Monday, June 10, 2013

Rant: Best Overall Wine Blog? It's A Man's World

Yes, plenty of women blog and write about wine. 

Back in March 2008, I began to compile a list of women wine bloggers, and have continually updated it, constantly adding new women to the list. There are now over 100 women on that list. In the 2013 State of Wine Blogging Report, the survey found that about 38% of bloggers are female. It seems likely that the number of female wine bloggers will continue to grow.   

This past weekend, the Wine Bloggers' Conference was held in Penticton, British Colombia, and the winners of the 7th Annual Wine Blog Awards were announced. Out of the nine different categories, most people would probably agree that the most prestigious is the Best Overall Wine Blog, won this year by David White of Terroirist. You can read the Criteria for the selection of the Best Overall Wine Blog.

It has struck me as curious that in the last seven years, no female blogger has won the award for Best Overall Wine Blog. Yes, they have won in some of the other categories, but the most prestigious award has so far been elusive. It goes beyond the fact that they have not won this award. During these past seven years, there have been 31 finalists in this category and only a single woman, for her own blog, has ever been a finalist. The sole female finalist, back in 2008, was Dr. Debs of Good Wine Under $20A few collaborative blogs, with male and female contributors, have been finalists too. However, during the last three years, all of the fifteen finalists have been male bloggers.    

Why is this so? Why are almost no women becoming finalists in this category, especially despite the fact that they have won awards in some of the other categories? I don't have any answers to these questions. I don't know the reason for these omissions. However, I believe it is an area that needs exploration and analysis. With the large number of female bloggers out there, why is it so hard for them to become a finalist in this category? 

Some people will speculate that sexism is involved, but is that the case? Of the judges for 2013, 8 were men and 4 were women. They were the ones who selected the finalists.  One might speculate that with more women on the judges panel, then female bloggers might have a better chance of becoming a finalist. But in 2012, 9 of the judges were women and 8 were men. Even when women were the majority, no female blogger ended up as a finalist in this category. 

Are female wine bloggers just not as talented as male wine bloggers? I am positive most people would fervently dispute that point. And I would agree. So if there are these highly talented female wine bloggers out there, why haven't they been recognized in the Best Overall Wine Blog category?

So many unanswered questions and lots of speculation. What are your thoughts on these matters? Why is the Best Overall Wine Blog category a "man's world?"

Addendum (6/10/13): It has been pointed out to me that though David White is listed on the Wine Blog Awards as the "Author" of Terroirist, it is actually a collaborative effort of eight individuals, two of which are women. 


Evan Dawson said...

Pretty weak point if you don't list potentially deserving nominees, no?

Richard Auffrey said...

Hi Evan:
How so? The gender disparity of the finalists in this category is a plain fact. The point of this post is to make people aware of that fact and then to start a dialogue as to why that gender disparity might be so.

Why do you think the gender disparity exists?

Evan Dawson said...

I think the gender disparity in the nominations exists because there are far, far more males blogging about wine than females. If you think that's not the case, offer some supporting numbers or point to potential nominees who got snubbed. The burden of proof lies with you, my friend! (I knew you'd understand that kind of language... ;)

Richard Auffrey said...

Hi Evan:
I did offer supporting numbers. Go back to the beginning of my post where I quoted a survey finding 38% of wine bloggers are female. With such a significant percentage of female wine bloggers, then we should have seen more women as finalists in this category.

You also did not offer any contrary figures on the number of female wine bloggers.

I offered basic facts, which are undisputed, and my point is to seek a discussion on the reasons for such a disparity. I did not make a conclusion as to the reason for this disparity. If I had made a conclusion, then a burden of proof might be on me. But I did not.

So the question goes back to you, if 38% of bloggers are female, then why isn't that percentage reflected in the finalists in this category?

Evan Dawson said...

Because that's not how quality works. Sometimes 38% will result in 90% of the nominations. Sometimes 38% will result in 2% of the nominations.

I'm much more interested in perceived snubs. Maybe there are some. Has anyone identified any?

Richard Auffrey said...

Your new comment contradicts your previous comment. You previously stated that the reason for the gender disparity was a numbers game, that there are "..far, far more males blogging about wine than females."

Now, you are apparently making the gender disparity a quality issue, which seems to imply that more female wine bloggers have not been finalists because they are not as good as male wine bloggers.

If I put forth a female wine blogger who I felt had been snubbed, would that really accomplish anything? In many respects, that is a subjective determination. The criteria for this category are subjective determinations. We could thus spin our wheels arguing over whether a specific woman is worthy of being a finalist or not.

Even if we agreed on a woman who had been snubbed, that would not answer the question of why that happened.

However, I will provide one name and lets see where that gets us, if anywhere.

Alice Feiring.

Evan Dawson said...

No, my comment supports my previous one: There are far, far more men blogging then women. You think 62-38 isn't a landslide? In any election I've covered, that's a laugher.

In blogging, there is a kind of recognized hierarchy, one that gets murkier when you move down the rungs. But at the top, generally, you find the blogs we saw nominated. Sure, the best two wine blogs in the world didn't get nominated (The Wine Diarist and Cellar-Book). But the nominees were not surprising.

