Bartending: It’s good money, if you’re good; extremely flexible, if you’re an artist; and fun, if you are fascinated by humanity and culture. In particular, as a female bartender, you come to know a certain section of the population commonly referred to as “men.” And you come to know them when they are, shall we say, not at their best. Okay, obviously #NotAllMen, but there are a couple of specific remarks that many well-meaning guys will say to a female bartender. Since we’re entering an era where millions are working to draw attention to misogyny, I thought it may be prudent to take a moment to highlight a couple of these very common unwoke statements men make when addressing female bartenders.
Before I get into my personal list of verbal offenses, I think it’s important to note that this is not a list of unpleasant things said by drunk people. That list could go on for days, and while alcohol is a reason, it is never an excuse for sexism, racism, and/or homophobia. This is not that list. The list below consists of the seemingly harmless remarks said by stone-sober bros. Most are the product of the current culture around beer/liquor and the role women play when liquor is involved — you know what I’m talking about: the role perpetuated by alcohol ads, which feature women as either the bringers of alcohol or as an object similar to alcohol, sexualized and ripe for the taking. Below are the “innocent” phrases I have let slide in the past, phrases I ignored because of either fear or shame, or because I needed the money. And it. Ends. NOW.
“What’s your name?”
When you work in the service industry, especially as a woman, a flag goes up when “what’s your name?” is the first statement out of a guy’s mouth. Sure, there is definitely a time when asking for my name is appropriate, perhaps after we’ve shared some commonality (“Hey, we both ran cross country in Division 3 in Wisconsin!”), at which point it seems silly not to know each other’s names. But to ask for my name when you first walk in? Why? I can guarantee it’s not because you are the friendliest man alive. Ninety-nine percent of the time, men who immediately ask for my name end up using it as a way to get what they want above everyone else and/or as emotional manipulation by playing to my kindness with the false familiarity they’ve forced upon us. Unless your female bartender is wearing a name tag as required by her current employer, leave her name out of it.
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“I really like your face, smile, hair, clothes, makeup, etc.”
“But it’s JUST a compliment! What kind of PC culture are we living in where we can’t even give you ladies a compliment anymore?! Ugh, liberals!” is what I imagine dudes who compliment me saying to this objection. Listen dudes, before coming at me with the “Why nots” and “What’s wrong with it?” let me ask you this: Why are you complimenting us, and why must you? Seriously, the next time it comes into your mind to compliment a woman you do not know, ask yourself what is motivating you to do it. Is that really the most sensational hair style you’ve ever seen in your life OR is it anything other than that? If your answer is the former, next time, keep it to yourself. Compliments are not to women as CO2 is to plants; we don’t need them breathed on us to survive. If you do not know if you can help yourself, ask yourself this very simple question next time you want to compliment a woman you do not know: Would you be giving her this compliment if she were a man?
“Wow, you really know your beer, bourbon, Scotch, etc.”
Wooooooooow. Wow. Also, wow. Okay, imagine you’re at a bank, right? And the teller — female — helps you with a transaction and she does her job seamlessly. Does it occur to you to say to her, “Wow, you really know your banking!”? No! Because that would be weird. It’s JUST as weird to comment in surprise and fascination that a woman working behind the bar really knows her liquor. Of course we do! This is our JOB! It’s degrading to compliment us for doing our job at its base level. The tip for avoiding this one is very simple: Imagine a woman reacting in surprise and fascination when you perform a rudimentary task at your job, a field that you have worked in for over 15 years. Oh, you didn’t know that most people who work in the bar industry have done so for many years? Oh, sorry; from now on assume they have, just to be safe.
Men and #NotAllMen: From this day forward, be aware of what you’re saying. Regardless of whether you are sober or drunk, you will be held accountable. It is time to think before you speak and to be better with the things you say.
Since this last election, something very exciting is happening. I am witnessing bars once again returning to the hubs and centers of culture they once were. People are having more fascinating conversations about society, humanity, and culture than I have witnessed in a long time. As a bartender, my goal is to help facilitate in strengthening these conversations, and I think part of that starts with respecting myself and requiring that same respect from others. Maybe then I won’t just be a woman behind the bar; I’ll be a human.