Last week, The New York Times published a rigorously reported, explosive article detailing graphic accounts of sexual harassment and abuse at the hands of the highest members of the Court of Master Sommeliers, one of the wine world\u2019s most esteemed organizations. So far, seven prominent male master sommeliers have been named, and are suspended pending further investigation.\r\n\r\nAlpana Singh, the first South Asian woman to obtain the Master Sommelier (MS) title, and youngest-ever MS-designate at the time, renounced her title less than a week after the article published.\r\n\r\n\u201cThe biggest lesson I learned from all of this, and I\u2019m sure there\u2019ll be many more lessons to come, is that I will no longer be part of an organization and just assume that things are okay, and if I\u2019m going to put my name on something, I need to actively question everything,\u201d says Singh.\r\n\r\nShe is one of several female members of the Court who immediately pledged solidarity with the sexual harassment survivors and one another.\r\n\u201cAt the end of the day, I stepped away from the Court because of harassment; it wasn\u2019t sexual harassment, but anything that forces you to be less than your authentic self is a violation of who you are as a person.\u201d\u2014Alpana Singh\r\nAccording to the San Francisco Chronicle, 27 female Master Sommeliers signed a statement to express their support. Three female Advanced Sommeliers created a petition to demand sweeping changes to the CMS. More than 730 signatories vow to boycott CMS events, including proctoring exams, until the organization\u2019s entire Board of Directors resigns.\r\n\r\nChicago sommelier, wine store owner and Wine Enthusiast 40 Under 40 honoree Derrick Westbrook posted a letter of solidarity to his Instagram account.\r\n\r\n\u201cI stand with these women... As a society, particularly as men we have to continue to critique and fight against our own privileges. Strive to unlearn out problematic indoctrination. When I say we I mean myself as well... Progress doesn\u2019t happen at the pace of the privileged,\u201d he wrote.\r\n\r\nUnfortunately, this isn't the first scandal to hit the Court. A cheating scandal rocked the industry in 2018, and, this summer, the Court received allegations of discriminatory practices in the wake of the country\u2019s reckoning with racism after George Floyd\u2019s murder.\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nSingh doesn\u2019t feel optimistic that the Court can preserve its reputation. \u201c[The organization as it stands] cannot be salvaged.\u201d\r\n\r\nMegan Bauer, co-founder of The Way We Wine, a community wine site, obtained Advanced Sommelier certification with the Court in March 2020. \u201cI always felt the need to be careful around certain men and be wary of \u2018kind\u2019 offers to help me prepare,\u201d she says.\r\n\r\nShe became more disillusioned with the Court this summer.\r\n\r\n\u201cThe MS designation lost a lot of value to me after the improper handling of the Black Lives Matter response. Lately, I have been thinking a lot about privilege, and those that can give up having their pins.\r\n\r\n\u201cBeing a Master [Sommelier] with the CMS can lead to increased opportunities to jobs, greater income, travel and further education\u2026I had been on the fence about pursuing the MS for many reasons, [because of] a lack of transparency and gatekeeping. This final piece just secured my belief that they are an organization more interested in protecting their fraternity\u2026[rather] than the candidates pursuing their membership.\u201d\r\n\r\nSingh says she hadn\u2019t experienced sexual abuse at the hands of the Court, but her relationship with it was already fraught when these allegations came to light.\r\n\r\n\u201cAt the end of the day, I stepped away from the Court because of harassment; it wasn\u2019t sexual harassment, but anything that forces you to be less than your authentic self is a violation of who you are as a person.\u201d\r\n\r\nFor her, the coup de grace was the perceived apathy of the Court in creating an inclusive, safe environment. She petitioned to be on their newly formed Diversity Committee earlier this year and was not chosen, and she was less than enamored with the Court\u2019s BLM response. As a result, terminating her membership and renouncing the title that she worked incredibly hard to earn was less complicated than it might seem.\r\n\r\n\u201cIt\u2019s actually not a stance; it\u2019s basic logic,\u201d Singh says.\r\n\r\nLaura Maniec Fiorvanti, MS, also resigned from the Court this week. \u201cThe Court\u2019s inability to be an inclusive, proactive organization that represents and protects all its members is unacceptable to me,\u201d she wrote in a statement posted to Instagram.\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nSo, where does the wine industry go from here? Well, the first step is already in play\u2014talking about it.\r\n\r\n\u201cWhen the article came out, there was actually this sense of relief for me. Like, oh my God, this is finally going to be an issue we can talk about,\u201d Sara Floyd, MS, told San Francisco Chronicle last week.\r\n\r\nThe next phase is to determine how meaningful organizations like the Court will be in the future. Singh believes female wine professionals can determine this for themselves.\r\n\r\n\u201cIt\u2019s never too late to get justice for yourself. The way you take your power back is by owning your story,\u201d she says. \u201cThe long arc towards history always bends towards justice. That should be our mantra. People like us didn\u2019t believe in our own power.\r\n\r\n\u201cI didn\u2019t believe in my own power, but now I do. And it\u2019s because of these women.\u201d\r\n\r\nThe Court of Master Sommeliers was contacted but declined to comment on this story.