So here are the issues:
Being a woman. Being a woman in a service industry. Being a woman in a service industry that depends on tips for salary.
So basically… I’m a whore.
You might say that I’m exaggerating, but it really does feel that way sometimes. Not only am I selling food and drinks, I’m selling the experience of being in a restaurant/bar. And part of that experience is me – the server or the bartender (or bartendress, as I like to call myself). If they don’t like the food, the experience and/or me, then I don’t get paid.
Sometimes it’s easy. The guest wants to enjoy themselves and at this point I love my job. But there are also guests who want me to make them enjoy themselves. They come in wanting to hate everything in life and I have to prove that they should love my restaurant/bar. This requires a lot of ass-kissing.
I really dislike discussing gender (in)equality issues because I naively believe that everyone is the same – men, women, old, young, black, white, tan, purple, blah blah blah. But let’s face it: women get treated differently than men. Period.
I’ve discussed this issue in terms of the restaurant industry with a number of people, and this is what I’ve come up with…. Women working as servers or bartenders tend to fall into two general categories within the eyes of their customers.
#1 The Mother figure. Women are obviously supposed to be the nurturing types and want to care for people.
Oh! A woman bringing me food! That’s so lovely ….and normal! Why would I need to tip her?? This is what she does! This is what she is meant to do! It’s not even like a job to her!
(In contrast, when men serve in restaurants it’s SO impressive… HA!)
#2 The slut. Women use their sexuality to get what they want.
Flirting, giggling, wearing tight-fitting clothes – now that is something to pay women for!
This type of server works best as a cocktail waitress at a lounge or a server at Hooters-type restaurant.
Now, the problem with these two categories is that they tend to alienate other women. Women guests don’t appreciate either of these female personalities for obvious reasons. A woman doesn’t need a mother-figure, she IS the nurturing one! And a woman obviously doesn’t appreciate the slut-type flirting with her date/husband!
So how can a woman working in the restaurant industry win? Is there another option?
God I hope so.
When I’m working, I try to see myself as a hostess of a party. Everyone in the restaurant is a friend or acquaintance and I want them to have a good time. I don’t need to baby them because they are adults. And I don’t need to turn the flirt on because this is a classy dinner party.
I just hope that the people who come into the restaurant can see me in this light.
Not too much to ask, right?