Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Gendered Coffee

I’m going to out myself right now. I mean, truly, lay it all out on the line. Do you understand how uncomfortable I feel doing this? This is a terrible burden that I’ve held inside for most of my adult life. But there is no more for it. I’ve got to tell you…

I have a sweet tooth. I like sweet food. And, worse, I like sweet drinks.

Let me explain. I was in the middle of a long ten-hour drive. My female companion and I decided to stop at Dutch Bros. I needed some coffee, badly. But I’m not a huge fan of regular coffee- it tastes bitter to me. So I decided on their seasonal Pumpkin Pie Latte. It was festive and seemed like a very tasty treat. My co-pilot asked for a small coffee. As we slid into the drive-thru, I had no idea that I would soon be making a cardinal mistake – apparently, sweet drinks are not for males. And so ensued the following conversation:

Me: “Can we get a small coffee and a regular pumpkin pie latte?”
Pretty Barista (leaning down to look into our vehicle and across to my companion): “Would you like whipped cream and sprinkles on that latte, ma’am?”
Awkward pause ensues
Companion: “Oh, oh no. It’s not for me. I’m the coffee – he wants the latte.”
After some laughter and mea culpas, I denied the whipped cream and sprinkles. Then she responded, “It’s ok, I know some tough men who like it, too.”

I was struck by the gendered implications of this event, particularly the assumption that sweet drinks are for girls. Are men truly not allowed to enjoy a drink that is sweet to the palette? For a moment, I was slightly embarrassed to have been exposed. But why should I be? I could hear Catherine MacKinnon chattering in my ear – another power imbalance defined by the male perspective. Societal stereotypes say sweet drinks limit my masculinity, that a real man’s drink is strong. But fruity, sugary flavors do not cut into my manhood, revoke my “mancard,” or make me a “bitch,” as Hamilton Nolan or some comments on Jim Romenesko's blog suggest. Nor do they reveal a super-confidence or toughness that deserves admiration as an evolved-male. I simply like sweets and I will continue to order them.

On further reflection, I probably never would have recognized this gendered assumption and others like it had it not been for Feminist Legal Theory. Having had no prior experience with feminism, I joined this class to learn more about it and it is interesting to see how much I have learned in this semester.

1 comment:

Girl Talk said...

When I go to restaurants and bars, I almost always ask the server or bartender what they recommend. I've noticed that, when I am at a restaurant with a man and we ask for recommendations, more often than not a salad is recommended for me and some sort of red meat dish recommended for him. At bars, a fruity martini is almost always recommended for me, while some sort of beer or bourbon drink is recommended for the man. It's funny (and annoying) how pervasive gender stereotypes are. They've poisoned our food!