Female Server

An Insight to Male Chauvinism
Within the Service Industry

“Hey Blondie, where’s the bathroom?”

  Thursday dinner shift, around 5:30pm. I’m walking through my restaurant’s dining room towards the bar-top. It isn’t very busy so I’m on my way to visit with a friend who works as the bartender.

On my way there, a man behind me says loudly, “Hey Blondie, where’s the bathroom?”

I didn’t doubt he was addressing me since there was no-one else in the hallway. I automatically turn and respond with the practiced smile I use on all our customers: “Straight down the hallway and through the archway.”
Without thanking me he proceeds down the direction I indicate. A moment passes.

Then it begins to sting. 

Hey Blondie? Really? Is that the way to address a woman? Even if they are on shift? And what kind of phenomenon is this that it is socially acceptable to interact differently with servers (or any customer service worker) than with strangers on the street? More frightening than this, what kind of society do we live in that expects workers to accept this type of interaction from strangers, and to do so with a smile?

I continue to the bar, mulling this over and becoming increasingly frustrated. How dare he address me by my hair colour, as if he could use one part of my body as a label. How dare he assume that my identity was represented by my hair? How would he feel if I had responded by addressing him according to his hair colour, or lack thereof in this particular case as he was bald.

Female servers frequently endure sexist comments from both male staff and male customers. It’s tempting to say that female servers endure varying degrees of sexism depending on the type of restaurant they work at. I can imagine some men arguing that women who work at Hooters, or Cactus Club, or other such restaurants that require women to wear revealing uniforms are the only ones who suffer sexism. That women who work at White Spot or Denny’s, where the uniforms are less fitted and less revealing, don’t have to deal with catcalls and inappropriate remarks, or if they do then it is only very infrequently. It is only one small step from this line of thinking to the type of victim blaming that is so common in our society concerning women’s issues. Are women who wear lots of makeup, short skirts, and high heels to work “asking” for it? Absolutely not. Nothing a woman can wear, do, or say gives permission to a man to objectify or assault her, whether verbally, physically, or emotionally.

After my “blondie” experience at work, I began to berate myself for stifling my feminist identity and not taking a stand the moment he addressed me thus. But this is how I have been conditioned. Not only by my restaurant, which expects servers to respond to everything with a smile, but by my culture as well. My nation tells me that Canadians are polite. My high school told me told me not to talk back to my elders . My grandma told me you catch more flies with honey. My church told me to turn the other cheek. My mom told me that this job will get me through university.

It sucks that I was raised in a society that conditioned such a self-deprecating response from me to a blatant act of sexism. I’m tempted to blame myself for not being a strong feminist who responded with a prompt “it’s wherever you forgot your fucking manners”. But the thing is, it’s not women’s job to correct sexist behaviour. Nothing I could have said or done would have changed that man’s misogynist perception of women. Had I fought back, I could have been written up, or even lost my job. No, it’s not my fault and it’s not my job to fix this man. Male chauvinism is a male problem, and although I won’t hold back from voicing just what’s wrong with this picture when I’m in a position that my safety and personal health is not at stake, it is men’s job to correct their own problematic behaviour.

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