Today at the sketchier of my two jobs, the restaurant one, some customers didn't like their food and sent it back for free replacements. My shift manager, already under potential dickwad surveillance by me, says under his breath, "God, that is so gay." Minutes later, said shift manager refuses to wear an apron because "it looks like a skirt," and a guy at a table I'm serving insults his friend for eating "like a girl." I steady myself, clutch my tray, and contemplate saying, "Listen, dudes, don't fuck with me. I'm a poststructuralist feminist. I read Judith Butler for fun. Any more of this shit and I'll rip yr balls out through yr nostrils."
Serves me right for not listening to Audre Lorde. Because this restaurant, it is definitely the master's house, and much as I thought I could destroy the system from the inside by queering and feministing and radicalizing shit up, I find myself passing over those tools and opting for the less confrontational, blunted, master's variety, i.e. not being "over-sensitive" and "giving the benefit of the doubt." And they get worse, the craptacular sexual politics of my workplace. In three weeks I have never seen a girl put on bus duty, and there has only been a dude up at the registers once. The cash ladies are all 17-24, cute, perky and carefully trained to smile and ask if you wouldn't like to add some steak to that for just $2.00. So I can't help feeling bummed and saddened and complicit in a centuries-old strategy of using young women's bodies and labor to grease the wheels of food service and capitalism in general, to comfort and congratulate and assure customers that buying more is always the answer. We're a couple of steps up from Renaissance tavern wenches, maybe...but only a couple.
It also reminds me of how some currents of (diluted?) 3rd wave feminism are too commodity fetishistic for comfort, particularly the ones that encourage us to buy our empowerment in the form of sex toys and coin purses rather than organize direct political action, mobilization and dissent. I've never been able to flaunt the Marxist/socialist steez before, just fierce alliance, because my survival feels imbricated with and enabled by capitalism in ways that are prickly like whoa to untangle. But maybe it wouldn't hurt to do a little review.