Watch Me Entertain Myself!

Sacha Guitry once said, "You can pretend to be serious, but you can't pretend to be witty." Oh yes, I'm the great pretender.
(pilot episode: 20 January 2004)

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Inday Will Always Love Youuuuuuuuuu!

Gotterdamerung raised some good points for further discussion re. Inday Gee and the Aruba Bar incident.

[1] “…what if a really butch dyke entered the premises, you know, very masculine, sporting short hair, polo and slacks, with an obvious macho swagger, do you think she will be shown the door as well? She should be, but chances are, she’ll get away with it. (I am presuming, of course).”

Since none of us are associated with Aruba Bar, let me begin by stating that the following will contain presumptions and assumptions.

If they followed their dress code to the letter, the Aruba staff should not have allowed the dyke in their premises. This assumes, of course, that the staff at the door does not mistake her for a guy. Given your description, there is a possibility that they’ll let her in simply because they thought she was a he.

However, assuming that the Aruba Bar is bent on screening out really loud, very obvious cross-dressers, then it’s possible that the staff will allow that dyke inside. This will go against the letter of their code but it will be in keeping with its spirit.

This leads into the next point you raised.

[2] “It seems to me that the bar simply didn’t want to alienate their straight patrons who might not want to mingle, mix, or at least be seen with loud and flamboyant queens (well, can you ever imagine Garutay not in drag?). The dress code is in place precisely to keep them out. After all, Aruba bar isn’t a gay bar, for crying out loud. Management ostensibly wants to keep the bar’s core customers, i.e., straight patrons. It boils down to a question of economics.”

This is the sad reality we face. Business establishments want to keep their primary customers comfortable inside their venues. But in our society most straight people (and not a few gay ones too) find it very uncomfortable to mingle with loud and flamboyant queens, especially in venues where they just want to relax, hang around and be entertained. If these queens start invading a comfort zone of theirs, like a bar or a gym, then it’s likely that the straights will feel uncomfortable, maybe even threatened. They may even start avoiding that particular venue altogether. It’s not surprising, therefore, that bars like Aruba will put up rules that limit, if not totally exclude, “undesirables” in their venue.

But how does one keep “undesirables” out without appearing like a bigot? Aye, there’s the rub. “No cross-dressers” is neater and simpler while “No noisy, flamboyant and openly-gay cross-dressing men who rub straights the wrong way by talking really loud and who act obnoxious by straight men’s standards” is a tad too unwieldy a sign.

[3] “Just because the bar has the right to impose its own policy and enforce it doesn’t mean it is right. Think of apartheid in South Africa a few decades ago. Discrimination against blacks was institutionalized and made a policy. Legally speaking, Botha’s government didn’t breach any rules, but that does that mean the policy was right?”

Interesting choice of analogy you used. Discrimination against a race is on a different level versus discrimination against choice of wardrobe. One can decide to change clothes, but one cannot decide to change skin color, Michael Jackson aside.

But I do appreciate and get your point. That’s why I raised the bigger question: why insist on a dress code in the first place?

Let’s be honest here: “No sando, slippers and shorts” is usually meant to exclude the can’t-affords. But what if Bill Gates wanted to be comfortable while shopping and decided to wear flip-flops? (Assuming, of course, that Mr. Gates will go out of his way to physically shop and not just buy things online, or have someone else do the buying for him.)

Maybe the key is in examining the real reason behind imposing such dress codes. The “no sando, etc” could have been born out of an attitude of excluding the poor-who-cannot-afford and the dirty-who-may-soil-our-merchandize from loitering in a venue that’s clearly not meant for them. Is this attitude “hoity-toity” and “snooty”? Or seen in another way, is it just being “practical” (the thinking behind it being: just to play it safe, let’s discourage people who have no chance of doing business with us from entering)?

Here’s a different perspective on dress codes. In Marikina City Hall, no one—employee or visitor alike—is allowed to enter wearing slippers, shorts and sando. No matter how poor you are, if you have any business to transact in City Hall, you must dress up. You need not dress up to the nines; plain sneakers and a plain t-shirt will do.

The reason behind it is simple: to teach people—employees and public alike—to respect the institution by forcing the change to first start from the outside. This idea is also the insight behind that by-now famous book Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell: changing the environment can also change the behavior of the population.

So is it “wrong” then for the Marikina City Hall to enforce a dress code? Obviously the difference in the two examples is in their intentions. One seeks to exclude, the other seeks to effect positive change. One is seen as negative, the other looks positive on the surface. Will a positive intention justify a rule?

Okay, that’s enough. I’m getting a headache already. And I’m not sure if this is funny or entertaining to read at all.

I’m going out to dinner now.


Jedd said...

Shouldn't it just boil down to public behaviour? Not all cross-dressers after all are loud and flamboyant. Some of the loudest, most flamboyant, gayest people I know happen to be straight. It's discriminatory for Aruba to presume that their straight customers will find cross-dressers offensive. That is the homophobic part of this ordeal.

You mentioned: "But how does one keep “undesirables” out without appearing like a bigot?" Tumpak. Some people will find the Aruba's answer as an act of courtesy, Inday found it rude. I bet if she wasn't let inside in the first place, it wouldn't have been such an issue to her. But being let in (by mistake) and forced (asked?) to leave later is already humiliating.

I say Inday has all the right in the world to feel angry. Her crossdressing is a manifestation of her homosexuality after all. Hindi naman lahat ng bakla discreet, straight-acting-looking, men. At hindi lahat ng bakla DAPAT maging discreet, and straight-acting-looking.

joelmcvie said...

HAYLUVETH! The discussion is getting more interesting.

JEDD: Two things lang.

First is more of a question or a request for clarification. What exactly do you mean by: "Shouldn't it just boil down to public behaviour?" Did you mean that Aruba should just discriminate against a particular public behavior (being loud and flamboyant) versus a particular form of fashion expression (cross-dressing)?

Second: "Her crossdressing is a manifestation of her homosexuality after all." Hmmm. I have a problem with this one. To discuss the manifestations of homosexuality means we must, in the first place, agree what the definition of homosexuality is. Does being a homosexual mean that one wants to cross-dress? Prefers top cross-dress? Is given the option to cross-dress whenever and wherever? Is cross-dressing the essence. or one of the essentials of being a homosexual?

Next up on The McVie Show, Season 5: "Is To Cross-Dress The Essence Of Being A Gay?" (said ala-gay beauty contestant)

Anonymous said...

reading your post, I kind of see where you're coming from, i just don't agree with it. basically, you're saying that the freedom of private business establishments to come up with their own rules within the confines of their own property as long as they don't violate the law (choosing who to let in) is more important than each person's individual liberty (how one wants to dress up). the problem with these two concepts is that basically they're both important, and should be respected up to a certain point. Re: cross-dressers and people wearing sandos not being allowed to go in certain establishments; the question becomes, do they cross the threshold where the importance of freedom of private establishments crosses over and infringes upon another person's liberty to express oneself? I would say yes, and, though not unlawful, at the very least enforces the idea that these people who choose to express themselves in this way cannot be trusted to behave themselves.

Re: the example of people not being allowed in city hall because they wear sandos; well, the whole thing is just, honest to God, unconstitutional. Last time I checked, this wasn't China. I'm actually surprised no one has brought it to court yet. The government has no power to discriminate against people especially on the basis of how they choose to dress themselves, and especially if the people who are going to be affected the most are those who need government help the most. Check Article III (Bill of Rights), XI(Accountability of Public Officers, and XIII (Social Justice and Human Rights) of the Constitution.