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France: wine workshop where heterosexual men are banned

Delphine Aslan has been offering wine workshops for women and queer people for several years. In bars or at home, the trained wine merchant wants to create moments of conviviality around cuvées to be tasted without complex.

What are the “ mixed-choice ” tastings that you organize with your Oenologouine association ?

These are evenings open to everyone except cis men. The idea is to discover the world of wine, in a relaxed atmosphere, without sexism or paternalism. My audience is mainly made up of women, more specifically lesbian women. These are people who particularly appreciate the fact of being together and being able to ask all the questions that come to their mind. There is no judgment in the air or a desire to look smarter than others: we laugh and learn without complex! For a few hours, I let them taste many bottles while offering them some directions to fully appreciate them.

Your initiative is part of a feminist perspective. You defend the idea of " safe places " , where you can be fully yourself without having to justify yourself ...

That's right. The Œnologouine association was born from the desire to offer a setting in which we do not leave our legitimacy at the entrance. It all started with an observation: many queer and lesbian women around me would never have gone to a workshop if it was not organized by one of their own. There is the fear of being despised, isolated, embarrassed... So, rather than asking myself why such a place didn't exist, I went for it and created the initiative. Of course, I first had "impersonator syndrome" and wondered if I was really legitimate to do so. But when I then saw the enthusiasm of each other during these workshops, I told myself that the demand was very real.

During these evenings, what can you observe that you would not see in a classic workshop?

There is a very pleasant general climate, jokes, sincere remarks, but also a common cultural reference. The dialogue is spontaneous. And then, there are signs of affection between some of the participants. It sounds trivial when you're straight, but when you're a lesbian, it's invaluable to know that you can be comfortable enough in a place to hold hands or kiss in front of everyone. It is a real moment of breathing in everyday life.

What experience of sexism have you had when tasting wines with men?
When I was in class at my cellar school in Paris, many men, as bad as they were, felt more legitimate than others and already proclaimed themselves specialists when we were barely at the start of school year. It's a way of occupying space that leaves little room for others. By creating a climate of competition, some always want to be smart and be more ahead of the rest of the class. It is not an atmosphere conducive to learning.

Have you ever received complaints about the choice of the chosen mix?
I have already been asked to exceptionally accept the presence of a man during a workshop, arguing in particular that he was "very nice". I fully understand it but I want to respect my principle until the end. Even a "very nice" man can be enough to intimidate. His very presence can take away the spontaneity of the group. So it's good if he is "very nice", but in this case, I invite him to leave and be "very nice" elsewhere. In other words, in the other wine workshops that are open to him, that is all I have to say [Laughs].

Source: Libération
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