Gay bars to bachelorettes: Not tonight, honey

Maybe it's time to take the tiara and the penis hat to a place where the clientele can legally marry their partners.

Published March 23, 2009 2:11PM (EDT)

When it comes to bachelorette parties, a bit (at the very least) of foolishness is usually expected, if not actively encouraged. As Dawn Turner Trice puts it in today's Chicago Tribune, "The bride-to-be is often easily identifiable. She's the one wearing either a veil or tiara or feather boa or phallic-shaped blow-up hat, and is surrounded by women who begin the night somewhat reserved but metamorphose into pelvis-thrusting vamps as their blood-alcohol levels rise." Yup, pretty much. But Turner Trice is actually writing about a more offensive form of bad judgment: throwing bachelorette parties at gay bars. You know, the kind of bars that cater to men who can't legally marry their partners.

I'm highly sympathetic to the primary reason women give for having their hen parties at venues traditionally reserved for cocks: They want the freedom to get plastered and dance without being groped by equally drunk straight men. Don't we all. But even without the marriage issue, descending on a gay bar is hardly an ideal solution. For starters, gay men would like the freedom to get plastered and dance without being groped by drunk straight women in penis hats. Says Turner Trice, "I found it ironic that, as the women got liquored up, they were the ones doing the pawing and clawing until soon they resembled the straight guys they were trying to avoid." Indeed. If the whole reason you're there is because you can't stand being objectified and harassed by people you don't want to have sex with, why the hell would you do it to somebody else? Art Johnston, owner of the Chicago bar Sidetrack, has banned bachelorette parties for just that reason. "As gay men who understand discrimination, none of us want to look like we don't welcome folks. But it comes down to ignorant, bad behavior ... That's the issue."

"Ignorant" is also the key word when it comes to celebrating your impending marriage at a venue that's meant to serve folks who can't marry. In most cases, bachelorette parties are deeply annoying to everyone who's not participating in them, even when they take place at straight bars or nail salons. But when they take place at gay bars, they can also be downright hurtful. Says Geno Zaharakis, owner of another bar that's banned bachelorettes, "The women are a hoot, and some can be just delightful. But because not everybody can get married, watching them celebrate, it's such a slap in the face. Prop 8 just reopened the wound." When Turner Trice asks a woman settling in to watch an all-male revue called "SinZation" if she ever considered that angle, she says, "I never would have thought about it like that. I could see how this could be frustrating to gay men. Maybe it's something I'll think about next time."

Ladies, "maybe I'll think about it" really isn't good enough. When you have the privilege of taking marriage rights for granted, the least you can do is avoid dressing that privilege up in a feather boa and tiara and flaunting it in front of people who don't. 

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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