When Gender Terms Offend

I have a dear friend, Amanda, who is server in a local restaurant. College educated and in her early 30s, waitressing is a temporary path to paying the bills. She related the following incident, which upset and confused her. Waiting on a group of women in their late 50s, she asked the following question: Are you ladies ready to order?

One of the diners lashed out at her saying, “I haven’t spent my whole career working to be taken seriously just to be called a lady. You need to use a gender neutral term.” Amanda noted they had been discussing ways to improve the status of women and equal rights, but then proceeded to treat her as second class.

The only gender neutral term I could think of was “you,” as in, “Are you ready to order?” which sounds impersonal. That led me to start surveying women on the topic. I queried dozens of women from their 20s into their 80s. Most were surprised by the women’s behavior. However, two made points worth considering. “Most people working in food service go out of their way NOT to offend people,” said one. The second mentioned it might be important to a non-binary individual, which made sense to me.

But this woman’s complaint had nothing to do with being neither feminine or masculine exclusively. Perhaps she was simply having a bad day. But why take it out on your server? At a neighborhood restaurant I frequent, there is a sign that reads, “A person who is nice to you, but is not nice to the waiter, is not a nice person.”

Secondly, we as women can’t afford not to work together. As the Me Too movement continues to demonstrate, women have great power in numbers and the momentum needs to keep growing. Across the world, inequality and violence towards women occurs constantly. Being part of instituting greater and permanent change can begin with the simple act of being polite and respectful to those who serve us.

Leave a comment below if you have any other topic ideas, thoughts, or questions!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Fill out this field
Fill out this field
Please enter a valid email address.