Gender separation is fine. Sometimes. Not sharing toilets or changing rooms with people who have penises is really OK with me. No one wants to be caught exiting a cubicle after a post-lunch number two by someone of the opposite sex.
Gender-focused drinks, however, are silly. A Brooklyn Mexican restaurant, Los Pollitos III, has created a gender-divided drinks menu which recommends certain alcoholic drinks for the ladies versus the men, and then some for "everyone."
The difference? Those aimed at the laydeez have lower alcohol levels than the male suggestions. Because our constitutions are, as everyone knows, ever so weak. Flick us and we'd fall over.
Dividing a drinks menu in this way is bound to bring the restaurant publicity—here I am writing about it!—which I imagine is, like restaurants offering "The World's Most Expensive" something or other, PR at its most base level. But I can't help being offended by it.
As a woman, getting a weaker range of drink recommendations—to me—implies weakness. It makes me think of those archetypal movie scenes where a woman's date takes it upon himself to order her food and drinks. If anyone set me up with a guy like that—the kind that places his hand on the small of your back whenever you walk through a door, like, you've never walked through a door before and just need that little extra help—I'd be vomiting faster than if I had necked five of Los Pollitos' Flaming Cucaracha's.
Sure, we're told that our bodies might not process alcohol as well as men, that we're made up of less water because we, on average, weigh less. Because alcohol is dispersed through water in the body, it means our blood alcohol concentration will be higher after drinking the same amount as our penis-owning counterparts. And who am I to argue with the white-coats?
Still, I doubt the kind of gender distinction this place is implementing is because their mixologists also have a biochemistry degree and are, you know, just looking out for the gals. The fact that drinks are being attributed to gender based on their alcoholic content is so sexist; so bloody Victorian it makes me laugh.
I spoke to a New York barman who is all for alcoholic segregation, though. "It makes sense," says Leo Jackson, who works at Soho's Salon de Lafayette. "It's women who get so inebriated that they pass out and stumble around. It's safer for them to have drinks with less alcohol."
Funny, then, that the people I can recall getting so wasted that their wardrobes become their urinals for the night, the ones who gleefully strip off and try to imitate a helicopter with their sexual organs and convince themselves that a five-foot hedge is low enough to safely vault over, all tend to be male. Yes, women might pass out and stumble around, and hell, fantastically inappropriate nudity has been known to occur (ahem) after deciding that one more Sambuca shot was a good idea, but these actions aren't gender specific.
We have all made complete tits of ourselves when drunk.
The flip-side to this coin is that it puts a pretty shitty expectation on the men who feel that they have to order a strong drink to be part of some silly, modern, laddy paradigm. Without strong drinks, where's the banter? But when a girl gets too drunk, they're often labeled a 'mess', uncontrollable, or an embarrassment. Boys on the other hand—in my experience—use compromising experiences to up their lad points with each other. You threw up all over the bar and then immediately ordered another shot? Sweet! Can't remember how you got home, or what fine, wholly stimulating moves you put on the poor girl sleeping in your bed? Cool. Woke up slumped in a bus stop with a kebab stuck to your armpit? Absolute classic lad behavior.
It's important to consider the impact of marketing drinks with higher alcohol content to men. What if a man, heaven forfend, fancies a glass of wine from the ladies menu? Are the bartenders here going to think he's a sissy? It's such a hackneyed argument these days, one that we should all be bored to tears with, but I really believe that any kind of gendered menu-ing—even if the intentions are fairly benign—is reductive.
A woman can order a strong drink—or three—and not be compelled to imagine that any raised surface is, in fact, a dance podium. I know my limits when I've hit the this-next-drink-is-going-to-turn-me-into-a-complete-liability junction. And the fact is, most of the men I know don't seem to have that control. They end up drinking way beyond drunk and into puking-into-your-hands-on-the-nightbus-territory.
The creator of the menu and manager of Los Pollitos, Marcos Merino, says, "The idea was to make people laugh. People get excited about the menu and have fun with it."
Forgive me, but a man throwing all that potential emasculation to the wind and daring to order a ladies' drink sounds about as fun as being stuck in a portaloo with Donald Trump. How transgressive. Guy, if you want a nice glass of viognier, no one is going to think, shit, he has no vigor. What a creep. Likewise, I don't think a woman looking at a menu made up of bespoke, lower-proof drinks would even be reduced to a titter.
The ladies' menu itself reads like the drink cabinet contents for an 80s Christmas party. Wine? Groundbreaking. Baileys, Kahlua, Alize… you get the drift. If you're going to give us lower alcohol levels, a metaphorical "I think you've had enough, don't you?" pat on the head, at least go against the grain. Throw some fruit in there, for Christ's sake. Women love fruit!
I really wish I lived in New York and could turn up with my friends in a big cloud of estrogen and drink the bar dry of tequila poppers. Maybe leave a couple of graying bras smoldering in the toilets.
Women, ay? Can't be trusted!