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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.

            1. In Paris, in a couple of French restaurants I was given the menu without the prices. While perhaps French is not considered an "ethnic" cuisine, I thought it was a bit sexist from the viewpoint of an American. I'm sure the Parisians didn't view it that way.

              9 Replies
              1. re: Miss Needle

                Places without prices listed are generally for those who know they can afford whatever is on the menu, unless I'm sorely mistaken. Were the prices listed on other menus?

                1. re: Caralien

                  I guess I should have elaborated. Women were given the menus without prices while the men's menus had prices.

                  1. re: Miss Needle

                    Wow. That is old fashioned!

                    At the same time, might entice one to choose only by the offerings than by the price (even though most menus seem to follow top to bottom lowest to highest priced options).

                    I never experienced that when I lived in Paris, but believe that it does happen.

                    1. re: Caralien

                      Yes, the two restaurants I had this happen at were 3 star Michelin rated ones. And I'm afraid to say that my most expensive meal of my life was at one of those restaurants. A bit of a sticker shock when I found out that a lunch for two with limited wine was in the four figures. Yikes! That's what happens when you don't see prices.

                      But I've eaten at other restaurants in Paris where prices were on the menu.

                      1. re: Miss Needle

                        Possibly because you were a tourist too? Even though I lived there briefly, and my French improved considerably while I was there, it seems common that if the person doesn't know, they can be duped or taken advantage of (stars or not). When travelling, I try to suss out the places which don't have the menus in 5+ languages, but with the prices posted.

                        I do hope that the meals were memorable for the food (and company) and not just the receipt!

                        1. re: Caralien

                          I really don't think it was because I was a tourist. This restaurant (l'Arpege) is known to be really pricey (makes French Laundry look like a bargain). I think what didn't help was that the dollar was so weak compared to the euro when we were there.

                          Aside from the steep pricetag, it was truly a memorable occasion. I did have the best vegetable dish of my life there. Food was good, but I probably wouldn't put it in my top five. Then again, I've been pretty happy eating a basil squid dish that cost less than a buck in Bangkok and eating a $4 Taiwanese burger in Flushing, NYC. I do have to say it was truly a once in a lifetime meal. I really can't see myself spending that type of money again on one meal unless I win a multi-million dollar Lotto.

                          1. re: Miss Needle

                            or the dollar improves (fingers crossed)!

                2. re: Miss Needle

                  Were you dining with someone else of a male persuassion? This happened one time in Reno many many years ago. But even today at some restaurants you can call ahead and ask them to give menus with no prices to your dinner guests.

                  1. re: PeterL

                    Yes, I was dining with my husband both times (and he got the menu with prices). I've never experienced that in the States before (or any other places I've traveled in the world). So I was a bit surprised.

                3. I have had similar experiences dining with my mother in a particular Indian restaurant. We took note on both occasions that tables with male diners were getting much better service from the young male servers. But, I wouldn't say this happens in every Indian restaurant, and certainly we have experienced the opposite, too--have gotten lots of attention from servers and hosts. I chalk it up to particular servers, not to some sort of cultural phenomena. Though cultural assumptions might have had a part in a particular server's behavior, it's not something about which I could draw conclusions. I've heard local people of Indian descent complain about service at Indian restaurants' servers treating whites better. I think both sexism and racism are at play in many day to day experiences...

                  1. It works both ways and all ways. I don't doubt some places treat women differently but there's two sides to the coin.

                    Sometimes women get better service, and often while she's on a date with a guy. Nothing wrong with that in my view. That's the old school way, everything is geared toward the lady's delight. Even a little flirting is fine but once the waiter hits on your date when you step away...well that's not cool. That usually means no tip...and in my younger days, stiffing the bill. Not proud of that but that's youth.

                    p.s. women waitstaff often flirt with guys and do the cater to guys thing because they think it means a larger tip. It's all pretty harmless unless they write their phone# on the check.

                    1. I'm not trying to be anti PC or otherwise, but do you suppose it was the orientation of the staff? I've had many male friends flirted with (and flirting with) the staff, which occasionally provided better (or minimally more attentive) service. And sometimes, with my SOs over the past 2 decades, they would also be more attentive when they thought he was adorable (still happens with husband).

