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Women can wear whatever they want anywhere, so if a female bartender’s attire shocks you, you need to question either management or the patriarchy. Courtesy iStock (NOTE: We have replaced the original photo from Instagram and apologize for any inconvenience it may have caused.)

Why did I do this to myself?

The question kept running through my head as I sat in my car in a Crockett Row parking garage.

I’ve never liked going to bars. This is a bad idea.

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The first thing you should know about me is that I’ve been the “mom friend” all my life. In college, I avoided going to clubs as much as possible –– to the point that my friends knew not to expect me on nights out. I also have tinnitus, so loud noises and I don’t get along.

The parties I went to in college were movie nights, the occasional five-person meetups for pizza, and chess rounds in my friend Savannah’s dorm. On a typical weekend now, you can find me curled up at home watching Mystery Science Theater 3000 while eating ice cream, so if the weekend line at Brahm’s is my own personal hell, how did I end up in one of the busiest, rowdiest party districts in North Texas on a recent, pre-Thanksgiving break Saturday night?

Because my editor told me to, and I’m afraid of authority.

I also wanted to see if I could get through the discomfort. When you live with anxiety, sometimes you just want to remind yourself that you’ll survive a situation and be OK. It’s a test of sorts –– win the right to be comfortable by doing something uncomfortable once every so often.

I invited along two friends with the promise of drinks and hopefully interesting conversation. We started our adventure at Social House.

Situated near the center of an enormous maze of bars and restaurants around Crockett Street, this spot wasn’t particularly rowdy (yet), and after splitting a plate of bruschetta (6 out 10), we took out our phones and did what any self-respecting millennial with questions would do –– we googled which nearby bars were the best for socializing.

By the time we’d finished our internet sleuthing, the bars were just waking up, and twentysomethings started filtering in. A lot of them.

The house music at several bars around the block was migraine-inducing, so we went where our eardrums demanded, a patio bar on the east side of Foch Street. (Don’t ask me the names of most of these places because there’s no telling. With so many of them packed together, you often can’t tell when one ends and another begins.)

As we settled onto our uncomfortable stools, we started chatting and looking around. We felt like researchers studying our surroundings. Like David Attenborough examining a pack of hyenas, we listened as a woman behind us got hammered and shrieked to the men around her table.

We also struck up a conversation about the differences between the male and female bartenders. In male-dominated industries, it is common for women to struggle for financial equality and equal respect. Female bartenders are no exception.

The male and female bartenders sported wildly different uniforms. The women wore black sports bras, shorts, and deep-cut tops, while all the men had on branded T-shirts and comfortable pants. This is a phenomenon I’ve heard about, namely that the female bartenders on West 7th are expected to wear more revealing clothes either as required by management or to make better tips.

I don’t know which of the two applied here, but it gave us the impression we weren’t the intended customers.

The observation also prompted the question: “Is this anti-feminist?”

For an answer, we first need to understand what feminism means in the first place. Feminism is defined as the belief that men and women should be politically, socially, and economically equal. That’s it. Really quite simple.

When you strip the term “feminist” of its rhetorical add-ons (for example, the idea of so-called “man hating”), the philosophy becomes something the vast majority of people probably support. Anything else is just based on stereotypes. Our feelings about the word don’t really matter. It’s the core belief that does.

So, is a female bartender in a revealing top anti-feminist? No. Women should be permitted to dress however they see fit, according to the tenets of feminism. “But what about requiring them to wear revealing clothes as their uniform?” you might ask. In that case, it’s the management we should be questioning, not the bartender, much like how we should question the management ethos of Hooters and not harass the waitresses.

Empowerment doesn’t come from how you dress but from your ability to decide what you show off. If a bartender or waitress has to dress a certain way to make better tips, we are proving that society hasn’t progressed past the antiquated belief that a woman’s value is greater if she is physically appealing. This is proof that society is still not truly equal. If women were economically equal to men, they wouldn’t have to dress a certain way to make better money.

Every woman on staff at this bar seemed to be wearing the same outfit, and I left suspecting they had a Hooters-esque wardrobe requirement. Depressing stuff.

After scoping out a nightclub down the block, we decided not to bust our eardrums for the sake of people-watching and switched things up by visiting an Irish pub a block away.

“Maybe we could get some more observation work here,” I thought. “There’s definitely a lot of male energy to analyze.”

And, damn, if we didn’t find just that.

Despite a TCU home game bringing a few Frogs to the bars that night, Notre Dame fans ruled here, and the energy was vastly different from our previous stops. Unlike at our last two places, most of the bargoers here were guys (mid to late 30s, it seems), and though there were only about 20 of them, their enthusiasm made the place feel packed.

Quick side note: Every bar we visited had its own vibe, meaning each spot has something different to offer. For example, if you’re looking to dance but do not want to go to a full-on club, you might prefer Bottled Blonde.

