You may have heard: Nancy Rommelmann, a journalist who's married to the owner of Portland coffee company Ristretto Roasters, has kicked-off a web series that seeks to analyze—and, mostly, delegitimize—the #MeToo movement and modern feminism as a whole. Called #MeNeither, the three-episode show consists of Rommelmann chatting with Penthouse columnist Leah McSweeney about current events related to sexual assault and feminism.
"In many cases, trauma is a choice. You get to decide whether that person that pinched your ass is going to dictate the next 15 years of your life," Rommelmann says, questioning why Christine Blasey Ford took so long to talk about her teenage sexual assault. "Just, like, move on."
Rommelman also "presumes" Louis CK is no longer masturbating in front of women and believes the woman who detailed her unwelcome sexual experience with Aziz Ansari was just trying to get attention.
"So you had bad sex and that you regretted in the morning," she says. "Like, join the fucking club. It’s not someone else’s fault."
Rommelmann and McSweeny tear into the Women's March, accuse celebrities who said Harvey Weinstein sexually abused them of lying, and blame Anthony Bourdain's death on his girlfriend's infidelity.
It's easy to brush off Rommelmann's privileged, tired rhetoric as outrage-bait that doesn't deserve our time and/or platform. But, in this case, Rommelmann's words are directly impacting Portlanders who work under her.
"Sexual abuse is not to be taken lightly," says Camila Coddou, a former operations manager for Ristretto Roasters. "It's a bold move when you co-own a company with thirty-plus employees. For the people on staff who are survivors of assault to know they're employed by someone who negates their experience... it's upsetting."
Coddou and thirty other past and present employees of Ristretto Roasters sent a letter to Portland media outlets yesterday underscoring these concerns.
An excerpt: "We believe it is a business owner’s responsibility to create a safe and supportive working environment for their employees. Invalidating assault survivors throws into question the safety of Ristretto Roasters as a workplace and has the potential to create a demoralizing and hostile environment for employees and customers alike. This cannot be tolerated."
Ristretto Roasters owner Din Johnson sent an email to employees this week explaining that his wife, Rommelmann, is "neither an owner nor employee of Ristretto," and that her journalism is unrelated to his company.
"This company is not in the business of policing other people's decisions and political lives," Johnson continued. "We have no skin in the game here. We make coffee!"
Coddou, however, said she worked closely with Rommelmann on many major business decisions during her five years employed for Ristretto Roasters.
"Everyone was told she was an authority figure at Ristretto Roasters, and she acted like it," says Coddou, who left Ristretto Roasters in October 2018.
Coddou is not surprised by Rommelmann's perspective on sexual assault. She said she considered it a part of her own job to keep Rommelmann's potentially damaging viewpoints from impacting other employees.
"She likes to provoke," Coddou says. Coddou, who now manages a tattoo parlor, says her public opposition to Rommelmann's rhetoric has already cost her a job. According to Coddou, she was lined up to start a job as a bookkeeper with a company that contracted with Ristretto Roasters. After the company's owner saw her making public comments about the #MeNeither videos, the job offer disappeared.
"[The owner] told me she couldn't work with someone who was spreading slander about the owner of a company they work with," says Coddou. "Nancy is the one who engaged in poor behavior, but I guess she thought it was easier to lose me over Ristretto. I'm the dispensable one."
But Coddou's not grieving over the lost job. Instead, she says she feels fortunate to be able to speak out about Rommelmann's disturbing perspectives—especially when many current Ristretto Roasters staff fear it could cost them their work.
"As a woman of color in coffee, this is my responsibility to make [this situation] known," Coddou says. "Consumers have the right to know who they're supporting."