Should I be more upset about bikini-clad baristas?
Yesterday, a friend of mine posted a Facebook link to a news story about five baristas near her home being arrested for prostitution. Now, prostitution is understandably a controversial topic. But I was surprised at the wave of comments the link set off among other women – and their anger wasn’t directed at what the ladies were being charged with, rather, it was at the proliferation of these “bikini baristas”: Girls who serve coffee, usually at stand-alone, drive-thru locations, in bikinis or lingerie.
These stands have been around for a couple years in the Pacific Northwest – where people take their coffee very seriously. They’ve now sprung up in other locations throughout the country, including Southern California. Perhaps I’ve been out of Oregon and living in Los Angeles for too long, but when I first heard about these stands, I thought them more silly than offensive – and I still do. After all, asking girls to don negligees in a part of the country that rains nine months out of the year is, you have to admit, just a little bit funny. And the fact that people generally drink coffee in the early morning, not late at night, makes it even more absurd.
So, am I missing something here? Certainly the prostitution charges are disturbing – but if you’re only considering the legal bikini coffee shops, am I wrong to not be more outraged by them, as the other women who commented on my friend’s link were? I’ve always considered myself a pretty staunch feminist, so I was surprised that I didn’t share these women’s anger.
But consider this: The women are generally working in separate structures from the people they’re serving, meaning there’s not much chance that a customer could cross the line and try to cop a feel. Since the stands operate as drive-thrus, they’re only spending at most, four or five minutes in front of each car. And they’re serving coffee, not alcohol, so there’s no added threat of men getting drunk and acting overly aggressive (not that men need to be drunk to act that way).
I don’t think it’s a particularly classy career choice, but I’m not sure that these women even rise to the level of Hooters girls. So please, educate me. Should I be more angry about this?