One Restaurant's 'Best Butt' Discount, and Other Tales of Everyday Sexism
This article originally appeard on xoJane.com.
Apparently the server thought it was cute/funny/appropriate to offer a two-cent discount for the customer’s “Best Butt” and “Best Looking” characteristics. I can only hope these discounts were entered by hand rather than being encoded in the register, because, ew. Seriously? Ew.
Look now, I like discounts as much as the next person, but discounts based on body parts? Really? REALLY NOW?
The “meat is murder tasty tasty murder!” addendum makes me think this is the sort of eatery that likes to think of itself as edgy and silly; either that, or this server really crossed the line by changing the signature at the bottom of the receipt. Usually those require a manager’s key or advanced password so there’s a limited number of people who can change them, for this among other reasons.
But making comments about the bodies of customers is really not acceptable, unless you’re eating at “Bob’s Your-Body-Will-Be-Judged-R-Us.” Or, you know, it’s a joke; say it’s your friend waiting on you and your friend feels like being silly and you have an understanding that would make the discount funny. Maybe that’s what happened here! But I doubt it, given the rather astounding history of people putting offensive things on receipts, as though customers don’t actually read them.
This is what I’d call a classic example of everyday sexism. Is it the kind of thing to stage a march on Washington over? Is it the kind of thing that people should be up in arms about, starting petitions and waving signs and yelling? Is it a situation that calls for immediate legislation to put a stop to receipt printing? No, not really. There are bigger and more important things going on in the world, like Rep. Akin being a massive douchebag.
But it is one of the small, everyday cuts that happens to people who happen to be women, or who are read as women. It’s the kind of casual, throwaway thing that can sour your day, yet another reminder that people think of you as part of the public commons rather than your own person. For the server who added this delightful two cents, it was just a momentary action, something to alleviate boredom or liven up the day.
The recipient on the other end of the comment might have felt very differently, though. Comments like these are what can make people feel unsafe, afraid to go out, afraid to interact with the world. You might not complain to a manager about it, because you’d worry about not being taken seriously, or be concerned that the manager is the one who made the comment in the first place. But you’re probably not going to go to that restaurant again, and you might make a point of telling your friends to avoid it too.
We don’t know about the circumstances of this specific receipt. But it’s not like this is the first or last time something like this has happened, and for every report that goes viral on the Internet, who knows how many more receipts like this one are silently stared at and then angrily thrown away. When you’re used to this kind of thing, when it’s grinding and constant, you do tend to reach a threshold where you just stop reporting, stop talking about it, stop demanding justice.
Because you get used to being told you’re making too big a deal out of it, and that you need to chill out. You also get used to being informed that “boys will be boys” and there’s nothing, really, to be done, so you might as well just grit your teeth and bear it. Sure, sexism is annoying, but so are harpies who can’t shut up about it.
People say that highlighting acts of sexism like this is “too sensitive” and people should “just get over it,” and I wonder why the same demand isn’t extended to sexists. Why should we be the ones who have to sit around and tolerate it? Why shouldn’t they be the ones called upon to modify their own behavior? If you want people to stop complaining about sexism, maybe you should focus on eradicating sexism, rather than on telling people to shut up.
This is harassment. It’s harassment on a micro scale, sure, but it’s still harassment. As an individual incident it might not stand out that much; it’s a single piece of paper, deal. But as part of a larger whole, it suddenly becomes much, much larger. It’s not just one receipt with sexist comments, it’s being catcalled on the way to work, it’s being talked down to by your male boss, it’s being sneered at by a repairperson, it’s being patronised on the Internet. It’s hundreds of little things like this, every week, which add up to a whole lot when you look at them together.
I like to think of casual sexism like the old penny riddle. Someone says you can have $10,000 right now, or that person will give you a penny on the first of the month, double it on the second, double that on the third, and so forth, through the end of the month. You’re asked which you prefer. At first glance, the $10,000 offer sounds better, but the penny doubling is actually the way you want to go. You’re going to top $10,000 by the 18th, and you’ll have over $5 million at the end of the month -- and that’s in a 30-day month. (Right? I didn't totally mess up that calculation?)
Casual sexism is the penny option. It accrues fast.