“Sorry madam” said the uniformed doorman, “women are not allowed in the bar”. “Why not?” asked the lady, “I drink, so why can’t I go into the bar?” “That’s the club rules, madam.Pl go to the lounge. But the bar is only for men”. I watched this exchange with amusement and wondered if Gandhiji felt the same when the porter said that the compartment was only for Whites!
I’m fascinated by the ‘only for’ culture that has permeated all walks of life, grouping people into strange categories. In the naval establishments, I have seen notices near lifts, saying “only for admirals and heavy machinery”! In almost all the buses in South India, there are seats marked ‘only for ladies’ and even an exclusive entrance for them! One can accept these, but what intrigues me is that when bars can have barmaids, why can’t they allow women in? “It’s on principle”, explains a friend, “women should not be seen in bars.” But how about barmaids? “Ah that’s another story. A barmaid is ‘that kind’ of woman, so it’s alright!”
I think we have everything twisted in this logic. Firstly, why does being a barmaid make one ‘that kind’? Like in any other profession, the barmaid is only trying to earn an honest penny and if she puts up with the ribaldry of her customers, it’s because she looks upon it as an occupational hazard.
Coming to the actual issue at stake, what’s so sacrosanct about a bar that women can’t enter? “We want to spare their blushes, “explains a habitual bar-goer, “we like to swap jokes and we don’t mind the languages and imagery we use. If ladies are around, we’ll have to rein our tongues. Besides, we might just forget our limits and drink ourselves under the table”. I tried to take him up on that and suggested they curb these tendencies for excesses by admitting women.
At least this way, the men could improve their speech and behavior. “You must be joking!” he hissed. “Why do you women want to ghusso in everywhere? Fine, you become doctors, pilots, scientists, anything. That’s your wish. But leave our domain alone. We thought of a bar as a reprieve from the pressures of life, where we can let our barriers down and indulge in a bit of harmless revelry. Do we insist on barging on your kitty parties or beauty parlours? Sorry, the bar is our exclusive property and nothing will make us change that.”
He was quite incensed with my upholding the cause of women in entering bars. Secretly, I agreed with him though. They should be left alone to drink their blues away and discuss the undiscussable things about women. What we should do is have exclusive bars for women only and have bartenders dressed in skimpy clothes with whom we can take liberties. Why let men get away with their whims? We are equal and must do everything that they do. Will any enterprising lady please open a ‘women only’ bar? I can be the doorkeeper as it’s no fun having my favourite drink – filtered water – in a bar!