Alice would have been a popular choice, given her reach. I wouldn't have chosen her as a finalist, but I can see why others would.

The best new wine blog winner is female.

I guess I'm just not moved by this subject until I see a list of snubs that identify some kind of bias. You're taking the position that all blogs are roughly the same; therefore, women should be a third of nominees or something. I take the position that even if women are roughly a third of bloggers, they are entitled to all of the nominations or none or anything in between as chosen by the choosers.

Richard Auffrey said...

Sorry, but your comments contradict. You can't say that numbers matter and then state that quality, not numbers matters. You want to dismiss 38%, but then also state that 38% could account for 90% of nominations. Contradictory. So pick a position.

Why do you think Alice Feiring never was a finalist? How many potential snubs would it take to convince you? 5? 10? More?

If, as you believe, the correct number of women have been chosen as finalists in the Best Overall Wine Blog category, that is an important issue too. If there is no bias, if women have not been snubbed, then it speaks to a larger issue of why female wine bloggers haven't risen to the quality level as men. And that too is worthy of discussion.

Catie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Catie said...

Interesting that two men are discussing something, that while they think they know the facts, you really cannot comprehend the experiences many women have felt on this issue.

First of all, thank you Richard for bringing this topic up. It's a subject often brought up in women wine bloggers/writers forums. It is also a difficult topic for many women to bring up because it often gets dismissed, excused and personalized as perhaps certain female writers are not as talented as their male counterparts or we get accused as "playing the gender card." It's easy to excuse if you are not the one feeling slighted and dismissed as a whole.

Six years ago I wrote a blog almost about the very same topic and got Thomas Matthews, Editor of WS out of his wine cellar to respond.

In 2012, I was a finalist for Best Wine Writing and important to note, however I was the only woman in that category. Last month I hung up my wine blog after nine years.

As I look back in my wine blogging career, one of the most disappointing things I saw was from the male marketing directors of wineries and even male winemaker's themselves, was how often my wine blog was dismissed. And it wasn't always that way. I was one of the few wine blogs in 2005, so in my area winemakers and marketing directors were eager to get my attention. Also, they paid attention to me when I was making noise to get WBC #10 in Walla Walla. I noticed big changes of attitudes once several young men from the northwest started wine blogging the same single subject like myself. I was either dismissed or I would read on Facebook time and time again, "Catie wrote a 'little' blog about our wine/winery." The key word here was "little." Over and over again the word "little" was used.

My comment regarding this issue isn't meant to be a "boo-hoo, people are picking on me," but more of just an acknowledgement that unfortunately in many ways, the world of wine is still very much a man's world in attitudes - - and more than often I am cautious about bringing up this subject as I don't want to come off looking like I am pointing the fingers at men in general. I can honestly say that the men in my personal life have been big supporters.

So, this issue can be denied and scrutinized, but unless you walk a mile in my high heels, you will never feel what many of us women feel. The disparity is there, but I believe that most of it is done without intent. Many women see the disparity, but most of all we feel it. And what are we doing about it? We keep on blogging/writing and we do it with a lot of hope and conviction.

Evan Dawson said...


Just because you're a lawyer doesn't mean you have to be dogmatic. My position is simple.

1) Many more men write blogs about wine. Therefore, it's not inherently surprising that more men are finalists.

2) That said, we can look at this awards system as a meritocracy. That's what it's supposed to be, right? In such a system, the best should win, regardless of gender. If the best all happen to be women, fine. If the best all happen to be men, so be it.

3) There are a list of usual suspect blogs that were represented in the list of finalists. That's not surprising either.

4) If there are female blog writers getting snubbed, let's hear it. Let's be specific. You mentioned a well known blog writer, but I think of Alice more as an author and writer, anyway.

It's not complicated or inconsistent.

Three of the last six wine books I've read have been by women (Katherine Cole, Karin O'Keefe, Anne Zimmerman). None of them blog. Wine books by female writers are doing wonderfully well.

So is there a barrier of entry to women in wine blogging? What I'm saying is, if there is, I'm not seeing it. Doesn't mean it's not real. I take Catie's point about the word "little" -- a subtle, even subconscious pejorative. Has to be enraging.

But this is like All-Star weekend in Major League Baseball. You can't say, "The Cleveland Indians got screwed!" To be taken seriously, you have to make a case for snubs.

Richard Auffrey said...

I am unsure why you don't see the contradiction in your point. If it is a meritocracy, then just because more men blog does not mean there should be more men as finalists. Are you trying to say that more men automatically means more quality from them?

You failed to answer my question as to how many names you want me show of women being snubbed. And you wish to dismiss Alice as more a writer than blogger. Couldn't the same be said for Steve Heimoff? I would think so. I could probably offer you a number of other female names, and I am sure you would find reasons to dismiss all of them. That is the nature of subjective criteria.

The fact is that very few female wine bloggers have been finalists in the category in question. That is not in dispute.

What is in dispute is the reason for their exclusion. I don't claim to have the answer, but thought it was a valid topic to discuss. And I would like more people to contribute to the discussion.

