The “Hot Bartender” Syndrome

I am convinced that Betty Friedan is going to rise from her grave and beat someone to death with a jeweled thong.

Can someone please explain to me the deal with the “hot bartender” syndrome?

I was mildly appalled when I read about Black Book’s “hottest bartender” rankings.  (And mildly unsurprised when I saw how few on the list are known for decent drinks.)

Then, as much as I adore the creative Cheryl Charming and her fabulous sugar cube jewelry, this suggestion for a custom bartender resume made me want to scream. (scroll down to #14, Becca Wheeler. You can’t miss them.)

"These resumes are meant to grab a manager's immediate attention." I'm sure.

"These resumes are meant to grab a manager's immediate attention." I'm sure.

And when did it become acceptable for bars and restaurants to advertise specifically for “hot female bartenders”? Oh, and photo required, please. I’m amazed by the mind-bogglingly sexist ads posted on Craigslist, which appear week after week.

I’ve actually started collecting them. My personal favorite:  “If you’re Hot!!! & totally competent female bartender please send resume & current photo.” Don’t you love the way “totally competent” is thrown in as an afterthought behind the multiple exclamation points? Naturally, the same ad concludes, “Interviews will only be scheduled on receipt of BOTH current photo and resume.”

And yes, this appears to be a specifically Manhattan thing. Browse through the ads for surrounding areas (Connecticut; Long Island; Brooklyn) and you’ll see they don’t have that same buzzword slapped in there. They tend to look for “personable; energetic; neatness in appearance.”  Same thing with other notoriously appearance-obsessed cities:  San Francisco, Miami, even L.A.

It’s a head-scratcher that these ads are considered even remotely permissible. How is it that no one has filed a collective sexual discrimination lawsuit?

I completely understand that bar managers want to hire someone with an appropriate appearance (however you define “appropriate”) to represent their establishment. But it’s hard to believe that cocktail-centric female entrepreneurs like Audrey Saunders and Julie Reiner can co-exist in the same time and space as this weird, blatant objectification. Quick, someone get me Gloria Steinem on the speed-dial!

As for me, I’ll be the one ogling my drink, not the bartender.


5 thoughts on “The “Hot Bartender” Syndrome

  1. Hi Kara,
    Trust me, I’ve been screaming inside since I’ve been a bartender for 29 years! This is really nothing new. I would cringe every time a bar manager would hire an attractive girl then pass her off for me to train.

    Employers wanting attractive females behind the bar has been part of my world for a long time, however it never use to be so…ummmm “in-your-face” (like your Craigslist reference) until around 2000 when Coyote Ugly came out and also when the Ultra Lounge was born.

    The fact is there are many many types of bars/lounges out there and the only ones that are advertising for the attractive bartenders are nightclubby-ultra-lounge-types. The places you mention that don’t use the HOT buzzword are probably local places and can be a variety of types; Piano Lounges, Country Bars, Brew Pubs, Country Clubs, Jazz Bars, Wine Bars, Karaoke Bars, Sports Bars, French Bistros, Tapas Bars, Gay Bars, Neighborhood Bars, Biker Bars, Poetry Reading Bars, Pool Halls, Street Bars, Irish Pubs, British Pubs, Outdoor Bars, Cantinas, Salsa Bars, Ski Resort Bars, Amtrak Bar Cars, Excursion Bars, Dive Bars, Tiki Bars, and more.

    Becca, is actually a real person (and a repeat customer) and that’s the exact resume she wanted to give herself a cutting edge against the fierce Vegas competition. She got a job within an hour of handing out that resume. Not a resume I would ever choose for myself, but, that’s why there are 14 styles of resumes. There is something for everyone.

    Again, I’m with ya babe, but this is old news for me.

    • Wow, Cheryl, I feel like I just got a history lesson – thanks! (and thanks also for being such a good sport – I know you have a dozen other resume styles too, including more traditional versions.)

  2. I wish I could say this was unique, but I have a friend who bartends at high-end establishments in NYC and she says it’s as much about how good you look in a short skirt as it is knowing your cocktails. Most of the bars are willing to sacrifice beauty for talent. I agree thta a pleasant appearance never hurts, but when you’re paying $14 and up for a drink, it would be nice for them to have a clue what they are doing. Big boobs do not really help me enjoy a crappy cocktail.

    • Hi Susan. I 100% agree with your final comment there.

      It’s funny, what I’m getting from your comment and Cheryl’s too is “we may not like it, but if it’s going to bring in the bucks, we’re willing to deal with it.”

      Interesting that only the ladies have replied so far. I think the guys are afraid to reply to this particular post!

  3. Pingback: Top 5 blog posts from 2009 « Spice & Ice, and more…

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