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Ladies Night is Sexist

Free drinks or cover usurps women’s independence and equality

By Anna E. Boch

Over the summer, two New York courts rejected a complaint by Roy Den Hollander, a lawyer himself and a self-proclaimed “anti-feminist,” that “ladies’ nights” at bars and clubs discriminate against men by forcing them to pay more. Hollander, who admitted to taking hip-hop classes simply ‘to meet hot chicks’ and suspects that his conviction for men’s rights stems from his astrological sign (Libra), is not the most scholarly advocate for ending ladies’ nights. But he’s right. This gender-based system of payment does discriminate against men, but more importantly, it continues the system of sexual objectification of women as differentiated from men.

Ladies’ nights are not a manifestation of women’s liberation. Though veiled as events designed to pamper women—a treat—they in fact serve as a cattle call to increase the female-to-male ratio. Advertising a ladies’ night will bring in women looking to save money and will bring in men looking for women. Arguably, the women who go to ladies’ nights may also be interested in pursuing men there, but the system is designed to favor a male’s chances of finding a female partner. Women’s primary value on ladies’ nights is as sexualized objects of attraction for men, not as paying customers.

One sees this same system of gender-discrimination at most of Harvard’s male final clubs where non-member males are denied entry, and women are welcomed with open arms. Again, the delusion that such attention paid to women makes them special veils the reality that the men still control the activities in the club, as well as the access to alcohol, in order to maximize their own chances of success with women. I am not arguing against the hook-up culture that is prevalent in bars and Harvard’s final clubs. In fact, some research suggests that couples who meet over a drunken one-night stand and get married produce the happiest, most long-lasting marriages. My point is that such a culture should be housed in an environment that is favorable to everyone, not just to males.

Although on average women make 22 percent less money than men, single women under 30 now make eight percent more than men in that same age bracket. The argument that women are economically disadvantaged compared to men, and that women are in need of a ‘subsidy’ from the bar or a man is as ludicrous as it is antiquated. Women, especially young women, can buy their own drinks. Buying someone a drink is not a one-way street, either. Coming from either gender (or even a friend), a free drink is a generally welcomed gesture of interest or simply friendliness.

As the courts upheld, the government has no right to decide how businesses regulate their door prices. But women do have the choice of whether to frequent establishments that hold ‘ladies’ nights.’ Sure, this matter is not more important than looming issues like America’s foreign wars, healthcare, or the economy, but when women buy into these gender-discriminating practices, a subtle, insidious version of sexism pervades society. Last week’s episode of the TV show Mad Men, set in the 1960’s, had Peggy telling a male friend that she can’t get into many of the social venues where her male colleagues do business: “The university club said the only way I could eat dinner there is if I jumped out of a cake.” Sexism in contemporary social establishments is no longer as blatant, but it is still just as threatening to equality between men and women. Everyone should pay the same price, regardless of gender.

Anna E. Boch ’11, a Crimson editorial writer, is a Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations concentrator in Winthrop House.

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