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Commentary: On the Matter of Gender Inequality in the World of Cigars

28 May 2014

On most Friday nights my mom and stepdad attend karaoke at a nearby bar, the Mercantile Club. While most bars no longer allow smoking, this is a social club where one has to sign up for membership, so they are able to smoke cigars in the bar.

There are some general rules to follow while doing this. First, it is considered impolite to sit next to someone who is eating while smoking your cigar. Second, it is generally considered better to sit near the big vents (the “smoke eaters”), as opposed to further away from them. Both of these guidelines make a lot of sense to me.

What doesn’t make sense is the reaction my mother got on a recent Friday. During karaoke, my stepdad was trying a new Dominican blend, attempting to find something to replace a stick which he recently found out was a limited release, and my mom smoked some of the cigar as well, saying she enjoyed the flavor. While my stepdad was away, a man lectured her on the dangers of smoking cigars, and told her she was “too pretty to be doing that anyway.” Let me make clear that I have smoked cigars in the Mercantile Club a number of times—many times with that same man in the bar—and I have never received this lecture.

Maybe a second anecdote will show my point a little clearer. I was in a large cigar store a few weeks ago just hanging out, smoking, reading, and minding my own business. A man, who I’ve never met, let alone ever said anything to, just taps me on the shoulder, points at the TV, and says, “Hey, check out the tits of that brawd.” I ignored him.

Why is it that as soon as one enters a cigar shop, they feel they have a free pass to talk about women in an objectifying manner? Or to treat women cigar smokers differently? While this is not true for everyone, I have a lot of anecdotal evidence to suggest it is a prevalent problem. I noticed from working weekends at my cigar lounge that a lot of the older men think that our business is an “escape” for them from their wives, and this gives them an excuse to say anything they want.

Let’s get this straight: A cigar lounge is an environment for anyone, regardless of their gender, race, political affiliation, class, sexual identity, etc.

The fact that my mom had to ask me, “Is there something weird about me smoking a cigar?” disgusts me, and it should disgust anyone involved in this fine hobby. We’re better than this; cigar smokers are some of the best people around. And there is nothing about cigar smoking that makes it an exclusively “male” hobby. If a woman walks into a cigar shop, she should be treated just like anyone else: a customer. And we don’t need to assume, just based on gender, that she only likes mild cigars, or only smokes flavored cigars.

I won’t even get into the realm of borderline-sexist cigar advertisements (yes, we get it; a cigar is phallic in shape). I would just like cigar smokers to think about whether you would like to be coddled or objectified the next time you go to relax and enjoy a smoke.

As always, if any of you have similar stories to share, or thoughts on the matter, please let me know in the comments.

Joey J

photo credit: N/A

9 Responses to “Commentary: On the Matter of Gender Inequality in the World of Cigars”

  1. Anders Wednesday, May 28, 2014 at 8:23 am #

    In my experience at cigar shops, lounges, and rare places that allow cigar smoking, the VAST MAJORITY of brothers of the leaf are exactly as I would expect: gentlemen.

    But I do agree that a disproportionate number of guys tend to take liberties with gender equality in cigar shops over other places. Let's face it: This industry is still an old guys club, and it caters almost exclusively to men.

    I'd be interested on stats about the % of women who smoke cigars versus the % of men. I would expect a big difference.

    Thanks for your thoughts on this, Joey.

  2. Timothy Black Wednesday, May 28, 2014 at 9:13 am #

    The worst is the topless body painted models at some events. So embarrassing and cringeworthy. Bikini "models" and sad, fat guys hanging on them.

  3. Joey Jobes Wednesday, May 28, 2014 at 10:19 am #

    The "old guys club"/"good ol' boy" mentality is exactly what I would try to rail against here. Thank you both for your intelligent, thought-out comments. I was nervous when writing this that the post would somehow become a flame war.

  4. Patrick Ashby Wednesday, May 28, 2014 at 1:38 pm #

    As a small sub-segment of the population that’s sometimes reviled by the media, politicians, and general passers-by, we cigar smokers should be extra vigilant to genuinely welcome any interested parties into our ranks. This includes women. Whether they’re smoking, perusing a tobacconist for a gift for someone else, or involved in any other way, women need to be treated equally and respectfully in the world of cigars.

    Most of the time, I’ve witnessed brothers of the leaf being nothing but gentlemen. This is the way it can and should be for all of us.

    There’s a lot more than can—and probably should—be said on this topic. For now, I applaud Joey for raising this as an issue, especially when it’s a lot easier to turn a blind eye.

  5. Franca Wednesday, May 28, 2014 at 11:33 pm #

    This is a good topic. I typically get to talk about cigars with open minded gentlemen. They take me for who I am, someone sharing their same interest and passion.
    I believe that a real change needs to come from women in the first place. We need to keep considering equality as a normal routine, and not focus on nor exploit others' limitations. There is a lot of room in the world of respect.

  6. George Thursday, May 29, 2014 at 7:14 am #

    Great words, Joey! Congratulations for taking part in this serious issue!

  7. Todd Folk Thursday, May 29, 2014 at 11:00 am #

    Great post, as a shop owner, I find this to be a necessary talking point. One of the greatest compliments I ever received was from a patron's wife (she never buys, nor smokes, but comes with her husband). She said that she feels welcome at my lounge, and then stressed how most cigar lounges she always felt unwanted, and uneasy. That is an issue in my opinion. A happy wife makes a happy man. While I really don't expect anyone to argue for a different treatment of women on this thread, I do urge each of you, the next time you see a woman in your lounge, observe how other and you treat her.

  8. rustyshacklefordiv Saturday, May 31, 2014 at 2:30 pm #

    I enjoy taking my wife, and sometimes, my mom, to places were cigar smoking is permitted. That said, I think its important to have a place for guys to be guys. Traditionally, I think the cigar bar, or the golf course were popular choices, but nowadays, I think its harder to find a gender specific hangout. I always conduct myself as a gentleman in the company of the fairer sex, but if some dude points out some boobs to me in a guys only atmosphere, I won't be offended. Just a little creeped out.

  9. Mike H in Kingsville Monday, June 2, 2014 at 11:21 am #

    Nice article. This is a hobby and great detail is spent on the proper way to light, store, smoke, handle, describe, etc., a cigar and that detail is worth reading. This is a gentleman's hobby and should be enjoyed by gentlemen, and there is no room for stereotyping here regardless of demographics – especially if there is a desire to broaden the hobby and keep government legislation away.