Is it bias? Is it a problem with the nomination system? Is it just that female wine bloggers are not as good as male wine bloggers? Or is it something else?

As I said before Evan, I am trying to start a discussion, not make a definitive conclusion as to the reasons behind their exclusion. You have offered your own opinions, but you also have not offered anything definitive.

Richard Auffrey said...

Hi Catie:
I don't think the fact that we are men means we can't understand the issues here. For one thing, I raised the issue here for discussion. If I didn't understand anything, I would never have posted about it.

I am glad you posted here about these issues, and I wish more women would contribute as well. This is an important topic and we should have open communication about it. If as you state, most of it is done without intent, then an open discussion is where people can explore what they might not realize is happening.

Simply acknowledging a disparity exists is not enough. The reasons behind it should be explored so maybe change, if warranted, can be made.

Evan Dawson said...

Sigh. You lawyers.

You wrote a post and said, essentially, "Female bloggers are getting snubbed! Anybody know why?"

I came back and said, essentially, "Who's getting snubbed?"

Your reply is, "That's not for me to say!'

Yes it is.

Surely you understand how to build a case. I made the point that there are fewer female bloggers to begin with. Then, I pointed out that because this is a meritocracy, there is no reason to expect that even a third of the finalists would be women. It could be more, but it could reasonably be less. It could be all and it could be none.

Then I stated my view that Alice Feiring not being on the list is not prima facie evidence of bias against women.

I am open to the idea that women are being treated unfairly. I am a white male born in the middle class in America. I hit the birth lottery. I couldn't possibly have it any easier.

But if you can point out even three or four blogs that should have been finalists that got snubbed, I'm listening. I'll give you Alice Feiring.

A separate discussion entirely could focus on what constitutes blogging. Surely Steve Heimoff writes a blog, even though he is a paid writer. Same with Mike Steinberger and a few others.

Anyway, the notion of awards is silly enough to me. We're expending a lot of energy on a silly topic.

Richard Auffrey said...

Everyone hates lawyers until they need one. :)

First, you have mischaracterized the essence of my post. I want to know why so few women, despite constituting 38% of wine bloggers, have been finalists in the Best Overall Wine Blog category. Now, that could mean some women were "snubbed" or there could be a valid reason for their limited inclusion.

So, asking me who was snubbed does not really address my question because I have already been open to the possibility none were snubbed. And if no woman was snubbed, then there is another issue at hand, why so few female wine blogs meet that criteria to be a finalist.

If you grant me Alice Feiring, then do you have a reason why she was excluded? If you want some more names, then how about Lily-Elaine Hawk, Catie Walker and Jo Diaz?

Though the awards themselves may seem silly in some regards, I think the potential deeper issues involved here are very important, from sexism to quality writing.

Thanks for all the comments!

Catie said...

Evan, you posted that "we're expending a lot of energy on a silly topic." This isn't a silly topic to many women wine bloggers. The word "silly" is right up there with the word, "little." I would hope this topic would make for some good food for thought.

In the mean time this blog topic has been forwarded to some women wine blogging groups.

I have always thought of Alice Feiring as a wine blogger and a very controversial one, at that when you consider her focus: naked wine.

I listened to Alice speak once at a local college and I was probably one of only 10 women in the audience. Many of the men in the audience were very combative with her during Q&A, from wine scores to adding sulfites. Afterwards,some of the same men met in the lobby of the auditorium and as I walked by I could hear them bashing her. I have heard men speak on the same subjects but never witnessed the same response of animosity.

Adam Japko said...

Evan, Rich....behave! Chill! And BTW Evan, I've learned over the years that Rich will never, never, never back down. He likes arguing way too much. Not worth the angst:)

Evan Dawson said...

Catie -

My point was only that the WBA are silly; the subject of bias against women is, obviously, not.

Pamela Heiligenthal said...

Richard, major kudos to you for bringing this issue to light. I’ve asked myself similar questions, wonder why this is, and struggle to make any sense of it—and sadly, it goes beyond blogging and the wine industry as a whole. To start, Evan makes a few valid points that many of the women in the wine industry do other things besides blogging. They are the educators, the authors, the Masters of Wine (MW), the Master Sommeliers (MS) … and the list goes on and on. What is interesting about the later two—114 are men and 19 are women in the MS program,!! And in the MW program, 90 are women out of 304. But this later example doesn’t really support the argument. I just find it interesting to look at the spread between genders.

Besides this point and going back to the original question, “Why are almost no women becoming finalists in this category, especially despite the fact that they have won awards in some of the other categories?” I don't have any answers. In support of many great women writers, I am always surprised how we overlook their contributions, because their contributions not only advance the reputation of the wine blogging genre, but seriously influence the wine industry. Their impacts are not trends—rather large sweeping changes that make a difference and affect the industry as a whole.

