I was a bouncer for almost five years in downtown Toronto nightclubs. I've been punched in the face, elbowed, taken shots to both sides of my ribs, and received many death threats. Not to mention the number of hits I've avoided because the other person was so drunk they missed.
I'm sure these are all typical stories you'd expect to hear from a bouncer, but you rarely hear them from women. There aren't many of us female bouncers out there and we tend to experience different (if not worse) treatment from club patrons than our male counterparts.
None of my former male co-workers have been threatened with rape for denying someone entry because their ID expired. Those same men aren't constantly being babied by their fellow bouncers with patronizing words like, "Listen hun, we just don't want you getting hurt, OK?" I definitely don't know any of my male coworkers who had to cake on two or three layers of primer, foundation, and contour the SHIT out of their face because they had a bruise from being hit and their daytime jobs would find it "unladylike."
And they certainly didn't have to put up with a barrage of male AND female patrons thinking they could sexually touch you because you're a woman and likely wouldn't beat their ass for doing so.
That is what life was like as a female bouncer.
You have female patrons who either hit on you, dance on you, inappropriately try to touch you, or on rare occasions trying to pull your hair thinking it will help her win a fight against you.
Then you have the male patrons who either hit on you or can't wait to have an excuse to hit you. Yes, men hit me. I probably get asked that question the most, "Wait, men don't actually hit you right?"
Men try to or actually manage to hit me all the time. I get no "safety pass" because I'm a girl. I am in the way of something they want and they will hit me to get to it. Does this bother me? Not really. I get paid the same as my male coworkers and therefore I am expected to do the same job. I wasn't just one of the bathroom guards who stood by the bathroom making sure no one took their drinks inside.
I was also not a patdown girl who only search people's bodies looking for drugs and weaponry all night.
Wherever I worked, I was one of the most coveted security persons to have on shift. I was not as intimidating as the male bouncers. I was able to de-escalate certain situations prior to them becoming physical because I could calm men down better with my charm rather than resorting to my fists. Also, in cases where female patrons were being harassed or inappropriately touched they would come to me first because I could understand and empathize better than the men could.
Regardless of which position in the bar I was stationed at (front door/money, patdowns, bathroom, patio, coat check, or dancefloor) I would always have a different experience than the men I worked with. Here's a breakdown of the usual bouncer zones:
Front Door/Money: I would be lucky to be stationed by money because I don't actually scare anyone and at the front door no one ever tries to bribe me properly. I've had patrons walk by me and go to a male searcher because they didn't expect me to be in charge of door and checking IDs.
Pat-downs: I don't ever recall a male bouncer searching another male and hearing commentary about finding his dick (or lack thereof) or being asked on a date while doing so. Disgusting.
Bathroom: Somehow every girl in a bathroom crying over lost cellphones or lost boyfriends became my issue. Establishments don't take too kindly to drunk women crying in the club, so I would be sent into the bathroom to see what the issue was and to calm the sobbing girl sitting on a dirty floor. Male security don't usually have to play psychiatrist.
Patio: Ever have someone blow smoke at your face to piss you off? Worst shit ever. Now combine that with attempting to stop indoor and outdoor patrons from passing drinks over a very low fence while some idiot in line is also trying to grab your ass.
Coat Check: Ah, the joys of being called a cunt, whore, bitch, etc. because during a drunken stupor someone lost their coat check ticket and now has to wait until the end of the night. That was also the part of the night where I would have to try and keep my eye on the men trying to take advantage of drunk women and usher them so lightly out the door and into cabs. Why? Because a LOT (not all) of the male bouncers still completely ignore that scenario thanks to our drunken hook-up culture. While I, as a woman, watched that shit really close because I know how much that can lead to rape or assault scenarios. I cannot even begin to describe how many times I've been cursed at and belittled for cockblocking a completely sober guy from taking home a girl who can't even walk properly.
Dancefloor: The most volatile part of the bar. The place where dirtbags cannot wait to try and catch a cheap feel on the female security. The place where the male patrons will scream in your face about you being, "an ugly bitch-dyke who is on a power trip because no one wants to fuck you" after you tell them to stop trying to fondle female patrons. Also, my personal favourite, this is where drunk dudes take their penis out and pee on the dancefloor because the bathroom was too far. Now I have to worry about kicking a guy out with his penis outside his pants. Awkward.
It wasn't all bad though. Bouncing let me develop a swagger that I did not have, taught me patience, taught me to be more understanding, gave me experiences of a lifetime (while being paid to watch/experience them) and I got to meet some amazing people. Some of the male coworkers I've had helped restore my faith in the extent that strangers will go to protect a woman in danger. There are amazing male bouncers out there who are genuinely looking out for all people's safety and will beat the shit out of any dude who even tries to lay a hand on a female patron or their female co-worker.
For the women thinking about getting into bouncing, it is fun and exciting, but be aware we have to put up with more douchebaggery than the men do. Also, I'm 175 cm and 100 kg with a brown belt in Jiu Jitsu—I would definitely suggest taking some self-defence classes if you are a smaller build, but if you're my size (or bigger) and been whooping ass all your life and want to protect folks and get paid for it, go for it.
Follow Mirna Eljazovic on Twitter.