A Statement From Equity.
We would like to update all of you about an incident that happened in the taproom a few days ago when a group was asked to leave. This situation is a teachable opportunity and highlights the essential role of women-owned businesses in the advancement of gender equity here in Oklahoma and around the world. Conversations like these are of the utmost importance, and we pride ourselves on being transparent and vulnerable at Equity. After reading our story, please feel free to contact us publicly or privately with your thoughts and comments as this conversation needs to be had by everyone, not just us.
A few days ago, a group of about 10 people came in to our taproom and had a few beers. During their time at Equity, one of the group members repeatedly referred to our owner, Suzette, as ‘sweetheart’ and our chef, Barbie, as ‘baby’. Suzette politely asked the guest to not call our staff these terms. The man became defensive and was clearly upset about Suzette's request. Upon returning to his group, he began to trash-talk us and defend himself. Suzette heard his derogatory comments and was forced to ask all of them to leave. A few group members tried to defend their friends’ actions saying things like ‘but those are terms of endearment’, ‘well, this is Oklahoma’, and ‘this has never been a problem at other breweries’. Frankly, all of that is bullshit, and it is disheartening that a woman in the group was most vocal in his defense. Our humanity as women is not limited by geography. Men do not have permission to demean women just because we happen to live in a state that is less progressive than others. And while these may be endearing terms in more intimate relationships, it is never appropriate to assume such intimacy with women whose job it is to serve you in a business capacity.
This situation was extremely avoidable. Had this patron respected us enough to simply stop using these terms, there would have been no issue. But because he felt entitled to his efforts to belittle us, and, in fact, did not understand that his language was sexist, the situation escalated.
The reason this man and his companions felt emboldened to push back against our boundaries was, in large part, because they had never before been faced with resistance to their inappropriate language. When women are not in positions of power and ownership in any industry, it may very well be harder for women employees to set boundaries with customers for fear of retribution from the men that supervise them. They may also be concerned about potential escalation and violence from the man they are setting a boundary with. We are all quite familiar with the many reports of such situations across the brewing industry and beyond.
Women-owned and values-driven businesses are absolutely vital in the creation of a better world for us all, not only for better representation or to put more women in positions of power or for the economic benefit of women, but because when it’s our space we can set rules that keep us safe. We get to be the arbiters of what is acceptable treatment and what we will not tolerate. We do not have to defer to the sensitivities and insecurities of the men around us. To this end, we challenge other breweries in Oklahoma to check in with the women they employ about their comfort and safety in their work environment and establish protocols to ensure that all employees are empowered to speak up when facing inappropriate comments or behavior. We challenge our counterparts to ensure that women succeed in their workplace endeavors BECAUSE of the work environment, and not in SPITE of it.
This was the first incident of this kind at Equity Brewing Company, and we hope it will be our last. We ask you as our community members, dear friends, and amazing patrons to actively engage with these issues as they remain all too common in our society. Although this was hardly the biggest offense against women in the entire world, we must draw the line and collectively say no more. We look forward to hearing from you, and we hope you know that it is our mission to keep everyone as safe as possible in our space.