The recent incident between Shannon Gomes and Aria Lounge has sparked a lot of conversation, about a series of different things, from whether a woman should be able to wear whatever she wants without judgement to whether that determines someone’s sex. To me, all of it hits the same dead ends. For one, the club doesn’t have a gendered dress code (it does have a general dress code, that the young woman in question followed). The person who turned the woman away had an opportunity to say that she was being made to pay because she was late, but decided instead to put her foot in her mouth. In order to consider this a justifiable treatment of someone, you pretty much have to be a sexist asshole.
So I have an alternative argument. Literally the only one that makes sense, to me at least. I actually think it’ll make sense to you too when you hear it. Mostly because it already happens to you. That is, if you have a Facebook account.
You don’t pay to use Facebook, or almost any other social media site. The reason why is not that the developers of these sites are interested in a free and open internet, or care about the free dissemination of content and ideas. It’s because they’re not interested in you at all. They don’t want to sell anything to you, or buy anything from you. They’re selling you. In as close to your entirety that your digital footprint allows. To Mark Zuckerburg, you’re a product. And you’re okay with that because you get in for free, and if you see anything along the way that you’re interested in, you’ll throw some money (or likes) its way. Whatever you don’t like – ads, thirsty Facebook messages, etc – you try to ignore as much as you can. Simple, right?
Very few businesses have this model. One of those few, and maybe the most surprising one, is clubs.
This is how I see it; women go to clubs because they can get in free, and therefore the only thing they are sensitive about is whether they will be spending the night at a place they’ll have a good time at. It’s a lot like choosing a social media platform – they’re all free, but which one will I be able to do the most at? When you finally choose one, it’s just a matter of having as good a time as you can.
Yeah, some women go to clubs to attract or give sexual attention…but even if they don’t see someone they’re interested in like that, a bunch of women would just bubble in a corner by themselves with some drinks in hand and talk about their days. Men, however, are buyers.
How does Facebook make money? By advertisers buying ads in the space, to attract the folks who are there on the platform for free. In the same way, men pay to go to the club in order to attract the attention of women who often get in for free. I think there’s a pretty simple way to realize this conclusion…
If you ask yourself what women go to the club for, there are some simple answers – to lime with someone who they’re going with, as an excuse to dress up and go out, very infrequently to find a significant other. It’s also never to get a drink. It’s cheaper, in fact, to just go to a corner bar and buy some beers. Likewise, men aren’t going to the club to drink. They’re also likely not going for the music as well. They may be going with other guys, but the motives of those men are not just to dance and listen to music.
What they are likely going for, however, is the attention of attractive women. After all, women do some level of pruning (or are made to) in order to enter the club and have a pleasant time. The men, as well, prune, but to a much lesser extent most times – a testament of the power they hold in the buyer-seller arrangement.
In the Facebook that is a club, women are the product, and men are the buyers.
And that brings us right back to Shannon Gomes, the young woman humiliated in front of Aria Lounge because was ‘dressed like a man’, told she could only enter if she ‘pays the man price’. If we take the above to be logical truth of a club, then Aria wasn’t wrong. After all, she’s a defective product…
If the owners of Club Facebook…I mean, Aria Lounge…are to continue making money, they need to still have a product. And the major product isn’t alcohol, or ambiance, or whatever else a club might be able to provide. It’s the women that make the bar look attractive, and get men – considered the only real breadwinners – to come and spend money on twice the drinks and stay twice as long in the ambiance to buy twice as many more drinks. If women don’t come, they can’t attract the ‘advertisers’ to spend their dollars. And, for the record, it’s not just any woman that attracts the men that ‘advertise’ at the club. It’s…the Lady.
In this case, the Lady is the woman who posts herself, in the same way we post on Facebook. She prunes and beautifies and is potentially available, different from the regular woman because of her coveted attractiveness. And it is her attractiveness and potential availability that gets men coming and spending the money. The Lady, not just any woman, is the necessary product, because men are ‘advertising’ with entry fees and glasses of drinks to get the attention of these specific kinds of women, in order to get them to buy into them as men…or to be more specific, to get Ladies willing to return their attention with sex. That’s the currency that men who frequent clubs are maybe most interested in – women repaying for the drinks with their bodies. Even if it just ends up being a wicked wine from a ‘Bess Ting’, there is a sexual connotation behind it. And that connotation gets men coming, night after night, buying bottle after bottle.
And, with all that in mind, Shannon Gomes isn’t a fully-functioning product. So Aria’s staff scrambled to recoup their potential losses by forcing her into the man’s position – ‘pay for your position in the club, buy your own drinks, and know we expect you to buy for the drinks of another woman because we’re certain that’s who you’re attracted to.’ That’s what guided not only the actions of the person at the door of Aria Lounge, but the person’s words as well – ‘you’re not a normal woman…if you want to dress up like a man, pay de man price’.
Aria Lounge’s words around Shannon Gomes were that, because she dressed as a man, she should not be able to enter for free. What those words meant was ‘we can’t sell you to our real customers – men’.
Of course, this absolves Aria from being a sexist club. It does, however, make them something far worse. You see, to be a sexist, you see human beings, but you also see one set of human beings – men – as better than others – women, androgynous people, genderqueer…
But, if we take this to be the logical truth behind not just Aria, but every single bar that lets women in for free, or decides what women must look and behave like to get in, then they don’t even see human beings. They see a collection of products that happen to have hearts and souls, instead of women. They see a collection of corporeal wallets that are only solely interested in those products, instead of men.
If I were Aria’s owner, though, I’d much rather simply apologize…