This post is a bit of a moan. If you don’t fancy reading a bit of a moan, look away now.
A woman walks into a pub – the lounge bar of a backstreet local. It has a long behind-the-bar area which runs the length of both public and lounge bars. There is a man seated on a barstool in the lounge with a full pint. The female bartender (I’m trying to wipe out the term barmaid) looks up and sees the woman who has just walked up to the bar but does not make eye contact with her or speak to her.
A few minutes later the woman’s husband also walks into the pub and stands at the bar. The bartender looks directly at him and says, “I’ll be with you in sec.”
Eventually, having served the customers already waiting in the busy public bar, she comes to the lounge side and says, “Who’s next?” even though she has seen the woman walk in before the man and the other man, still seated at the bar, is clearly not yet ready for another pint.
“I’m next,” says the woman, orders two pints of Wadworth 6X and pays for them. When the bartender comes back with the change she heads for the woman’s husband to give it to him before correcting herself.
Scenes like this one don’t happen to me as often as they used to but are related to the still irritatingly common ‘women at the bar are invisible’ syndrome – a form of apparently intermittent blindness suffered by bartenders who only seem able to see male customers. (Perhaps their female customers have been waiting so long they have literally become part of the furniture?)
I let this most recent example pass as I didn’t want it to spoil having a pint with my husband, but I knew – as do all women who have experienced this – that I hadn’t imagined it and that it amounted, at best, to very poor customer service and at worst to sex discrimination. I’m not equating it with the pay gap or other unjust things women suffer in the workplace – just using the phrase literally – discrimination on the basis of my sex. Men will be served first even if women are ahead of them in the queue for the bar.
As women are often still, illegally, paid less than men; sacked for becoming pregnant or not hired in the first place in case they become pregnant as well as having to endure a catalogue of other ill treatment based on being female, I doubt that discrimination at the bar will be eradicated ahead of these much worse examples of sexism any time soon. A word to the wise publican though: Make sure your bar staff aren’t doing this. In times of so many pubs apparently at risk of closure automatically sending 50% of potential customers to the back of the queue isn’t the smartest move.