Looking for proof? Kermit Lynch stated Lily-Elaine Hawk Wakawaka’s wine reviews are, “A New Standard for Wine Reviews." Pemco Insurance highlights Walla Walla Wine Woman Catie McIntyre Walker on a radio commercial. My vintage charts are compared side-by-side with the Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiast. Many wine schools around the world use my content for lectures and training material including the Reims Management School and the Flemish Wine Institute. My co-workers (who work at the #1 athlete retail company in the world) call me, “Robert Parker’s Rival”. Hey, I did not say this, they did. Mary Cressler at works to uncomplicate the complicated. Her contributions as well as many other wine educators are mostly unrecognized via offline channels. Their talent and education will continue to explode and evolve, but much of what they have to say, do and contribute goes unrecognized in the blogosphere world. Then we have Sondra Barrett, PhD, who challenges your way of thinking through molecular collaborations changing with life (and death) of wine. And Gabriella Opaz of Catavino which announced its departure years ago but still remains the standard for wine blogging with huge kudos going out to her passionate ways of educating, informing and inspiring the wine community. With all of this great originality, insightfulness and energy, how is this for advancing the reputation of the wine blogging community?

So tell me men, how do you compare?

IMHO, many women peruse other avenues when overlooked for the contributions they provide. I can attest I left Boeing after a decade of employment as an Engineer to peruse a company that embraces executive advancement. I don’t want to be a part of a group that can’t (and won’t) support and believe in my talents. This is why I am considering alternate paths for my nighttime wine blogging venture. I have no interest in spending time proving my worthiness in the blogosphere. I have two wine and food books in works with a little venture I’ll keep secret for now.

By no means is this to discredit nor disregard the WBC13 winners. I consider many of them friends and they are all great writers and contribute a great deal to the wine industry. But I think we all need to wake up and smell the coffee before we lose a considerable amount of talent in the wine blogosphere industry. Shall we blame women for the lack marketing skills? Or is it something else? Inquiring minds want to know.

Clive Pursehouse said...

Evan, I'd point you to the Hawk Wakawaka wine blog, it's some of the best writing out there, period and the really imaginative and innovative stuff that Madeline Puckette is doing at Wine Folly. It doesn't fit the typical boring mold in either case. So I think it's an uphill battle for them. I once spoke with a woman winemaker who said that women make wine differently than men, they cannot do otherwise she said, because they perceive things differently, and value different things than men. Its the same with writing. I don't connect well with women novelists as a reader it's because I'm a man and they're not. I look for different things, different character traits. Wine writing is very much a male dominated industry, I would argue that the quality bar is set from a male point of view, not just in your case but in the "profession" if it can be called such broadly.

Richard Auffrey said...

Hi Adam:
Don't discourage Evan now. I just provided him more female bloggers who were potentially snubbed.

Richard Auffrey said...

Hi Pamela:
Thanks for your comments. It is a curious issue which I think needs exploration. We may not have the answers individually, but together maybe we can figure it out through fruitful discussion and debate.

Richard Auffrey said...

Thanks Clive for your comments.

Evan Dawson said...

I will happily agree that Hawk is a snub. Is it because of gender bias, or is Hawk a year away from bursting through entirely? Not sure.

And I reiterate that as a man, I have everything pretty easy. I'm trying to view this fairly, and I'm trying not to accuse WBA of bias against women without solid evidence.

Richard Auffrey said...

So with your agreement as to Alice and Hawk, that seems to be at least 2 women who have been "snubbed." I feel there are other deserving women who have also been snubbed.

If we agree that at least some women have been snubbed, then the next step may be to try to determine the reason for such. We should consider the possibility of sexism, as well as other possibilities as well. Is it more an issue of the nomination process? Could it be more an issue of female wine bloggers not marketing themselves enough?

It is good that we all are having this conversation.

Alana Gentry (@girlwithaglass) said...

Quite a while ago, I founded a private group of over 100 women wine writers and bloggers on FB (they are vetted by me). I first wanted to know what made women write about wine. Ends up, our motives share one commonality, we want to share and educate more than anything else. A woman writer's voice is different than a man's, no matter the subject.

I can't explain anything about the Wine Blogger Awards, those who know me know that I'm not a fan of them. The fact that women are not "winning" these awards is consistent with everything else in American society, we are still considered as "less than men."

As far as wine writing goes, I'm so glad I created a place to meet other women wine writers. Their writing is terrific. If your readers are truly interested in discovering great female wine writers, I'm happy to give you a list. But if your readers are looking for the Wine Blogger Awards to point them to the best wine writers out there, their SOL. CHeers my friend! (PS: Your blog is one of my favs as you know.)

Richard Auffrey said...

Hi Alana:
First, thanks for your kind words and I am glad you commented here.

Second, I disagree with your statement that: "A woman writer's voice is different than a man's, no matter the subject." There recently was a test in the genre fiction world, where ten SF/fantasy scenes were presented. You had to guess whether the writer was male or female. In short, people guessed correctly maybe 50% of the time, the same as pure luck. People could not tell the difference between men and women writers.

I think if we did the same with wine articles, the results would be similar.

Third, my post is about only one category of the WBA awards, as women have been winning in other categories, just not for Best Overall Wine Blog.

Alana Gentry (@girlwithaglass) said...

Oops! Typo...they're SOL. :)


Alana Gentry (@girlwithaglass) said...