                      (I'm female, btw)

                      1. At "ethnic" restaurants? As opposed to? What restaurants aren't "ethnic" at this point? (I'm serious...I'm really trying to sort out the category you're asking about here.)

                        7 Replies
                        1. re: ccbweb

                          i've asked this question too. all food is of some ethnicity or culture.

                          ive never gotten a satisfactory answer

                          1. re: ccbweb

                            Fair point, but my guess is that the OP is talking about restaurants owned and run by people who have recently immigrated to the US. And while the observation may have some basis in fact, it concerns me to hear discussion couched this way.

                            "Sexism" is a hot-button word. The notion that people should act the same and be treated the same regardless of gender is by no means universal. In fact, it's only within the last few decades that it has gained traction in what is arguably the most progressive part of the world - North America and Western Europe.

                            In many (most?) cultures, gender plays a very important distinguishing role. Socially acceptable behavior by or toward men is different than acceptable behavior by or toward women. And someone who's raised in such a culture is unlikely to purge all notions of propriety and impropriety the moment s/he sets foot on a foreign shore.

                            These people are almost certainly "sexist" as that term is defined by progressive modern American standards. But it's pretty insensitive to condemn someone who grew up with a different set of social norms for failing to comply with the norms we think should be in place. And calling them out as sexists doesn't do much to change their attitudes. It just causes the dialog to deteriorate.

                            As for me, I'm in the process of raising two daughters to be strong, smart, and extremely independent. Sexism has no place in their world or their worldview. But they're also sensitive, and I hope that if someone was raised to treat women and men differently, they will be able to make allowances for that.

                            Whether it's a function of the generation they were born into or their country of origin, many people don't see things the way we do. And to the extent that they will ever change, gentle pressure to comply with progressive norms is much more effective than name-calling.

                              1. re: amyzan

                                "Fair point, but my guess is that the OP is talking about restaurants owned and run by people who have recently immigrated to the US."

                                the chinese have been here for 150 years. the mexicans, well - depends what you mean by mexicans, but they've been here forever. those are both considered "ethnic" while italian is not. id say it has NOTHING to with when they immigrated, and has a lot to do with the perception of americans as european christians.

                                " But it's pretty insensitive to condemn someone who grew up with a different set of social norms for failing to comply with the norms we think should be in place."

                                yes and no. if someone comes from a culture that practices slavery, child labor, racism, and ownership of women like chattel, it would be criminal, as perhaps immoral as well, to be anything but intolerant to those attitudes and practices. I'm not ready to make allowances for just anything.

                                1. re: thew

                                  Um, there isn't a single Chinese person who has been in the US for 150 years. And last I checked, there are still a few people living in China. Some of whom immigrate to the US each year.

                                  The people who came over during the Gold Rush (or the French Revolution, or the potato famine, or the Spanish-American War) are all long dead. And although their descendants may be ethnically Chinese, French, Irish, or Filipino, they grew up in the US and are culturally American. Their behavior should be evaluated accordingly.

                                  But people who moved here after the fall of Saigon, the transfer of Hong Kong, or the civil war in Rwanda grew up in cultures that are dramatically different than our own. And although it may be easy for you to condemn their attitudes as immoral, that condemnation smacks of cultural imperialism.

                                  I'm all for having a more progressive world. And I'm all for banning practices such as slavery and child labor. But attitudes can't be banned, and outright condemnation serves no purpose other than polarization. Attitudes are changed by education and example, not rhetoric and vitriol. It may take years, or even generations, before we see those changes, but if we treat other people as full-fledged human beings, the change will come.

                                  I firmly believe that dialog will ultimately stand our society in better stead than polemics. Your mileage may vary.

                                  1. re: alanbarnes

                                    The phrase is "the chinese have been here for 150 years." Not any particular Chinese person.

                                    1. re: PeterL

                                      Yes, but my point related exclusively to restaurants owned and run by recent immigrants. So thew's comment that the Chinese have been here for 150 years was completely irrelevant.

                                      It doesn't matter how long it's been since the first Chinese / English / Russian / Persian immigrant came to this country. What matters is how long it's been since a particular individual immigrated, and the extent to which that individual has assimilated in the intervening years.

