I’ll give you two bartenders: They’re both similar in that they are two females, twenty-somethings, and attractive. Bartender A is attractive in the medium-long hair, big tits, and tiny waist kind of way. She’s wearing a tight, low-cut tank top, short-shorts and cowboy boots. Bartender B has a more athletic, I’ll kick-your-ass-if-you-cross me, kind of body with medium-long hair. She’s wearing black pants, wacky tennis shoes, and a company-logoed ribbed tank top, standard cut. “A” has been talking to a regular at the end of the bar for ten minutes, failing to notice the growing line at the other end. You order a gin and tonic and she hears vodka. “B” sees said regular, shouts his name and slides his Bud Light to the end of the bar while flashing a smile and asking NEXT? You order a gin and tonic and she says, “Do you want a lime with that?” NEXT.
Which bartender would you rather have? Which one will earn the bar more money?
There’s a game in the hospitality world, especially in the world of cocktails and beer, that women are encouraged to participate in. A wear less, make more mentality that men don’t have to abide by, and this idea that women aren’t as capable at pouring a beer and mixing liquors. This mentality is represented in popular culture. Think Coyote Ugly, the popular 2000 movie about a young aspiring singer who moves to NYC and seeks employment at a female-ran bar of scantily-clad bartenders who tease the patrons and dance on the bar when serving drinks. Or the award-winning 2010 film, The Fighter, where Amy Adams plays a sassy bartender with a bad attitude, in cut-off shorts and a low-cut belly-shirt.
It’s Saturday morning, six a.m. I’m tired and fuzzy from a typical Friday night. I’m washing my face, re-masking it with mascara and blush, spraying my hair with dry shampoo—a god send from the toiletry universe—to hide the oil, and stumbling into my closet, which emits the only light illuminating my pre-dawn world, to lean against the framing and decide what to wear. Why? Because I’m a bartender at a pool hall and sports bar that’s open for brunch. Because I’m a female bartender at a pool hall and sports bar that’s open for brunch. Unlike my male counterparts, I’m allowed to wear what I want to work each shift, instead of being forced to wear a logoed collared shirt and khakis. But there’s a catch—I have to look nice. Obviously. I work in a restaurant, you can’t wear dirty clothes and ripped jeans, but nice is considered more of a synonym for sexy. Having to choose my outfit each day, a different outfit, that fits the criterion is exhausting. I wasn’t allowed to wear jeans, but I was working at a bar, and business casual seemed inappropriate, if not pointless. I most often wore a jean skirt and some sort of tank top, alternating between cute tennis shoes and boots depending on the season. I looked forward to football season when I could wear a college jersey on Saturday’s and an NFL jersey on Sundays.
The first night shift I ever worked I was covering for another female bartender (who never minded playing “the game”) so she could play in a dart tournament. I picked out my typical jean skirt and boots (it was winter) and an aqua and gray, flannel, plaid button up shirt. I had worn this outfit before; it seemed appropriate for the geographic location—Northern Idaho, a town full of logging men and college kids. I hadn’t poured ten beers before my boss strolled up to the bar and said, “Do you always dress like a Lumberjack for your night shifts?”
“Well,” I said, turning to look at him, not before noticing the three or four customers at the end of the bar within earshot of this insult, “since it’s my first night shift, I guess I do.”
Sorry my tits weren’t popping out from beneath my button up, but my skirt was so short I had to perfect the art of squatting–legs angled towards the cooler doors, to grab a beer without flashing my panty preference to the closest drunk twenty-something leaning over the bar. What isn’t fair is that ass-out-tits-out doesn’t always get me that extra buck in the tip jar, if it did, the male bartenders in their cargo shorts and Polos wouldn’t be making a dime. What makes you money is knowing your alcohol, remembering your regulars, being able to have a five minute conversation with anyone who steps to your bar, while maintaining the orders going on around you.
Even history plays a role in the woman-as-bartender struggle. Before World War II women weren’t allowed to tend bar and mix drinks. During the war, of course, women took on male-dominated jobs, but only until the men returned. In Michigan, 1945, women were banned from mixing drinks unless they were the wife or daughter of the proprietor. California, as late as 1971, still banned women from pouring drinks.
The point I’m trying to get across is not to bash a former employer for their particular sexist views on females and attire, but to question women in the work force globally. We’re expected to dress a certain way, look a certain way, and act a certain way that isn’t up to par to men. History, Hollywood, and the male population are still trying to hold the upper hand in the industry, but it can and is changing. Some of the top mixologists in big cities, such as Manhattan and Chicago, are female. But we still need to take back the dress code, exchange the double standard for a double shot, a smile, and still make that dollar.