Ah...good point about "blind reading," Personal narrative and non-fiction would not be the same I'm guessing, but don't challenge me to prove it! Now tasting notes, I doubt one could tell the difference. I'm not going to belabor the point,

I got your point about the "big" prize and I agree. The problem is bigger in my opinion which is what I was referring to. Cheers~

Richard Auffrey said...

Hi Alana:
There very well could be a larger problem, though it is not something I have delved too deeply in at this point. The statistics of the top category really stood out to me so that is where I concentrated for now.

Paul Mabray said...

I don't want to get too deep in this conversation but as one of the WBC judges (for every year they've been in existence), I feel it is important for us to be transparent. I personally took particular extraordinary care to evaluate every blog in categories where I was responsible by the merits of their content. I did the same with my final vote of who I thought should be the winners. As a result you saw a plethora of blogs by women as finalists. And to close the loop in transparency, I personally voted for Hawk in all three categories in my final vote for the overall winner. I am not sure women got snubbed since three of the categories were won by women and there were quite a few (I am too busy to count but you can look here to see how many finalists were women - and 30% of the judges are women (which I am sure can be improved). I am not saying that there are still gender challenges (as a newly minted father of a baby girl I am extremely sensitive to this) I am just stating that there was no snubbing and sadly, the votes did not land from both judges and the community for some great women bloggers this year. I was more than surprised by Hawk's exclusion but I can say that she is the only 3 time nominee in a year in WBC history and I expect her to sweep the awards next year.

Richard Auffrey said...

Hi Paul and thanks for your comments.

My post was specific in addressing only a single award category, Best Overall Wine Blog, which is probably the most prestigious of the categories. I freely admitted that women have been finalists and won in the other categories. It is in that category that the statistics seem to show women have been potentially snubbed.

When only a single female wine blogger, on her own, has been a finalist in that category during the 7 years of the award, it raises a red flag. Do you have a theory why only 1 such woman was ever a finalist?

I have previously offered several women who I felt were worthy of being a finalist in this category, and some men have agreed with a couple of my choices. Though men, as a general group, don't see any problems with this category. Women, generally, do see problems.

Is it sexism in this category? It is a fault of the nomination/voting process? Is it that the quality of male wine bloggers is just higher than female wine bloggers? I don't have the answers but I think the discussion has been helpful.

Wine Harlots said...

You either get it, or you don't.
Frank Bruni of NYT and Lindy West of Jezebel are on point and on fire.

All the best,

Nannette Eaton

Tom Wark said...

"Wine writing is very much a male dominated industry, I would argue that the quality bar is set from a male point of view"

This is a fascinating comment and suggestion.

My question would be, if the quality bar for wine writing were set from a female point of view, what would that quality bar look like?

Tom Wark said...

Richard wrote:

"If we agree that at least some women have been snubbed, then the next step may be to try to determine the reason for such. We should consider the possibility of sexism, as well as other possibilities as well. Is it more an issue of the nomination process? Could it be more an issue of female wine bloggers not marketing themselves enough?"

Does "Snubbed" mean they should have won, but did not? Or does it simply mean they did not wine. If it is meant as "they should have won, but did not" then I'm trying to figure out exactly how this conclusion is anything other than opinion.

Richard Auffrey said...

The issue is not whether any female wine bloggers should have "won" the Best Overall Wine Blog category or not. The point is their relative lack of representation as "finalists" in that category. That is the "snubbing", where they don't even have the chance to win.

Tom Wark said...


"You either get it or you don't" isn't a response. It's a retreat.

Our best estimate is that 38% of wine bloggers are women.

If women represented 50 of the finalists in the wine blog awards, would that represent reverse sexism?

I think counting numbers is no evidence of sexisim and Richard is wise to not make that claim.

By my count, about 1/3 of the nominees were were blogs written by women. I don't know what this means. But until someone can give me a genuine metric for determining if and outcome is determined by a prejudice against women that is acted on, the assumption that this prejudice exists and is acted upon is completely unjustified.

If this question is something one really wants to honestly pursue, then you really do need to find a metric by which to discover genuine sexism at play.

But simply throwing marbles on the floor and making unsubstantiated claims that it exists whether we all can see it or note really isn't a genuine attempt at addressing the question.

It's retreating in a huff.

Clive Pursehouse said...

Tom, do you believe racism exists and is a real experience people have? What's the metric people use when they make claims they've experienced racism? What would be acceptable for you? How would you quantify their experience if you can't completely empathize with it? If you can't experience it yourself?

How could a woman possibly convince you that she experiences sexism? What metric could she possibly use to convince you that it exists if you can't perceive the way that she does. How would she possibly ever be able to substantiate her claims to your satisfaction? What's been asked here, by men (of both men and women) is prove it, give me numbers, make your case. One woman has claimed you just don't get it (I'm saying that very thing)is that her retreating in a huff? Or is it you being dismissive of her experience because it's not yours and frankly you "don't see it that way." My point being you cannot.

To use your term, I don't think you'd know "genuine sexism" if it smacked you in the mouth, because homeboy, you can't experience it. Is genuine sexism the male standard by which we agree to recognize sexism?

I wouldn't claim that the Wine Blog Awards are glaringly any more or less sexist than other arenas of our society, but to completely dismiss that claim is defensive, it's not productive and given the realities of society, I'd characterize it as out of touch.

