If the problems are structural, what should the response to the individual be?
The unpleasant working conditions in restaurants are widely known. Yet despite that, Danish media has been largely uninterested in a critique of the industry - instead continually glorifying its many achievements. This becomes easy to understand when you consider that many food journalists sit in the comfortable and delicious pockets of the Danish gastronomic ‘heroes’. You essentially describe a catch 22 where to more than vaguely critique the industry outside of the proper journalistic process is sensationalism, yet without this discussion, the interest to trigger this process is apparently lacking. How is one to garner media interest in an uncomfortable topic about its gastronomic darlings without sharing enough to show that this topic is serious and worth in depth consideration?
Enter Lisa Lind Dunbar and her activism - sharing hundreds of heart-breaking and (as someone who has also worked for many years in the industry) painfully relatable stories, contextualised by highlighting union, school and leadership failures. She has done so with due diligence - removing references to the many people at fault. The fact that stories relating to a particularly nasty wine maker crop up time and time again, is certainly not the fault of Lisa (dare I suggest that the fault may lie with the wine maker!). That you choose to focus on Lisa’s supposed ‘error’ in her method of sharing these stories, and give a mere glancing comment as to their contents, I therefore find very troubling. To those ‘in the know’, sharing of these stories protects them from associating with a dangerous character. To those ‘not in the know’, they are none the wiser as to who is discussed, but are aware that there is a toxic culture in the natural wine world - thereby hopefully triggering a wider discussion and change (and critical journalism).
As to wine shops and bars choosing not to stock the wine maker’s wines. Powerful people in gastronomy, as in any industry, are protected by their reputations. Their admirers are all too willing to ignore suggestions of wrong doing. Look at the infamous cases of powerful rapists and paedophiles (you can take your pick) and imagine the suffering that could have been avoided if the people ‘in the know’ had chosen not to protect these people, but to act on their knowledge? In a society that repeatedly shows it, frankly, does not give a shit about victims when powerful perpetrators are involved, it is an extremely admirable statement that some portions of the wine world are making. They are choosing to take this damning insider knowledge and take action. Those willing to listen to these stories and turn a blind eye, or place the responsibility on the victim, I would argue are the problem. Too often people condemn racism, sexism, homophobia, but are unwilling to act when cases are presented to them. I agree, it would certainly be preferable if an environment in gastronomy existed that supported victims in sharing their stories through the ‘proper’ avenues leading to an investigation, but as I think has been established, this categorically does not exist. There has been no trial, but in my opinion, that doesn’t mean that one should not act on extensive insider knowledge of a sexual predator.
The tone of your commentary I find unpleasant and bordering on victim blaming - if I were a victim of the sexual harassment of this particular wine-maker, I certainly would not feel safe going on the record with you. That you connect to an article where the claims against a winemaker turned out to be false, reminds me of the many men who, in the context of sexual assault charges, choose to bring up the small proportion of accusations that are fabricated as a defence. ‘Whose side’ do you tend towards I wonder? With that in mind, I wonder what you mean by ‘(which is telling in it’s own right)’ in regards to people not wanting to go on the record. Are you suggesting that this means the many accusations are baseless because the victims are not willing to talk to you? Or that they don’t care sufficiently about ensuring this wine maker is cast out of the industry? Or (I hope) you are pointing to the huge personal cost of victims speaking out, the power dynamics at play, and the shameful trend of society downplaying cases of sexual harassment/assault, which makes speaking out such a challenge.
A final note! I hope journalism does root out and name this wine maker (as well as the countless other damaging characters in the industry) so they can be held accountable. I hope accordingly, that people are able to abandon their gastronomic loyalties and condemn the restauranteurs that allow this culture to propagate. Until that happens, power to Lisa Lind Dunbar to continue sharing stories and raising awareness of a toxic industry that needs to change.