This week the Globe and Mail released a disturbing, yet sadly unsurprising, story that hit very close to home. They revealed the details of an investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct by Norman Hardie, an (in)famous Canadian sommelier, wine-maker, and major player in the country’s food & beverage industry. I say this hits close to home for a couple of reasons – I am currently working part-time in Prince Edward County, where Hardie’s winery is located; I have spent several years in the Canadian food & beverage industry; and I am a woman.
This story is very upsetting, and I stand with all the women who have come forward with these allegations. However, unfortunately, the kind of incidents described by these women are something that has become all too common within this industry. Having worked in restaurants and bars for several years, I know that this kind of behaviour is all too familiar in many places, and includes anything from sexual innuendos and jokes, to sexual advances and full on harassment. I am certainly not saying that this is the case in every bar, restaurant or venue, however it does tend to be a trend within the food & beverage industry.
“For years, she said, the attitude has been to tolerate the abuse and harassment that she said happens almost on a daily basis – “you know it’s something that’s going to happen, and you don’t say anything about it, and you just live with it,” she said.
“It’s like no other business that I know. And it’s accepted like no other business I know,” she said.” (The Globe and Mail)
I have thankfully never been the victim of any serious sexual misconduct, but like most other women, I have experienced the usual jokes and the “innocent” comments. I also know women who have been in instances where it has gone far beyond this. Sometimes authority and power are the reason nobody speaks up, as mentioned by several of the women in this investigation. But I think more often than not, it is just brushed off as commonplace behaviour. This is easy enough to believe in an industry where you are encouraged, if not made to, wear low cut shirts, short skirts, and high heels.
“If not for the #MeToo movement and the related continuing public discussions, many of the women interviewed by The Globe said they likely would have continued to remain silent about Mr. Hardie.” (The Globe and Mail)
The recent #MeToo movement and its many spin-offs have done such great things in helping to shine a light on these issues across the board, and I think it’s important that we promote safe and comfortable working environments in every industry. It’s time to stop allowing these actions to go under the radar, and to stop normalizing these kinds of behaviours. We need to speak up and make sure that this is no longer acceptable in this industry, or anywhere. If you feel uncomfortable with something or someone, you should be able to say something without fear of any kind of consequence. And it does not make you a buzz-kill to shut down inappropriate jokes, comments, or behaviour. Let’s speak up, because it’s time to change these norms in this industry.