Richard Auffrey said...

Counting numbers is not definitive proof of sexism or bias, but it is a starting point. It is done in many different fields to assess the possibility of such matters.

In this case, as to the Best Overall Wine Blog, there have been a total of 31 finalists during the past 7 years. Only one women, on her own, has been a finalist, which is only about 3%. If women constitute 38% of bloggers, this is a significant disparity which should be investigated.

Do you feel that the 3% figure actually represents the overall quality level of female wine blogs?

Do you believe that the top ten female wine blogs are equally as good as the top ten male wine blogs? If not, by what rough percentage are the male wine blogs better?

Tom Wark said...


You ask good questions, among which is: "How could a woman possibly convince you that she experiences sexism?"

She might begin with any explanation at all. Simply saying sexism is behind the wine blog awards lack of a female winner in the Best Overall category really doesn't do the trick. A woman will need to explain to me why and how it is sexism for us to even begin to take her seriously. A claim alone if of no value.

AS for me being dismissive of her claim, that's absolutely what I'm being because there is nothing to back up her claim. It's just a claim that comes with the defense, "I say so and therefore it must be". Please, take me out back and thrash me around a bit when I start making serious and important claims based on that criteria.

You wrote: "I don't think you'd know "genuine sexism" if it smacked you in the mouth..."

Maybe Clive. But I sure can listen to someone explain to me why the results of the Wine Blog Awards are sexist. Or at least I could if someone would attempt it.

And you are right, my dismissal of the claim of sexism in the awards without any explanation is defensive. The difference is I've explained why I take my position. I've not seen anyone explain the opposite.

Tom Wark said...


You said:

"Do you feel that the 3% figure actually represents the overall quality level of female wine blogs?"

I don't know what that question even means because it's probably not phrased exactly the way you want it to be. What I do know is that it isn't proof in any way of sexism.

What was the percent of Female bloggers in the various years of the Blog Awards? Have you looked at the various blogs that were nominated for "Best OverAll wine blog over the years before the finalists were chosen? Have women avoided nominating women more so than men? Are any of the winners undeserved? Does it really mean anything at all that women have not won best overall, yet have won in numerous other cateogories?

What I believe, Richard, is that men are equally capable of publishing a good blog as men are. What I don't know is if women have published good blogs at the same rate as men.

What I do KNOW, however, is that until someone can actually offer a hypothesis as to why a woman has not won best overall blog that makes sense and isn't just a simple, unsubstantiated claim of sexism, we simply have to assume that the judges rendered their best objective measure of the nominees and finalists.

Richard Auffrey said...


Sorry, but you are incorrect. The 3% figure is evidence of potential sexism. It is not definitive or sufficient proof, but it is a potential building block in making such a case.

Such statistics have been the basis for sexism claims in many other fields. It is a starting point, though not an end point. In addition, so far, no one has provided a well supported explanation for the disparity.

Sexism is a reality in our society, so it is not implausible to think that there could be sexism in the WBA awards. Thus, the questions is valid to ask and consider.

Women have generally been quick to alleged sexism does exist. Men generally have felt the opposite, that there is no evidence of sexism. Neither has really offered additional evidence one way or the other.

The question is not about the "capability" of men vs women bloggers. The question is about the actuality. Most men seem to feel the awards have been a meritocracy, that the choice of finalists has been proper. Though some have agreed on at least a couple women that were deserving to be finalists in this category but who never have been finalists.

The underlying assumption seems to be that the top male wine blogs are more deserving, of higher quality, than the top female wine blogs. Maybe that is the case. If so, that is a worthy topic on its own.

Jason Phelps said...


Several people have suggested that you are using numbers incorrectly, including me. I've done a quick analysis that should help you understand the merit in what we are saying.

I scraped the data from the 2013 WBA nominations and assigned sex with author for just the Overall Wine Blog category. If the sex of the author was unclear or the author was not listed I skipped over it. That loses some resolution, but I don't have time to nail it all down. I ended up with 60 distinct nominees. 17 women and 43 men. That means women were 28% of the nominees. So the women were nominated less than the recent survey about wine bloggers suggests them to represent in the larger community. Hmmm, that is meaningful I think.

Now what I didn't do was look at how many nominations by person to determine how the nominees were weighted, but I don't know if that goes into picking a finalist either. If it does that has to be factored in to make any rational argument about the data.

If you were to expand this analysis to each of the 7 years you would be able to look determine the actual participation rates amongst the two sexes and how those rates of participation and selection as finalists correlate.

Yes, this years finalists in Overall Wine Blog were 100% men, but at 72% of the overall nominees in a small pool (60 total) lets not make something from the data that isn't obvious.

The analysis needed to take your conclusion further has not been done. Unless you are going to do it you need to consider your statements as more conjecture than not.


Richard Auffrey said...

The statistics I have posted are factual. Out of 31 nominations over 7 years, only 1 female wine blogger, on her own, has been a finalist in this category. My only conclusion based on that is that it doesn't seem right. There should have been more female finalists.

Since the nomination pages for all 7 years don't seem to be archived on the WBC site, that makes it far more difficult to provide a greater analysis.

