Wine writer Marissa A. Ross is known as much for her outspoken activism as she is for her quick wit and love of natural wine. When asked what inspired her to take up this mantle, here’s what she had to say.
Before, I never had the words. The only “assault” anyone talked about was with a deadly weapon. No one considered varsity football players, co-workers or friends “deadly weapons.” To be a “feminist” was to be a nun with a bad haircut, a house full of otter paintings and a burning hatred of men for no reason. “Depression” was an excuse, “anxiety” was unreasonable sensitivity and “suicide” was just downright pathetic. The vocabulary that existed had been demonized, while the cruelty around me was ignored. How was anyone to speak?
“Sexual assault, mental health, equal rights and intersectionality…don’t just affect the wine industry—they affect every industry.”
I didn’t until I had to, until October 7, 2016. I know the date because it has its own Wikipedia page, because it was the day an audiotape of a prominent figure making light of assault was leaked. When I heard that tape, I didn’t just hear that man. I heard the football players unzipping their pants; my ex-boyfriend saying he didn’t rape me because he didn’t remember it; my department at work laughing about the black eye I gave our co-worker after he assaulted me; the silence from my friends when it came out that one of them attacked me in my own home. I heard what my body had been telling me for so long, that I was depressed, and I had anxiety. And I heard what my heart told me, that I was a feminist and I was done listening. I was ready to start talking.
I still don’t have all the words. I’m still working through it all just like you might be.
But I don’t believe it’s worth having a platform if you don’t use it, and I’m using mine to talk about sexual assault, mental health, equal rights and intersectionality as often as I can because they don’t just affect the wine industry—they affect every industry, every human, every day. And I’m not talking about these issues because I consider myself an activist. It’s because I’m a human who has found her voice.