A caricature fuels controversy over male chauvinism in the French wine industry

Mardi 15 décembre 2020 par Vitisphere

 “The wine industry’s “green” revolution is underway, but there is still another Bastille to be stormed and that is its male chauvinism and sexism, which pervade every aspect of the industry”, said celebrated French lawyer Eric Morain.
“The wine industry’s “green” revolution is underway, but there is still another Bastille to be stormed and that is its male chauvinism and sexism, which pervade every aspect of the industry”, said celebrated French lawyer Eric Morain. - crédit photo : DR

The whole issue flared up on 24 November, when Sandrine Goeyvaerts, a journalist and wine merchant, discovered the cartoon published on page 161 of the latest issue of the En Magnum magazine. The cartoon, titled “Covid calls for new strategies” depicts a young female wine merchant offering sexual favours to a male counterpart. “When I order a pallet, I take off the top, and when I order a container...” she promises him.

Sandrine Goeyvaerts criticised the cartoon’s “crude and stupid sexism” and challenged the magazine's editors, prominent French critics Michel Bettane and Thierry Desseauve, on her Twitter and Facebook accounts. The pressure began to mount and the same evening, she received several text messages from the editor-in-chief Nicolas de Rouyn, including one saying, “If you're looking for a fight, I have no shortage of resources”. She passed the threats on to her followers.

The next day, Thierry Desseauve published a right of reply on Facebook. “Never, have either Michel or myself ever disparaged the role of women in wine on the grounds that they are women or boycotted a wine on the grounds that it was made by a woman. At this moment in time, it’s easy to take pot shots with stigmatising hashtags”, he said.

But the situation continued to escalate. The Federation of Independent Wine Merchants reacted: “No, this is not how women involved in selling wines and spirits behave! This drawing seems to be more about the cartoonist's fantasies than everyday reality!”

Hundreds of comments popped up on Facebook. “Journalists from the magazine, or sympathisers posted comments on a small number of accounts, gushing with insults”, said Goeyvaerts, who recounted how she was harassed about her mental health, her physique and her professional skills “for a good week”. Many offered her support and criticised the caricature, including Le Monde specialist wine writer Ophélie Neiman.

We apologise to anyone, regardless of their sex or line of business, who may have been hurt by this drawing,” responded Thierry Desseauve. “But this is not just about a cartoon, which belongs to the world of caricature – admittedly a controversial issue at the moment. Many comments and opinions voiced on social media seem to point the finger at a “macho and sexist” policy within our magazine, and even of its founders Michel Bettane and myself. These accusations are [...] absolutely contrary to our personal convictions and to our professional commitments during our thirty years in business together”.

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