A floor of one's own

Are women-only hotel floors sexist? Empowering? Or just pointless?

Published August 4, 2008 9:40PM (EDT)

According to the New York Times, the hospitality industry has recently resurrected a trend last seen in the 1980s (and last noted by Broadsheet in 2007): Women-only hotel floors. Originally created with female travelers' safety in mind, women’s floors fell out of favor after they "became a kind of sexist thing instead of a polite offer," says hotel analyst Bjorn Hanson. But today, eager to capture a rapidly growing market of female travelers, many hotels are making that "polite offer" once more.

The Crowne Plaza chain is leading the way, offering a "Women's Executive Level" to complement its male-aimed "King Executive Level." (Note the difference in the names. Ugh.) On the women's floor, you get "a variety of amenities like a Victoria's Secret robe, a blow dryer and vanity mirrors." Meanwhile, on the men's floor, you get a private lounge and "everything from free cocktails to concierge services." Hey, wait a minute!

Granted, women are free to book rooms on the "King" level, as men are invited to book the girly rooms. At least at Crowne Plazas, there's no strictly enforced gender division -- just "female-friendly" space and, uh, everything else. Regardless of how they break it down, though, about 95 percent of the amenities mentioned in this article seem as if they have pretty strong co-ed appeal. Keeping fitness centers open 24/7, stocking rooms with coffee makers, irons and blow dryers, brightening up the hallways and offering guests help with dinner reservations all strike me as plain old good business decisions, no gender analysis necessary.

The question of whether women-only floors are demeaning or empowering to female travelers gets a big shrug from me -- I can see both arguments and am not particularly moved by either. Mostly, I'm just stumped by the point of such floors when it seems the answer to "What do women want?" in this case is: "Pretty much what men want." Call it whatever you like -- you can find me on the floor with the free cocktails, thanks.

By Kate Harding

Kate Harding is the author of Asking For It: The Alarming Rise of Rape Culture--and What We Can Do About It, available from Da Capo Press in August 2015. Previously, she collaborated with Anna Holmes, Amanda Hess, and a cast of thousands on The Book of Jezebel, and with Marianne Kirby on Lessons from the Fat-o-Sphere. You might also remember her as the founding editor of Shapely Prose (2007-2010). Kate's essays have appeared in the anthologies Madonna & Me, Yes Means Yes, Feed Me, and Airmail: Women of Letters. She holds an M.F.A. in fiction from Vermont College of Fine Arts and a B.A. in English from University of Toronto, and is currently at work on a Ph.D. in creative writing from Bath Spa University

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