Popular menus also serve side orders of sexual harassment

Although there are benefits to romanticizing food and female sexuality, they come with a price — creating a space that breeds harassment and mistreatment toward women.

Photo: AP


Restaurants have become the ultimate consumer environment as everything you see can be sold, resold or upsold. There is a premium version of anything you desire that you can have with endless possibilities of purchasing a side, an add-on or a feature to make your experience THAT much better.

The motto is, (and everyone who’s ever worked in a service industry knows this) sell, sell, sell, and when you can’t sell anymore, try to upsell. Everything comes with a price, however, and in a more upscale environment, the price is now inflated to match the status.

Essentially, in restaurants you are no longer paying for your food, you are paying for the experience to have it. In this environment you lose sight of what you’re actually buying and how to distinguish the difference between cost and worth.

How do I know this? Because I provide this experience every day. I am the reason it continues to transpire.

This brings me next, to my most important point. In this environment, not only is food (formally used as a means of survival) sold as a commodity, so is sex appeal.

Having beautiful women wearing minimal clothing work to provide you the service of satisfying your appetite is not a coincidence. This is done for two reasons: to sell you the idea of a fun and flirty atmosphere, and to sexualize food in order to make it more desirable for the consumer.

The problem with this point, however, is that although there are benefits to romanticizing food and female sexuality, they come with a price. The price we have to pay for selling sex appeal results in creating a space that breeds harassment and mistreatment toward women.

Although, it is never our intention to do so, it is still the end result. I, who have long considered myself a feminist and a human-rights activist, would never be accepting of this treatment in my day-to-day life. Yet, somehow, I find myself tolerating crude and arrogant comments in the restaurant environment from men who feel entitled to make them.

Not to say that I have abandoned who I am or my values, however, there is a part of me that believes my opinion would be better left unheard in this environment; that it would be easier for me to co-operate with the popular belief than to voice my own.

Now the real and more daunting question here is, why is it that we feel the need to continue entertaining these ideologies even if we know them to be unethical and immoral?

Personally, I believe there are two reasons guiding this. The first being that we want to maintain this consumer environment to the best of our ability. We know that sex sells so we use it to aid us in attempting to sell as much as we can and capitalizing on as much as we can. We have rationalized that the only way to maximize our profit efficiently is to use every asset we have in this industry. That includes our body and our sex appeal as females. We are capable of creating this environment of entertainment where we play a role to get the job done

The second reason is that we are told this is the way it should be. It is a socially acceptable form of harassment — society’s standards say it is normal and it should be allowed. Therefore, we refuse to speak up and we let the cycle continue.

Ultimately, we refuse to deviate from this dominating ideal even though we may think differently. We silently accept that men are allowed to treat us in this manner because they have the upper hand.

How can we, as a society, become more cautious of our actions in this environment? How can we stop readily viewing sex appeal as a commodity that can be sold alongside any other tangible object? Most importantly, how can we stop openly accepting the mistreatment of women in the environment?

Sodaba Faiz is a third-year University of Toronto student with extensive experience working in the restaurant industry.

Source :

Toronto Star

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