crime of reporting the accounts of women they’ve employed.

https://www.gofundme.com/f/Briennelegalfees

Modern Times Brewing has let Derek Freese, brewer, go and is doing an “internal investigation” along with about a dozen other breweries, including:

  • @harpoonbrewery
  • @NightShiftBeer
  • @lordhobobrewing
  • @HillFarmstead
  • @IlBirrificio
  • @JackieosBrewery
  • @BurialBeer
  • @freetailbrewing
  • @BrewDog
  • @Boulevard_Beer
  • @SunKingBrewing
  • @stonechurch_ca
  • @GnomeBeer
  • @BreweryBhavana
  • @oskarblues
  • @Slumbrew
  • Grains of Wrath
  • @asylumbrewing
  • @SouthParkBrewCo
  • @mysterybrewing
  • @MikkellerSD
  • @surlybrewing
  • @tiredhandsbeer
  • @bridgebrewcrew
  • @ShipyardBrewing
  • @FontaFloraBrew
  • @ccbrewing
  • @Poorhousebrew
  • @KernRiverBrewin
  • @indeedbrewing
  • BNS Brewing
  • @VirtueCider
  • @CourtyardBrew
  • Archetype Brewing
  • @UnionBeerDist
  • Thorn Street Brewing
  • @BallastPoint
  • @OedipusBrewing
  • @NobleAleWorks
  • @JacksAbby
  • Baystate Distributors
  • @tribusbeerco
  • @ModernTimesBeer

I know this might rub some listeners the wrong way, but if you find yourself on the defensive, you should ask yourself why. In the same way that, when I get pulled over, my immediate worry is getting a ticket rather than an African American’s initial worry of getting killed, is white privilege; being able to go to a bar without fear of assault, or talk about beer without having to justify your inclusion, and thereby, your personhood, is male privilege. It might not be, as individual men, our fault but the ball is in our court, so the real question is, what are we going to do to help?

  • https://www.metrotimes.com/table-and-bar/archives/2019/02/13/great-lakes-brewing-news-sexist-parody-starts-brouhaha
  • https://thetakeout.com/great-lakes-brewing-article-metzger-apology-1832621939
  • http://www.brewingnews.com/greatlakes/
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Women_in_brewing
  • https://www.winemag.com/2020/12/22/women-beer-history/
  • https://www.womenshistory.org/articles/women-and-beer-forgotten-pairing
  • https://vinepair.com/articles/brewdog-discrimination-lgbtq-women/
  • https://twitter.com/Dry_and_Bitter/status/1393584023532879880
  • https://www.inquirer.com/food/drink/tired-hands-brewery-sexual-harassment-20210518.html
  • https://www.beervanablog.com/beervana/2018/2/26/sexism-in-beer-the-experiences-of-women
  • https://www.westword.com/restaurants/wiley-roots-brewing-sexism-craft-beer-brienne-allan-ratmagnet-11972056
  • https://www.jioforme.com/craft-beer-industry-clues-with-widespread-allegations-of-abuse/439586/
  • https://www.pinkbootssociety.org
  • https://www.instagram.com/ratmagnet/
  • https://www.oregonlive.com/beer/2020/03/for-heater-allen-brewings-lisa-allen-hard-work-opportunity-growing-legacy.html
  • https://twitter.com/WorstBeerBlog
  • https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-41892346
  • https://www.womenshistory.org/articles/women-and-beer-forgotten-pairing
  • Let’s Have A Beer post about it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z6xftG0qejQ
  • https://vinepair.com/articles/brewers-association-diversity/
  • https://vinepair.com/articles/sexism-assault-beer-industry-ratmagnet/

Outro

I’m Shea, and this week I learned that if Fox News was around in the 50’s we would still be fighting polio, but before we go I’d like to thank all our listeners, supporters, and my co-hosts.

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Find out more about the show, social links, and contact information at InterestingIfTrue.com.

Music for this episode was created by Wayne Jones and was used with permission.

The opinions, views, and nonsense expressed in this show are those of the hosts only and do not represent any other people, organizations, or lifeforms.
All rights reserved, Interesting If True 2020.

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