Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Gender Politics Of Dining Out (v2.0)

So I went out to dinner again last night and something amusing happened. Remember this post, in which I asked why I was always given the Diet Coke and the man I was on the date with was always given the regular Coke, even though I never order diet?

Well, last night, it reached a new height (or low?). I was out with a group and I sat down. The waitress came by and asked me if I wanted anything to drink and, though I'm trying to cut down on caffeine, I was exhausted. So I of course asked for a Coke.

For the record, I'm sure I was clear about this partially because I never order Diet Coke but mostly because after the waitress left I thought of my other blog post and started a discussion with everyone at the table. The women, of course, were shocked that I never drink Diet Coke and related their own stories of "teaching myself to drink it" several years before.

The waitress, meanwhile, had left without hearing our conversation. She returned five minutes later and says, "Here's your Diet Coke!"

I stared at her in disbelief and the whole table laughed. She didn't understand why, but I thought she'd done a great job of proving my point.


  1. Duchess, you are a girl after my own heart. I drink Coca-Cola Classic. No Diet, please. It doesn't taste good. I'd rather have the discipline to drink real pop in smaller quantities than learn to tolerate the taste of aspartame.
    I also feel you on the incident when your regular Coke order was "confused" with your dinner date's. This has happened to me on several occasions, and I'm frustrated and confused about why exactly I look like a diet pop drinker more so than my date.
    One of my favorite tales of gender profiling here in DC was a lovely dinner at the fabulously old-school 1789 in Georgetown with my handsome beau. I just love it when he presents as a gentleman for dinner and jackets are required there. Anyhow, when I indulge, I do it all the way. So, I ordered a glass of cabernet sauvignon and the flank steak. He had the chardonnay and the seafood entree. You can see where I'm headed with this. The drink order came and the white was set before me without even asking. The fish was also assumed to be mine. I laughed and to some degree it is funny, but it is also sad and upsetting. Something is going on here! These deeply set perceptions of gender roles are starting to piss me off! Not only are there people out there judging me for my choices related to my education, my career, my relationship status, and more, but now these rules apply to my dinner and drink order? WTF? I am offended. How do we undo this cultural brainwashing? And to restaurants--this is bad customer service even if it is subconscious! My steak was good, but I was wearing a jacket too, just with a skirt on the bottom. Why didn't I look like I wanted a steak?

  2. Ladies, I agree with you that this is a form of gender stereotyping that is deeply rooted in people's subconsciousness and implies some unfortunate gender disparities in our society (why do women feel pressured to diet? why do women have more eating problems than men? etc, etc, etc). However, I think that concentrating on the fact that waiters in restaurants assume that Diet Coke, white wine, and fish orders come from females entails a little too much overanalyzing. Although I have not done this, I would bet that if we conducted a statistical survey of restaurant orders by gender, we'd find that women order Diet Cokes far more often than men do. It might be a stereotype, but I would argue it is based on a lot of facts. And waiters, who are working hard and often serving a busy and demanding clientele, might rely on such observable statistics (perhaps subconsciously) to ease their job just a bit. I don't think that every waiter that serves you your Diet Coke that you did not order is thinking "She is a woman, so therefore she must be on a diet". In fact, they're probably not thinking too much, they're just trying to cover as many tables as possible without getting yelled at.
    Given the prevalence of so many actually serious problems with women's rights in this world (women's rights to marriage, to work, to get an education, to own land, etc.), I think concentrating too much on the stereotyping of your order in a restaurant misses the point of feminism just a bit.

  3. Wait, wasn't the server a woman? Is she also guilty of stereotyping a fellow female? Did you ever think the poor girl made a mistake? Did you return the drink, and ask for a regular Coke?


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