He leaned in and locked eyes with me. Once he was sure he had my attention he licked his lips and flicked his eyes over me and said with a smirk, "I'll have the... Ballz Deep."
I responded the only way I could, with a smile saying, "One 7 Seas, you got it!"
I've been a beer fan for a while now, but a bartender for only three months. This was the first incredibly creepy guy I had to deal with. I did what I do: I smiled and was chipper. I can pull that one off well. And I have to be able to. Not because I’m slinging beer for a living, but because I am a woman.
I've learned to put up with it. I've learned to smile and deflect. I've learned to be chipper. As Hanna Brooks Olsen says over on Medium, very few men witness this price we pay to exist as women. When they aren’t there to see it? So often, they disbelieve and doubt, even when they are sympathetic.
This diminishing of women’s experiences strikes me as the root behind why the now-viral Facebook post by Jordan Gleason, the co-owner of Black Acre Brewing in Indiana, about banning a 60-year-old man from his bar, resonated so strongly with so many folks.
In the post, Gleason breaks down that the man told his employees that "he liked looking at their tits while they washed dishes, and their asses while they were pouring drinks." After Gleason confronted the man, he defended himself by saying that what he said would have been okay 20 years ago, and that it was the employees' fault for wearing low-cut shirts. Gleason laid out that it wasn't the first time that he's dealt with blatant sexism of the sort, and he's done his best to actively "combat this disease like it's the god damned plague."
It should be totally normal to treat women like people. But if it was normal, Gleason probably wouldn’t have had to call out that guy. He definitely, as you’ll see in his story, wouldn’t have to do it over and over again (with the same guy AND with multiple men).
I deeply appreciate Gleason’s actions here. It’s vital, in part because it’s an aberration and in part because so many people only listen to those who look like them, or have more social status than them. As he says, "they attempt to appeal to [him] solely because [he’s] a man.”
Gleason believed the women who spoke up to him. The comments to his post make it clear he doesn't have to witness harassment (though his post makes it clear he has witnessed harassment) to believe it happened. And he reacted. Appropriately. He banned the man who harassed his staff.
It seems some are celebrating Gleason "banning the "gentleman" who felt it appropriate to comment on tits and ass, and I do appreciate that. Both the commendations of Gleason and the banning. But folks?
Banning a harasser is the bare minimum he or any other bar manager could do.
I'm celebrating Gleason today because he did more. He told other men to believe women. He called sexual harassment what it is, a "god damned plague" and called on men to speak up and stand up. And he reminded them that saying "not all men" isn't helpful.
So when Gleason banned a sexist prick, I'm thankful, but I don't think much of it. When he reminds men that they “need to do more than just [avoid] being a sexist prick,” that is the moment I raise my glass, hoot, holler and say, “thank you.” When he calls out that it's just not enough to be a good guy, you have to demand better of your compatriots as well. And you have to support those who are calling out your compatriots.
And women? (Especially women like me: white, cis-gendered, middle-class.) We aren't excused from this work. Just because this happens more to women than men doesn't mean we don't disbelieve other women. Particularly women of color, poor women and trans women. We have to believe and support them all. We have to do the work.
I'll be honest: I shouldn't have to be so damn grateful for a man to tell other men to shape their shit up. Telling other people to be better people should also come with the territory of being human. But what "should" be and what is reality are wildly different.
So, here's to Jordan Gleason and Black Acre Brewing. I raise my glass in thanks and in a promise:
I too will do more than the bare minimum. I will do more than just not be an asshole. I will call out, call in and support those who tell me their stories. If I have the power, I'll ban 'em too. I will do the work to make the industry—and the world—a better place.
As for the guy at the beginning of my story? I was the only bartender working at the time, and there was no manager onsite. I know my bosses all would've thrown him out had he been around to do so. But none of them were there, so I smiled, poured an asshole a beer and brushed it off.