a “bechdel test” for bars

Today, instead of giving advice, I’m going to do something I’ve been meaning to do for a while: create a “Bechdel Test” for bars.

The Bechdel Test originated out of a comic strip – Dykes to Watch out For – by Alison Bechdel, who credits another friend for giving her the idea. The test is used to determine whether a movie is woman-friendly (or feminist-friendly).

In the comic strip (“The Rule”) wherein the Test was introduced, a lady character says she will only go to watch a movie if it satisfies three rules:

  1. It has to have at least two women in it
  2. Who talk to each other
  3. About something other than a man.

Another variant on this rule says that the women characters have to have names, too. It’s an interesting test to use on movies — try it the next time you see a film. The point is that to some extent, as a culture, we don’t realize how seldom women are represented as important characters in films outside of their roles as romantic interests for male characters.

In any case, for a long time I’ve been thinking about writing up a similar test to determine the woman-friendliness of bars. For the most part, my number one criterion for determining how woman-friendly a bar (or any other establishment, really) is revolves around the bathroom. So there are a few rules about the bathroom that you can use to determine a bar’s woman-friendliness:

  1. Is it clean/stocked (toilet paper, paper towels, soap)?
  2. Is there more than one stall?
  3. Is there a hook or a table on which to place one’s purse or jacket?
There are, of course, other things I can add onto this list that would make the bathroom UBER woman-friendly:
  • Are there free feminine products (esp. tampons, pads) available? (or for sale, which would give you half-credit for this question)
  • Is there air freshener?
  • Is there a full-length mirror?
  • Is the lighting useful for grooming purposes (makeup, clothing, etc)?
And there are other things that determine woman-friendliness in a bar:
  • Are there hooks under the bar for one’s purse or jacket?
  • Do they serve something other than beer?
  • Is there an ample dance floor?
  • Are the bouncers capable of kicking out grabby drunk guys?
  • Are there female bartenders?
To some extent, some of these extra rules tend towards the sexist, assuming that women need to check their makeup or are incapable of liking beer. I will admit that I am making assumptions based on a certain stereotype of a woman — we carry a purse (that we don’t want to put on the floor), we care what we look like, we often have to pee.
But I will argue that, for the most part, women care more about the state of the bathroom than men do (because we have to touch more in the bathroom, you know what I’m sayin’), and that places that do upkeep on their ladies’ rooms are more likely to be woman-friendly than places that do not, mostly because they are considering the feelings and general comfort of women in the first place.
I know at least one anecdotal story that has informed my thoughts about women + bathrooms, told to me by a professor in college. According to this professor, one of the unexpected benefits that occurred once India started allowing women to be elected to Parliament was that the state of public restrooms in the country were improved. This was because, for the first time in history, a group that cared about public restrooms (ie. women) were allowed to pass legislation to maintain them. Everyone benefited (men like clean restrooms, too), but it wasn’t a priority before women were allowed to make it one. (And I will remind you that I stated this was anecdotal — I don’t have any articles to site about this; but it has been something on my mind since I was 20 or whatever.)
Now that you have my reasoning, I think I will present to you “The Kat Cox Rule for Bars & Restaurants”:
To determine the woman-friendliness of a bar or restaurant, the following must be true of the establishment’s bathroom:
  1. It is clean and stocked with toilet paper and paper towels;
  2. There is more than one toilet stall;
  3. There is a hook or a table on which to place or hang your purse or jacket.
Bonus points for woman-friendliness awarded to establishments in which the bathroom:
  • Provides free feminine products (or has available feminine products for a minimal cost [half-credit]);
  • Has ample lighting;
  • Provides air freshener;
  • Contains a full-length mirror.
Further bonus points awarded to establishments wherein:
  • There is a hook under the bar for purses or jackets;
  • There is a selection of drinks that are not beer;
  • There is an ample dancefloor.
  • There are bouncers capable and willing to kick out grabby (male, although not always just male!) patrons.
  • There are female bartenders.
I think I’ll start a new blog and let you know which bars or restaurants pass!
**UPDATE**: The new blog has been started — http://katcoxtest.wordpress.com.  Join in!

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