Despite the various vibes among the bars, we felt like most of them were alienating. We agreed the feeling was likely due to the fact that we weren’t interested in hitting on guys (or girls) –– a common activity we noticed throughout the night –– and we weren’t invested in watching the big game. We just wanted to sit down, have some cheap drinks, and chat comfortably.

Everywhere we went the music was too loud to hear ourselves speak, so deep philosophical conversation was off the menu. And though the Irish pub with its rowdy men screaming on the Fighting Irish and singing the “Victory March” together was the only stop that didn’t feel geared toward people looking for a hookup or an otherwise wheels-off evening, there was one theme tying all these bars together –– my feeling of physical discomfort.

I’m not just talking about the noise or the customers’ social theatrics. Or the wooden carvings of naked women that adorned the shelves of bottles behind the Irish pub’s bar counter. I mean feeling unsafe, which followed me from place to place, needling at the back of my mind and forcing me to remember my judo training with every step.

The fact that women feel less safe than men while doing mundane things like walking to their cars is not exactly news. Still, it’s an important consideration during an evening out, and it was my main sticking point when I took on this assignment. I know what makes me feel unsafe, and walking down a poorly lit road past busy bars is a perfect example. The reminder that a TCU student had been murdered in this area a few weeks earlier didn’t help.

I felt unsafe at the Irish pub, too, when the men started screaming, red-faced at the TVs, banging their hands on the bar counter, and shaking their neighbors’ glasses. This space, like all of them, was male-dominated. Men controlled this arena, not in a sexual manner like the bar on Foch but in a blatantly aggressive and posturing way. It reminded me that, though the female bartender here was not wearing a sexualized “uniform,” this space still was not meant for me.

I know women can get hyped about sports and lose their minds over it just like men, but there is something unique to male sports-induced raging that makes me shrink in on myself and shudder. It’s the spiritual equivalent of spreading your legs on a chair in public. Sports rage makes me feel the threat of what could happen when a man is just so inclined to do and say whatever he wants, regardless of looking like an animal in public.

When my friends asked me what we should do next, I decided I’d had enough social anthropology for one night. Caroline chuckled at the prospect of turning in at 10 p.m. on a Saturday –– at a time when most bars and clubs are at their busiest. I smiled at this reminder that she is younger and livelier than I am. Then again, this is what I do. I am the mom friend.

Looking back, I can say that the drinks were OK and not as expensive as I’d expected, the bars weren’t too packed, and I hadn’t been harassed, all good things. Still, I’m not inclined to repeat my outing anytime soon. Nightlife just isn’t my thing, and the pull toward funny TV and ice cream in my PJs is too strong for me to resist.

This column reflects the opinions and fact-gathering of the author and not the Fort Worth Weekly. To submit a column, please email Editor Anthony Mariani at Anthony@FWWeekly.com. He will gently edit it for clarity and concision.

12 COMMENTS

  1. This article seems to be something you find in a mean girls movie, slightly immature and definitely heavily opinionated without much knowledge of the west 7th area. Thanks for trying to find “a spot” down here, maybe stick to downtown or magnolia ave and let us handle the rest of Fort Worth.

  2. Who’s gonna tell her that the female staff picks their uniform 😂 This journalist should grow up a bit, too, bc Erin was clearly the worst person to write an article about the busiest nightlife scene in Fort Worth. Speak up for yourself, why are you “scared of authority”? Way to assist in FWW losing all credibility 🤦🏽‍♀️

  3. This is written like a mediocre college essay by a man-hating “feminist.” This is coming from a feminist with 4 years of sobriety with a master’s degree.

  4. This is absurd! I live on West 7th and I NEVER feel unsafe here. I also frequent Trinity Pub and it’s one of my favorite bars. I love the entire staff! Your editor is dumb – having someone who hates bars, write about bars. Stick to your strengths, sweetie.

  5. I only have constructive criticism to give Erin. I can relate to her feelings about the bar scene. Hell, even I avoid bars for partially the same reasons stated. I am 30, a wife and mom of two 14-year-old boys. Sometimes I feel like my stage in life has aged me out of the bar scene, but believe me, once upon a time I used to enjoy it. I was like Cinderella, running home as soon as the clock struck 2 a.m. I am not sure what Erin’s assignment was, but one thing I think would have been a great idea is to find an establishment whose ambiance and crowd might be the perfect fit for people like us. There is a place for everyone in the great city of Fort Worth. Believe me, there are tiny treasures everywhere.

  6. It seems the bulk of commenters can’t fathom someone having a different experience than them. It was an opinion piece, grow up!

  7. Ok, so this article wasn’t the best, but it’s also not the worst. The author has something to add concerning nightlife in Fort Worth and given time and some work she may gain the ability to voice this in a more coherent manner. It’s ok to criticize the article, every written piece in history has its critics, but there is no need to get mean-spirited about it

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