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Jan 29, 2009 05:24 AM

Sexism at ethinic restos?

Been dining at a certain sushi place in the suburbs for years. They ALWAYS pay more attention when I dine with a person of the male persuasion. This is without exception. Though I've been going there for YEARS (and they recognize me), it's the same treatment every time- better when a man is present.
Now, I've experienced a similar thing at a middle-east resto in the city, but do not dine there enough to know if it is the norm.
Have others experienced this?

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  1. nope. not at all. In fact, just the opposite: I get more attention as a lone female. BUT, there have been places where I felt I received less attention on a first visit due to the stereotype that women do not tip well. But, attempt to correct that with the first check.

    Now, in restaurants where I have become friendly with the owners/staff and I arrive with someone else (whether a man that I care about or a business associate or female friend) I have noticed more attention -- but I take it as a compliment to me that they want to provide them good service to show that I've been a valued customer. I think it would be the same if I were a man and bringing a woman.

    1. I've had more attention as a lone female diner, as well as different attention when I'm with a male or female companion--both at ethnic and American restaurants. The different attention, usually, is more attentiveness in the beginning and then being left alone to chat, catch up, gaze like puppies in love, and, of course, eat.

      At the places I've been a regular, I've had excellent service, alone or with company. Unless the food was outstanding, it's unlikely I'd be a regular at a place which made me feel even remotely uncomfortable, or I'd simply get take away.

      I've been to restaurants here and abroad, of all cuisines, where it's considered normal by the staff to treat a single female (or single diner) differently. If we're in a new place and it appears that some sexism is prevalent, I take it in stride and have my husband order or call the staff. It may be rude, but I'm there for the food. I may even return knowing that this is the case if the food is worth revisiting. I'm old enough to know that sexism exists everywhere, and instead of fuming, will laugh it off as ignorance; hopefully their children will have better manners growing up in a mixed society.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Caralien

        I loved dining in Morocco: women and children are relegated to the back or other inferior section of the restaurant. BUT, exception would be made for female tourists. A female Moroccan friend said to me once "I love going to have tea with you" and then added "it's the only time I'm ever allowed to sit out on the sidewalk at the cafe". Apparently my exception covered her also! Meanwhile, I did usually sit in the women's section (which was NEVER the outdoor part of a cafe) so as to not draw undue attention -- but, I'd take her to go sit outside -- just so she could enjoy it.

        1. re: karmalaw

          Traditional pubs have male and female sections too, but it's voluntary now, and not legally enforcable.

      2. I've never thought of it as an ethnic thing. My experiences with it have had to do more with the gender of the wait-staff.

        When I was married, we would frequent a bar in town a couple of nights a week (Ok, so we met there). All of the wait-staff were tiny young women who seemed to have contests for displaying the most cleavage. Most nights it was impossible for one of us women to get their attention. We had to have one of the men at the table order our drinks for us. We often tried to change the 'usual hangout' to something more amenable to female patrons, but the guys saw nothing wrong with the view or the service - to them.

        Funny, after awhile I just stopped going out, and eventually divorced out of that social scene.

        1 Reply
        1. re: tracylee

          Tracylee, your experience is similar to mine (though maybe vice versa...) on the gender of the wait-staff point.

          I have noticed the different treatment in (don't know if it is considered "ethnic" anymore) old-style Italian restos in NY where all of the servers are males. Males, mostly young and heterosexual and handsome (ok that has little to do with it but maybe certain people have more attitude...) in crisp white shirts and black pants, and they serve stuff up with two spoons from one hand. They completely ignore my presence even if I am just asking for a glass of water. They talk to the men at the table as if they are family. They put more of the seafood on the men's plates, and a bunch of pasta and hardly any seafood on mine, until I (and my dining companions) insist on more seafood for me.

          Now, I'm no 'chopped meat' in terms of looks so that is definitely not it. It is some kind of convention that appears to be long established. Thought it was strange at first, now I just repeat my requests extremely loudly until somebody listens or one of the men at my table repeats my requests and they are immediately acknowledged by the male servers. Like Caralien, not a major prob for me as I am so there for the food (Though not after a couple of glasses of wine, in which case I start asking "Am I invisible?")!

          In any case, it always works out. Hope I don't have to divorce out of this position as the food is terrific... :-). And by the way, the best restaurant service I have ever received has been from my "non-hetero" servers, either women or men. I don't know why, that's just been my experience.

        2. So your experience is with this one sushi resto and you think this covers all "ethnic" restos? Is your experience different if you are dining with a person of the female persuasion, or just dining solo?

          1. There was an ongoing discussion about problems in Bosnian restaurants in the restaurant forum from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch's website. I do think it happens sometimes - spent almost 20 years as an adult female often eating solo in this country and Europe. In my experience, it does happen occasionally, especially in places that are first generation.