Flirting with Equality

Apr 282004
Authors: Eric Klamper

I am a product of a cosmetic generation, a generation that has

made billions from objectifying women and has presented surgery as

an option for young people in their quest to conform in ways that a

trip to the mall or an eating disorder can’t provide.

I’ve witnessed the power of suggestion used to influence the

ever-changing face of “beauty,” and I’ve even altered my own

wardrobe in accordance to what other people have decided is

fashionable, and therefore socially superior. Why? Because I, like

so many other people of this generation, desperately need to feel

attractive to someone.

We seem captivated by the life-consuming pursuit of becoming

beautiful and being constantly surrounded by beautiful things. This

media-lined net of aestheticism has ensnared my generation, my

peers and myself.

I noticed this the other day after paying my tab at a local bar.

The waitress was an attractive young woman. After leaving an overly

sufficient tip, I questioned the motives of my generosity.

I debated if I had actually had a more enjoyable experience

simply because of the occasional appearance of someone who is

physically attractive. It took a little contemplation, but I

realized that I had and not because of any perverse aspirations,

but because I felt flattered by the “acquisition” of a few

conversations with something beautiful.

I had essentially paid her extra to flirt with me.

Since this revelation, I’ve begun to notice an increasingly

large number of women in the service industry who seem to use their

feminine ways to increase their income.

“I make more money when I’m dressed up and cute over when I look

all plain and reserved,” said Jane Stewart, a Fort Collins

waitress. “Flirting isn’t really something that waitresses

absolutely have to do, but sometimes it helps.”

Has a woman’s ability to make money in the service industry

become centered around customer/server intimacy rather than quality

of service? This idea would imply that women must meet some kind of

physical or sexual standard in order to lucratively serve food and

drinks, which sounds absurd but is all too feasible.

The Y chromosome seems to alter one’s perception of a dollar’s

value. “Hooters,” for example, is an establishment that was founded

on this principle. As a gender, we men will bitch and moan if gas

prices go up 10 cents, but we’re more than willing to pay $10 for a

pitcher of crappy beer simply because breasts and spandex are


So the dilemma comes down to this: Either men are to blame for

the surge in the service industry’s influx of cleavage-thrusting

requirements, due to man’s womanizing appetite for “eye candy,” or

the finger should be pointed at the women who cater to this demand

and therefore pass on an increasingly inappropriate standard of


In either case, the “if you’ve got it, flaunt it” attitude can

only be contributing a stride backward in women’s struggle to

achieve workplace equality.

“The dress code where I work is just to wear black but I still

know that my outfit can make me more money when I dress cuter,”

Stewart said. “I guess it would be nice if it were only about the

quality of service instead of what the service looked like.”

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