                                      To restate: if a restaurant is owned and run by recent immigrants, you can expect practices there to reflect the culture of the country from which they came. And practices that are widely accepted in other cultures may be considered sexist in a progressive industrialized society. And calling names because people failed to instantly assimilate is not productive.

                          2. I have no answer for your question, but I do have a guilty admission - several times in recent years my wife has pointed out clear instances of sexist treatment that (although I was present) I was utterly oblivious to.

                            Same feeling as I had when another friend convinced me that any woman might reasonably feel uneasy walking down a street that I felt perfectly safe on.

                            Maybe we fellas would have our antennas more finely tuned if we were on the receiving end - it simply never occurred to me.

                            PS - is this a "sister" issue to the oft-cited different treatment ethnic restaurants sometimes give to non-members-of-that-ethnicity?

                            1. I'm confused.
                              First of all, are you a man or a woman? Knowing this would help.

                              1. Sexism occurs at every restaurant jfood attends with mrs jfood.

                                This can take the form of numerous events including, but not limited to:
                                - jfood takes mrs jfoods coat and gives to the coat check
                                - the host pulls out mrs jfood's chair and pushes in as she sits
                                - the females receive menus first
                                - the females order first
                                - most waiters flirt a little with the females
                                - most waitresses flirt a little with the men
                                - jfood helps mrs jfood on with the coat
                                - car attendent opens mrs jfood's door

                                Not sexism at all, sounds like a bunch of good manners to jfood, well maybe not the flirting, but that does bring a smile to their faces..

                                7 Replies
                                1. re: jfood

                                  Chivalry may have roots in sexism, but aren't to be confused. It's not sexist to treat a person of the opposite sex with respect. Upon closer inspection of behavior, one can find just as many examples of how women often treat men with deference in social situations, too. Chivalry runs both ways, even when it appears on the surface men do much of the leg work. Work that I, being a woman, have great appreciation for these days, as it's becoming less common.

                                  This is not to deny the OP's experience. I just don't believe in meeting bad service with rude behavior in turn. Nobody benefits.

                                  1. re: amyzan

                                    of course it is sexist to treat anyone in a particular manner solely based on their genitalia, just as it is by definition racist to act a particular way towards someone solely based on their membership in an ethnic/cultural group, as opposed to an individual regardless of group identification. positive or negative, acting a certain way towards someone because she is a woman or he is a man, positive or negative, is the very definition of sexism.

                                    1. re: thew

                                      And jfood is proud to draw the line that treating mrs jfood in the items described is good manners. Since you have segregated the human race by genitalia at least you recognize the difference.

                                      But when manners go the way of the do-do then we have failed as a society. You can have certain equalities while maintaining good manners.

                                      Go ahead and flame, but many of those "barriers" that have come down are unfortunate and are on jfood's top 5 list of what is destroying our society. Far more that have come down are fantastic and jfood is in full agreement, but there are two sexes and no, not everything is pari-pasu.

                                      1. re: jfood

                                        i support you treating mrs jfood with grace and delight and good manners. and all the people you love in your life. and the ones you like. and the rest of us, as well.

                                        in fact i did nothing more than state a definition of what sexism is - the treatment of someone based on their sex,positive or negative, the group they belong to. that's a pretty neutral statement.

                                        1. re: thew

                                          "it is sexist to treat anyone in a particular manner solely based on their genitalia" is a bit more than a neutral statement but jfood is glad you cleared that up.

                                          Have a good day Thew.

                                          1. re: jfood

                                            I open the door for my friends and family, regardless of genitalia (personally, I'd rather not think about such) or age. It's just a nice thing to do.

                                            It may have started as something a gentleman would do for a lady, as she was too weak to do so on her own, or for an elderly or handicapped person of either sex (although helping the old man across the street is not something one hears very often, and if you actually do try to help someone cross the street in NY, you might get bashed in the leg by their cane).

                                            But I digress. Manners and good behaviour are generally welcomed and shouldn't be limited by what is or isn't under one's bottoms. Treating someone poorly because they're alone or based on their privates (race, religion, etc.) is unacceptable.

                                            1. re: Caralien

                                              Great point C.

                                              Likewise for one to shout sexism because of theinstances cited in OP is a leap as well.