How this bartender took a no-nonsense approach to sexism

0:00

"Every woman who has ever made a dollar in the hospitality industry has been sexually harassed. From a creepy stare to a penis flopped out, they’ve seen something."

Preview above: You see something wrong, but do you speak up about it? Remarkable stories of deciding to challenge wrongdoing, and the impact of doing so.

“But I’ve already apologised!”

F--- me dead, I thought. He’s doubling down.

“You’re the manager, and I said sorry. What else do you want?”

I guess the next line was mine.

“Yeah, but I don’t need it. She does.”

I pointed down to the other end of the bar towards the young woman, my colleague, counting coins from a till. She’s shaking. She’s reduced. She will knock off work and go home to cry and doubt her worth.

“You’ll walk down there and offer her your sincere apology, or you’ll walk out those doors and you won’t be welcome here for six weeks.”

I speak quietly. He’s already feeling emasculated. If his mates overhear us, he’ll fire up for fear of humiliation. They always do.

“This is f----- bull----!”

Yep, there it is. Flashpoint. We have the attention of his mates and the rest of my staff.

As a matter of fact, unless the person placing your order in front of you is on their very first hour of work in the industry, I’d bet my balls they’ve caught a wandering glance or a pointed comment. 

“We can do six months?”

He’s bigger than me and he knows it. But if this business has taught me anything, it’s how to bluff bigger. For all he knows, my calm speech and eye contact means I’m not concerned with the possibility of this standoff escalating into something more physical.

Although I can ban him from the pub for as long as I please, if this goes wrong and fists fly - I’m in deep trouble. But, better me than her.

I worked at that pub for almost six years, with the final 12 month stretch in the position of bar manager. I know what I observed of men in that time wasn’t the worst there was to see, but the Petri dish of a large pub in a regional Australian city was enough to sink my spirits.

I came of age in a coal mining town, yet I wasn’t privy to the really misogynist comments until I was pouring beer for drunks. Even then, after hearing a man say he’d love to “split’er in half”, I knew it was just a slice of the truth. Just a piece of the full monstrosity of Australia’s profoundly normalised sexism.

Every woman who has ever made a dollar in the hospitality industry has been sexually harassed. From a creepy stare to a penis flopped out, they’ve seen something. As a matter of fact, unless the person placing your order in front of you is on their very first hour of work in the industry, I’d bet my balls they’ve caught a wandering glance or a pointed comment. Perhaps the brush of a hand. Perhaps a threat to their life.

During that final year on the pub’s management team, I thought what I enjoyed behind the bar was respect. Men silenced when I spoke above a conversational volume. They ceased aggression. Put their glasses on coasters. But I remembered I’d watched as a woman in the same role was denied that fealty. Why? Take a guess.

Nonetheless, I had fun with the powers bestowed upon me. I relished the authority to twinkle-toe up to a man-shaped bag of oil and put a stop to his afternoon plans. To make a man slither out the door for taking the venue to be a tits-on-tap time capsule from the ‘70s just felt intoxicatingly righteous.

Of the pub’s male staff in authority roles, I was without question the most trigger-happy when it came to ejections. Others almost as much. The ones who weren’t didn’t last. Failing to have the backs of your colleagues is a strong and certain indicator that you’re terrible at other essentials to the job.

A short-lived assistant manager once told me to relax my boundaries when it came to pointing grubs to the door:
“That c--- puts a couple grand through the TAB every week. You keep kicking these blokes out and the pub will go broke!”

“That ‘c---,’ said he’d eat her for dessert.”

Like I said, short-lived. His incompetence cost him his job. The treachery to the crew was a factor - and it certainly meant nobody backed this bonehead up when the bosses gave him his marching orders.

Ah, the crew. I’m four years into an office job and what I miss most about hospitality is the crew. Those bonds were forged on dead Mondays and the trenches of Friday nights. Some faded, some broken, none forgotten.

I can’t swoop to the defence of a person being harassed in a pub the way I used to, for clear reasons. After leaving the business, I had to significantly tweak my reactions to sexual harassment - or risk copping a flogging. It’s a matter of measuring up the situation between “back the f--- off”, “hey mate that’s not cool”, or simply alerting staff.

Either way, it still helps to have a phenomenal resting bi--- face.

Insight wants to hear from you. If you have a personal story to share – especially on a newsworthy issue – we can help you craft a compelling first-person article like the one you’ve just read. Pitch an idea or send a piece you’ve already written to mystory@sbs.com.au

Source SBS Insight

Related Episodes

29/07/2019

Speaking Up