Even based on the numbers you provide, on average there should have been more than 1 female finalist in 7 years. And I am seeking the reason why that might be true.

I know you are defensive about allegations of sexism, but it is something that needs to be considered here, as well as other possible solutions. As I mentioned in another comment, maybe male blogs are just better quality, overall, than female blogs. Do you subscribe to that opinion?

Jason Phelps said...

I don't and my only response is "numbers don't work that way". Just because you think you see a correlation doesn't mean the conclusion you make is true. Your consideration of sexism is a valid topic but the numbers you have available don't support it on their own. You are making a classic analysis error. Clearly you don't realize it. I was trying to help, but I guess it was a waste of my time.


Richard Auffrey said...

Wow, arrogant much? I don't think you understand my post or comments. I think you emotion is clouding your "logic."

You did state on FB yesterday about this discussion that: "In the end I may not be the best person to take part in the conversation..."

Jason Phelps said...

Not arrogant. Confident. I have degrees in Math & Comp Sci. Data analysis is career skill. Thought I might be helping. Nothing in what I provided makes you think there is more to developing the firm conclusion you've drawn?


Richard Auffrey said...

And I am an Attorney, and analyzing evidence & data is a career skill for me.

What exactly do you think is the "firm conclusion" I have made?

Jason Phelps said...

That conclusion is that the proportion of women selected as finalists in the Best Overall Blog category of the WBA seven years running is significantly out of step with the proportion they make up of the overall wine blogger community. The data you present can't be used to draw that conclusion. The one piece of information that I presented that should set the stage for an acknowledgement of that is that this year women were only approx 28% of the nominees in that category.That is 10% below the population representation from the recent survey. Nominations are public so exactly what kind of participation rate you might see against the community at large will only be correlated through random luck. Until you know what the participation rate is for each of the seven years you are comparing numbers that have no correlation. I am trying to explain why I am resistant at face value to believe that there is an identifiable or meaningful cause (quality, sexism, other) for the factual result that women have only been a finalist in the category one time in seven years. There may not be a statistically relevant problem, which we can't know due to lack of data, but if it didn't exist you then would be pursuing the question based solely on the idea in your head that it should be different. I might think it should be different as well, but what if the data suggested that it was random? Don't you want to use information correctly to frame and argument based on data? You could have left the data out and asked the same question, but people like me would have wondered the same thing, where is the evidence in using only the WBA to kick off this conversation?


Richard Auffrey said...

I believe you may be confusing the issue here. You stated my conclusion was: "That conclusion is that the proportion of women selected as finalists in the Best Overall Blog category of the WBA seven years running is significantly out of step with the proportion they make up of the overall wine blogger community."

That is a simple fact. It is a fact that one sole female wine blogger was a finalist during the last 7 years, constituting about 3% of the total finalists. Female wine bloggers constitute roughly 38% of all wine blogs. So there is a large disparity there. If female wine bloggers are equally as skilled as male wine bloggers, this is a major issue.

What you appear to be arguing about, based on everything else you say, is the reason for that disparity, and not actually disputing the number itself. And your position is basically there is no real reason for the disparity except randomness.

The disparity alone though is sufficient to raise a red flag of a potential problem. It is often the starting point when analyzing sexism in many other fields. I have been a witness to this during the last six months. It is not definitive of the matter, but sufficient to start a debate. This is not a single year we are talking about, but a span of 7 years.

If female bloggers only received 28% of nominations, then that too could be potentially indicative of sexism or bias. Why didn't more women received nominations in that category? That is not a random issue.

I don't see this as an issue of normal randomness. I could accept that for a year or two, but 7 years stretches credibility. Flipping a coin gives you a rough 50% chance of getting heads. What is the chance of flipping heads 7 times in a row? Much, much less.

Plus, at this point, there is more than the disparity at issue. I put forth several names of women bloggers who I thought worthy of being a finalist but were not, and at least some men agreed with a couple of those names. Why were they apparently snubbed? In addition, several women have stepped forward and alleged sexism. We can't just ignore their claims.

None of this may have come out with someone starting this discussion.

Jason Phelps said...

Your assertions about the data do not hold up the way you think they do. I know how your work and won't back off even one inch. Sadly that means you make it seem as those others are taking shots at you personally. That is not the case. You could just say,
"You know what Jason, you make a good point, we don't actually have apples to apples data here and as such there is no firm ground to suggest a statistically significant problem." But you aren't. Maybe I am barking up the wrong tree.

Just know that passion alone doesn't make someone right. I'm not taking a personal stance here, I am just trying to sift through data and make REAL information out of it. But I'm done with that now.


Richard Auffrey said...

So rather than actually address what I have said, you choose to simply claim that I am wrong and then walk away.

I know of your own stubborness, and I also know this is an emotional topic for you, which you have previously admitted to.

Let me compare this to a hypothetical. Let us posit that women wrote 38% of the science fiction novels. There is an Award for Best SF Novel. In the last 7 years, only 1 woman was ever a finalist for this Award. There would be a large upswell of people investigating potential sexism because of the disparity in numbers. It would be seen as statistically significant.

