What makes guys think their waitress is another dish on the menu? Sebastian Molano thinks he knows.
The scene is too familiar. It is Saturday night in town; a group of guys sits in a restaurant. A round of drinks comes their way. They chat loudly and their laughter fills the place, they make jokes to each other. They are boys being boys, hanging out, enjoying their lives.
The scene is so familiar, that most of the times the same painful dynamic that surrounds a given table in front of me passes unnoticed. I see those boys being boys. As I have seen many. I have been one of those boys. But there is something about what is happening that makes me feel really uncomfortable. I cannot grasp clearly what this is. Everything seems so normal yet I feel disturbed and upset. But what is it?
When privileges are so ingrained in a person, in a culture, it is really hard to reflect back and recognize that as a result of such privileges, uneven relations emerge and replicate. Merriam-Webster defines privilege as a right or benefit that is given to some people and not to others; a special opportunity to do something that makes you proud; the advantage that wealthy and powerful people have over people in a society.
Suddenly, the pieces of an idea emerge and I get it. It is the male privilege.
This male privilege is being played out by these guys hitting continuously on the waitress. Over and over, the same boys being boys repeat a too familiar scene: men feeling the right, seizing the opportunity to make something that makes them proud, flirting with the waitress every time she comes around to drop a menu, to bring some beers or simply, to be asked to come, for the boys’ enjoyment.
According to US Labor Statistics, waiters and waitresses held about 2.4 million jobs in May 2013. Unfortunately, the statistics are not disaggregated by gender, which makes it difficult to estimate how many women work as waitresses. In the US Labor occupational outlook handbook their work is described as: “on their feet most of the time and often carry heavy trays of food, dishes, and drinks…the work can be hectic and fast paced, they are under pressure to serve customers quickly and efficiently.” Additionally, most of them rely on customer satisfaction to make their living, as tips are a fundamental part of their income.
So basically waitresses deal with demanding physical work, stress and poor payment. In addition to this, they also have to deal with men hitting on them. From my experience, it has nothing to do with socioeconomic privileges; it has everything to do with the privileges of being a man. I see it at the table in front of me at the upper class restaurant where white male college students flirt with an uneasy young waitresses. I have seen it also in the migrant spot near my house where men gather to drink Corona watch fútbol, and hit on the waitresses.
Building new gender relationships and embracing new masculinities is a constant struggle to defy cultural norms that seem natural and privileges that create and deepen inequality. Reflection on what kind of man each of us wants to be should not be a privilege, it should be a duty, so we can be boys being boys, but respecting women.