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Friday, February 16, 2018

Four Charleston food and bev workers sat down with Vice to talk about #MeToo

Wong: "I was always just surprised that there weren’t more men accused in the industry"

Posted by Adam Manno on Fri, Feb 16, 2018 at 11:01 AM

click to enlarge PHOTO VIA HBO/VICE NEWS TONIGHT
  • Photo via HBO/Vice News Tonight
Four women from various rungs of Charleston's hospitality industry sat down with Vice News Tonight to discuss sexual misconduct in the food and beverage industry.

The segment aired last night, Thurs. Feb. 15, on HBO as part of a special broadcast on the aftermath of the #MeToo movement.

The hashtag became a popular, and powerful, social media tool for women to share their own experiences with sexual misconduct and harassment following the onslaught of misconduct allegations that shook the entertainment and media worlds in the fall of 2017, beginning with an Oct. 5 New York Times article on Miramax founder Harvey Weinstein's improprieties.

Since then, the levees protecting those accused of misconduct, mostly men, from facing the consequences of their actions have burst in multiple industries. One of those is food and beverage, as documented by CP contributor Enid Spitz in a piece that ran on Dec. 5.

"I was always just surprised that there weren’t more men accused in the industry," said Butcher & Bee pastry chef Cynthia Wong, who spoke to CP for our December story. "There’s a certain kind of ass slapping kind of attitude that goes on."

Wong previously told CP about an incident in which she was kissed by vendor without her permission.

Isabella Macbeth, a raw bar manager at Rappahannock Oyster Bar, offered a unique viewpoint as a trans woman who transitioned while working in the industry. She said that most of the harassment she saw came from the kitchen, directed at the often underage girls working in the front-of-house.

"A new girl — might be 16-years-old — walks in to get a hostess job and all the guys in the kitchen are scrambling out the door to look at the peephole and go, 'I have dibs,' 'I saw her first,' 'She’s mine, no one can touch her,' and it’s just, like, total power ownership."

"For me it was really shocking after I transitioned and I tried to open up to some of the other girls in the restaurant, and they’d just go, 'Well, that’s just part of what we deal with, welcome to being a woman.'"

April Robinson, who most recently ran Butter Tapas in North Charleston, also touched on the difficulty of navigating an industry dominated by men as both a black person and a woman.

"Not only do I feel like I have to work ten times harder being a female, I now have to work 10 times harder because I’m a black female. In some cases, I’m just as good or better as who I’m going up against, but I’m not recognized because: One, female. Two, black."

More than half of employed black women (53 percent) said they experienced some type of gender discrimination at work, compared to 40 percent of white or Hispanic women, according to a survey by the Pew Research Center released in December.

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