How do I know that is true? Because I have seen similar things occur in the publishing field during the last 6 months or so. And I have also done research into sexism & bias in recent months, which also includes analyzing such numbers.

Jason Phelps said...

Yes, because it would appear that nobody makes a valid point but you. Look at your own replies to me and others.

The phrase "simple fact" is root of the problem. The numbers you compare to assert this as you do are not relatable the way you try to use them. The populations of wine bloggers and wine blog award nominees are hierarchical, one is a subset of the other, and an organically created subset. It is NOT a random sample of the parent population.

If I used data the way you are I would lose my job. Just for a moment consider why I would make such a strong statement. I don't care about being right, but a mistake is a mistake and you take great pains to point out when others make them fully expecting them to listen. Maybe it is your turn.


Richard Auffrey said...

I think you care very much about being right.

And the way I am viewing the "simple fact" is how many others have also done so in similar situations. That is what I explained with my publishing example. And it is seen as legitimate in many fields.

I honestly think your position is based on a confusion of my actual point. I think you are confusing the position that "a disparity is significant" with a position that "the disparity indicates sexism."

Jason Phelps said...

I humbly suggest you ship your data and simple facts off to somebody who will subject it to an independent and objective analysis. I obviously can't help you.

Being right makes no difference to me, I gain nothing in this case. As a friend all I was trying to do was add meaningful character the the conversation.


Tom Wark said...


Simply because someone claims sexism, this is no reason at all to take the claim seriously. If a claim of sexism had been made and supported with something more than "Well, yeah, there is sexism", then there might be reason to take the claim seriously. But a simple claim?

Also, being an attorney who is skilled in investigation and use of evidence, tell me, how would you go about conducting the investigation to determine if sexism exists—an investigation you claim needs to happen given your irregular statistical model.

Finally, before we go any further, can you explain how "sexism" would be acted upon in the context of the Wine Blog Awards?

Richard Auffrey said...

The sexism angle seems to be dominating the discussion, though I have said from the beginning that it is only one of several possibilities. I think an examination is warranted to determine why so few women have been finalists in the Best Overall Wine Blog. It would not be just a sexism examination but would be far more general in scope.

It would start with a more deeper investigation of the statistics of nominations, finalist selection and voting for the 7 years of the Awards. Though that of course depends on whether such records were kept and still exist by the WBA organizers.

If sexism existed in the contest of the WBA, how would it be acted on? It would depend in part in where it originated. For example, it could be an issue of the judges, which might require a better balance of male and female judges.

In the end, maybe there is no sexism involved in the WBA. Maybe there is some other reason for the disparity. But, there is the perception from a number of women that sexism is involved. Maybe an examination of the situation could help to quash such perceptions.

Tom Wark said...


As far as I can tell you are suggesting that a statistical analysis alone would lead you to believe that sexism is a likely culprit for their not being any women as finalists in the Wine Blog Awards.

I'm not clear how you come to this conclusion.

Also, I'm not clear exactly what is being suggested where "sexism" is concerned. Is the suggestion that there are those who are prejudiced against women to the point that given the opportunity to vote for a woman, they won't? How do you measure that?

Finally, if you had statistics that showed what percent of women were nominated for awards (across all categories) over the past 7 years, at what percent of the nominees would you be prepared to say there is a good sign of sexism at play? Below 50%? Below 40%? Below 30%? Below 20%?

Richard Auffrey said...

Why do you continue to concentrate on the sexism angle when I have stated multiple times that it is only one possible answer out of numerous others?

I also am not saying a statistical analysis "alone" is sufficient. I stated that was the "starting point" of the examination. Obviously more investigatory work would be required, but I think the statistical analysis is a good place to begin.

And the idea is not to look at a specific percentage and say that is "sexism." The idea is to look more closely at nominating/voting patterns and seek out potential anomalies.

The basic question is why has only one female wine blogger, on her own, has been nominated in the Best Overall Wine Blog category. There is a reason for such, and I think it is important to understand that reason.

Tom Wark said...


I'm focusing on this issue of Sexism because it's the subject of your post and because you've noted that since some women have claimed this is the case, it needs to be investigated.

Also, I think focusing on on the Best Overall category isn't the best approach to take. I would suggest that looking at all finalists and all winners across all categories is the way to go.

So, once we find an anomaly, what next? What is the next specific step to take to determine if Sexism is at the heart of the wine blog awards.

Richard Auffrey said...

I suggest you reread my post. Yes, sexism is part of the post, but it is far from the only point. The post clearly indicates I have made NO conclusions about the reason behind the apparent disparity.

Any such examination should not be conducted exclusively to prove sexism or not. The goal is to determine the reason, whatever it might be, for the anomaly.

I have not written a step by step plan for any such examination. And am not about to devote all that time to creating one at this point. If the organizers of the WBA want to investigate the matter, I am sure they can determine the proper course of action.

I hope that my post simply raises awareness of a potential issue. It is up to others whether they want to investigate it or not.

Though I would say there is probably another issue which has arisen, outside of the WBA, that of "perceived" sexism in the wine blogging community. Why do many women believe there is sexism there but many men do not?

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