This Powerful Cartoon Nails the Problem With Restaurant Sexism

July 16th 2015

Sexual harassment is a major issue for female servers. Last year, a report from Restaurant Opportunities Centers United revealed that 80 percent of waitresses claim they have been harassed by customers. A brilliant comic from Everyday Feminism's Anna Bongiovanni highlights why this is unacceptable. A server herself, Bongiovanni shares what it's like to be sexually harassed on the job and receive no help from managers.

"Working as a server often means I am disrespected or assumed lesser than those I am serving (often subconsciously by patrons) and this is doubled by being a woman or perceived feminine," the cartoon reads. "My trans and non-binary friends have to deal with this misogyny as well. The nature of the industry means that we are not allowed or unable to stand up to sexism."

Anna Bongiovanni on female server life and sexismEveryday Feminism/Anna Bongiovanni - everydayfeminism.com

The second portion shows a manager failing to help a server when she is sexually harassed:

Anna Bongiovanni on female server life and sexismEveryday Feminism/Anna Bongiovanni - everydayfeminism.com

Anna Bongiovanni on female server life and sexismEveryday Feminism/Anna Bongiovanni - everydayfeminism.com

Earlier this year, ATTN: interviewed Maria Myotte, the national communications coordinator for the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, regarding sexual harassment servers face at work, among other things.

"The restaurant industry is the single-largest source of sexual harassment charges to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, absolutely crushing sectors with a rate five times higher than any other industry," Myotte told ATTN: at the time. "ROC released the first ever national survey of tipped restaurant workers: 90 percent of women tipped workers report experiencing sexual harassment on the job. You can pretty much ask anyone in the restaurant industry and they’ll tell you that dealing with being groped, uncomfortably hit on, being told to wear tight clothes and show more cleavage, and even currying favor with your managers and co-workers to get the best shifts for tips -- that’s all just ‘part of the job.’ This dynamic stays with women for life, the report also shows that tipped workers are more likely to tolerate forms of harassment later on in life at different industries because ‘it was never as bad as it was in the restaurant industry.'"

Gloria Feldt, a former Planned Parenthood CEO and the current president of pro-women initiative Take the Lead, told ATTN: earlier this year that more women than men take minimum wage jobs.

"When it comes to minimum wage workers, nearly two-thirds are women," she said. "Having a fair wage and or equal pay for equivalent work it’s not just a fairness issue anymore. It’s an imperative if families are going to able to afford the basics of life."

Feldt pointed out the extreme sexism women endure in the service industry, noting that it can hold some women back from professional success.

"The restaurant industry also has the single-largest source of sexual-harassment charges filed by women, that’s five times greater than the rest of the female workforce," she said. "That’s profound. For children who came from a household where they had a vision about what they would be able to do for their future, those jobs were a motivation for them to keep going to college. For others people who may not have that opportunity, this sexual harassment sets up a pattern of constant struggle and an inability to move forward in the world."

Last year, former server Laura Ramadei posted a long Facebook note saying that a customer who touched her rear end led her to finally quit the restaurant business:


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