Louise Los and Fleur Godart are two women, French, activists, who work in a predominantly male environment: that of wine. One of their little batches goes by a name that doesn’t go unnoticed: “Feminist Whores,” a snub to an insult they’ve heard before. On the label, a colorful illustration of women, naked, with middle fingers on their chests.

This small cuvée of natural wine is distributed in France, Spain, Sweden, Great Britain, Belgium. “We even send these cuvées to China,” notes Louise Los, head of militant cuvées at Vins et Poulailles, a wine and poultry wholesaler. If it’s in China, it’s everywhere. »

No, because in Quebec, it does not pass. The Société des alcools du Québec (SAQ) refused private importation in mid-June, La Presse has learned. Some 120 bottles of Feminist Putes, intended for Quebec restaurateurs (and not the displays of the SAQ), are retained in France.

On June 15, when the order was ready to go, the SAQ’s Private Orders Department wrote a terse email to the team at Vin dans les voiles, the private Montreal import agency that represents Wines and Poultry. “Due to the name of the product, Quality Management asks us to reject the Feminist Whores product,” it read. It should be noted that, even for private wine imports, the SAQ remains the importer in Quebec.

The Vin dans les voiles team responded to the SAQ to explain the context and the project’s approach, but were told again that, “unfortunately, this product will be refused, unequivocally”.

According to Linda Bouchard, information officer at the SAQ, the cuvée in question does not comply with the Code of Ethics of the Quebec alcoholic beverage industry. This document specifies, among other things, that the communication and the packaging must not associate the product with any “act of provocation” or in any way be “sexist”, points out Ms. Bouchard.

Feminist whores is “really a term that can be perceived as abusive, offensive, negative, sexist, pejorative. Our intention is really never to hurt anyone,” says Linda Bouchard. The label doesn’t fit either, she says, given the presence of nudity.

The reaction of the SAQ surprises Julie Audette, founder of Vin dans les voiles, who sees it as a form of censorship and who hopes that the state company will reconsider its decision.

On the other side of the ocean, within the team of Wines and Poultry, it is the same disappointment. First, because this refusal comes at the very last minute. Then, because this project has a “political and social significance”, according to Louise Los. The decision to name the cuvée thus was taken in the wake of the movement

“It is also a way of making our media – wine and labels – a space for debate, a space for asserting our existence,” explains Louise Los. Wines and Poultry offers other so-called “militant” cuvées, such as Male Tears, You’ve not yet met the good one, or Differently-abled. Each time, part of the money is donated to associations related to the cause, specifies Ms. Los.

Julie Audette finds it paradoxical that the SAQ refuses to import this little militant cuvée when in 2023 we still find beer labels which, in her eyes, present women as objects. Martine Delvaux, professor in the department of literary studies at UQAM, has the same thought. She thinks of Archibald’s beer campaign, which features stereotypical white women.

Since the Putes féministes cuvée will not be found in stores, Martine Delvaux sees no problem. “I personally really like this type of project,” she says, “especially when you know how much the wine industry can also be a place of sexism. »

According to Léa Clermont-Dion, filmmaker and postdoctoral research associate at Concordia University, the justification of sexism invoked by the SAQ is not logical, since the intention of the project is precisely to denounce sexist insult.

This is not the first time that the SAQ has refused a product. According to a 2012 La Presse article, she did this for the Burgundy winemaker’s cuvée, whose labels showed humorous illustrations of men and women naked or in undershirts. A cuvée by Jean-François Ganevat named “J’en envie” and showing the silhouette of a woman in her underwear with a hand in her panties was also intercepted, but the representative was still able to distribute his bottles by having a sign letter to his clients.

Is this a feasible path for Feminist Whores? Linda Bouchard of the SAQ doesn’t believe him. “In this case, it’s extreme,” she concludes, pointing out that the process behind the product – “honorable” – has nothing to do with the decision.