[Content Notice: fat hatred, body image]
I can put on a short skirt, a deeply-plunging neckline, appealingly “natural” make-up, high heels, and a sweet smile; wander in alone to a bar filled with allegedly-prowling men; and be left alone. I’d call it my superpower were it not for the fact that, the one time I’ve stayed until closing time, a man who had previously insulted me to my face and laughed about it with his buddies that night told me that I was going home with him (I didn’t).
Since I am not a fan of the bar and club scene, especially not for meeting people, it’s not a huge deal for me. In fact, it wouldn’t bother me at all… if it weren’t for other people. More normative-type people can’t understand why I would call a night out “expensive” because “you’re a girl!” MRAs declare free drinks to be “female privilege.” Even articles that debunk the notion of “female privilege” assume that free drinks are a universal female experience.
I constantly hear about all the free stuff women automatically get just for being women — free stuff I’ve never gotten. Pointing this fact out leads to people engaging in some rather ridiculous mental gymnastics in order to avoid acknowledging that lookism and fatphobia exist.
The conspiracy theories that denialists posit as to why someone like me might not share the assumed universal female experience of not paying at bars are typically based on one of two assumptions: either I’m too intimidating, or I’m too timid. Both of them assume that I’m doing it wrong rather than am affected by social norms.
People who perceive me as supremely self-assured tell me that I don’t generally get hit on in mainstream environments where such behavior is expected because I appear too confident and sure of myself. Men, they proclaim, are attracted to women who present in a more victim-like fashion. Vulnerability is hot, they say.
People who perceive me as socially awkward and maladjusted tell me that the reason I don’t generally get hit on in the aforementioned contexts is because I appear nervous rather than calm and at-home. Men, they proclaim, are attracted to confidence and happiness. Who wouldn’t want to be around someone who’s happy? they ask rhetorically.
I’d really love to put one of each of these conspiracy theorists in a room and have them duke it out. Both sides can defend their views to the death while I watch, content in the knowledge that I don’t suck at life. I will, as per Occam’s Razor, continue to go with my lived experiences as well as evidence in favor of proven social phenomena. That I’m not approached is not a personality failing on my part. It has to do with my lack of conformity to the “hot” norm, a norm that is oddly specific and rather rigid in my particular region of the country and mostly has to do with body type. If you aren’t shaped and sized “correctly,” you don’t fit into the “free drinks” slot.
The bar and club scene doesn’t actually matter all that much in the grand scheme of things. What does matter is what people say about it. It’s similar to claiming that all women get harassed by some particular creeper or other. Saying that “women” get free drinks erases the experiences of women who aren’t considered conventionally attractive. Do we not count as women, too?