Why are ‘ladies nights’ in bars not sexist?

I’m not sure if they still happen in other parts of the world, but here in Qingdao on a Wednesday night in a small bar/coffee shop, girls can drink free unlimited cocktails before 12am. The bar is always packed on Wednesday nights with students as all students, male or female love free stuff. I am still undecided about whether I think this is sexist or not.

I’ve never really been involved with feminism as like many people in the West I automatically associate the word with hairy armpitted, men hating, bad looking ladies who parade the streets naked campaigning for rights that they sometimes already have. But recently I have discovered that this is not what feminism is all about, not at all. After reading I am Malala* (the story of the young Pakistani girl shot by the Taliban in 2012 for speaking out about girls education in her country), I realised how feminism is definitely a positive thing that we need to spread around the globe. I feel that in the UK although there are still aspects where women are treated differently from men, especially in recent years with the increase of lad culture (full NUS report on lad culture or a summary) in universities and other institutions, there are still more important issues that as a global community we need to tackle. There are countries where females are persecuted, denied rights to education, forced into FGM and even worse female infanticide.

At first I enjoyed the free drinks there. I thought after all of the things that I as a woman have suffered from throughout my life (period pain, boy problems, having long curly hair that strangers think they can freely touch etc) I should be allowed one night a week to let my hair down and be looked after like an “Angel” as the bar promotes. But as the weeks have passed I’ve come to see it in a different light.

After asking some guys why they come here on ‘ladies night’, their answers have always been

because there’s always lots of pretty girls here on a Wednesday

or something along those lines. Are us ladies being used as pawns/eye candy to attract men to the bar? Because that is how it seems to me after I was… not assaulted, that’s a strong word to use, but touched in an inappropriate way by a man I didn’t know. After I told him to go away (different words and an appropriate hand gesture were used) he continued to sit next to the dancefloor glaring at all the girls dancing together.

As the only conditions to getting the free drinks are being a girl and bringing back your empty glass before midnight, I’ve always seemed to fall into the trap of finishing one drink, looking at the clock and the queue at the bar. I estimate this will be my last Mai Tai, as there’s only twenty minutes left and I want to make the most of the offer. When I get that ‘last drink’ I drink it quickly to see if I can fit in another one before they start charging for drinks. This is a bad habit I know but every week I see girls doing the same and in doing so getting more drunk than they planned to…leading to losing inhibitions, falling over, ridiculous dancing and sending text messages that will probably be regretted in the morning. Is this the behaviour that the bar wants to encourage? When I’ve been outside talking too loud to my friends a barman will always come over to tell me to speak quieter but never once have they told me to stop drinking. As the drinks are poured by sight rather than measurement glasses if you ask for a bit more vodka they’ll normally give you more, especially if it’s at the end of a bottle.

I don’t want this to come across as me criticising the bar, I really like it and I have been on the weekend and not only when there are free drinks for me and my girlfriends. It’s the concept that I’m criticising. I understand that bars want to create a good atmosphere and having special nights to attract people but why are ladies singled out to be entitled to free alcohol? What’s wrong with a good BOGOF deal or selected shots for 10快 for everybody? There are many other strategies to attract people to bars but why does offering free alcohol to ladies seem to be the most effective in this case? Can you imagine the uproar it would cause if a bar were to offer free beer to men before midnight? So why is it not a problem at all for ladies to have free cocktails?

So you’re probably wondering why I still go if I’m so outraged by it all. Well the atmosphere is generally very good, most of my classmates are there and we have chance to dance and sing together. The music is also good (although a little repetitive now I’ve been many times), even if I had to pay for drinks I would still probably go as long as my friends were all there. The free drinks are a bonus but what attracts me most is being with my friends. I would love nothing more than to be involved in some kind of boycott and go to a different place on a Wednesday but there is no other place that people are willing to go to which is a shame. The one place that did also run a Wednesday night was also a free for ladies thing on a rooftop terrace but they could not compete so changed their free ladies night to a Friday…

* Coincidentally today is Malala Day, learn more about her story.

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