Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Towanda - The Wine Avenger!

Last week one of my evenings was spent in the company of some dear friends -- women I have known for more than 10 years along with women I have gotten to know in the past five years. One of the many things we have in common is our involvement in the wine business, from working bottling lines to being tasting-room attendants to winery marketing director to vineyard owner to winemaker. The experience of this group of friends pretty much covers the full spectrum of the wine business.

Talking together and sipping wine, we shared our personal stories about the gender war in the wine industry. Can men and women function together in this business? Would it have made a difference if these women hadn't begun their wine careers in their 40s and 50s? Would a young woman of 20 or 30 have it easier?

The battle between the sexes is an old story, of course. The natural physical and emotional differences separating men from women can't be denied. Dogs fight with cats and cats eat birds and birds eat worms - there's a natural pecking order. But are men and women truly that different from each other? Even in the animal world a domestic cat can have a silent truce with a canine housemate.

As with many occupations, men have dominated the wine business for centuries and across cultures, so it's no surprise the gender wine-war has found its way to Walla Walla. As I listened to my friends' stories and heard their anger, frustration and, sometimes, laughter, I realized I actually had nothing new to contribute to this discussion. Sure, I have my own war stories, but my stories were no different than theirs. Same stories but with different faces and names. So I just sat and listened. My attitude has been that karma is in action. While I sipped my wine, I became distracted with my own thoughts...

She... always been terrified of displeasing men, terrified of the names she would be called if she did. She had spent her life tiptoeing around them like someone lifting her skirt stepping through a cow pasture...Everybody had a group to protest and stick up for them. But women were still being called names by men. Why? Where was our group? Few people saw this plump, pleasant-looking middle-aged, middle-class housewife...she would make up a secret code name for herself...a name feared around the world: TOWANDA THE AVENGER!

Towanda was able to do anything she wanted. She went back in time and punched out the apostle Paul for writing that women should remain silent. Towanda appeared on "Meet the Press" and with a calm voice, a cool eye, and a wry smile, debated every man who disagreed with her until they became so defeated by her brilliance they burst into tears and ran off the show. She went to Hollywood and ordered all the leading men to act opposite women of their own age...she sent food and birth control methods, for men as well as women, to the poor people of the world.

Towanda ordained that: an equal number of men and women would be in government and sit in on peace talks...teachers and nurses would receive the same salary as professional football players...just yesterday Towanda had marched into the Pentagon, taken all the bombs and missles away and given the generals toys to play with instead while her sisters in other parts of the world did the same. And she'd personally see to it that all the sweet men and daddies, who had worked so hard, would each receive a trip to Hawaii and an outboard motor to go with it. And because of her vision and insight, she became known the world over as Towanda the Magnanimous, Righter of Wrongs and Queen without Compare. --"Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe."

"TOWANDA!" I was shaken from my thoughts to the sound of her name being yelled and clinks of wine glasses around the table. "To Towanda," my wine women comrades toasted, "To Towanda - The Avenger!"

My thoughts had been with the men who believed in us. I knew my friends' husbands and significant others. I knew how they supported the women in their lives and saw the pride from their faces and heard it in their voices. I knew my friend's stories about the men in the wine industry who believed in them. And I had my own. It was my sweetheart who encouraged me to go back to school and trust my wine-sensory evaluations, and while he is a professional journalist he has supported and encouraged me through my wine blog rants. There's my wine guru who believed in me during a wine chemistry final when I froze and for a few seconds didn't believe in myself. There are my son, son-in-law and brother who are proud that I took the steps I did to get into this industry, and they will often call me for my wine opinions or answers to a wine-related question. Even my ex-husband has told me he is proud of my accomplishments. I will never forget some of the young male viticulture/enology classmates who considered me one of their wine peers. But most of all support started with my own father, who would ferment anything he could get his hands on. I remember helping him with his wine. If he was alive today, he would be active in the wine community. I use to say that my dad was the first male feminist in the 1950s. He believed that women could do anything they wanted and encouraged his daughters to do so.

To sum it up, I believe that the supportive men in our lives outweight those who may have feared and dismissed our goals, talents and determination - - and as the saying goes, "that which doesn't kill us makes us stronger" and also makes us Magnanimous Women of Wine, Righter of Wrongs and Queens without Compare.


Anonymous said...

Well stated, Miss Catie!

Anonymous said...

Queen Catie, you are truly a supporter of women and good men everywhere. Long may you rule!!
Best to you from far Northern ID
Jamie Anne

Anonymous said...

What an excellent blog! I truly enjoyed your insight on this "issue" I think that it is important that we have a social circle in which to vent frustrations but it is equally as important to not lose sight of those who incourage us. You hit the nail on the head. It is good to remember that not all men are degrading snobs. Towanda! (I love that movie)

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