Would you like Roles with your Dinner?
The customary “would you like rolls with your dinner?” takes on a whole new meaning when considering the various ways in which gender roles may complicate the dining experience. Traditional gender role expectations have long influenced the behaviors of servers in restaurants. Although many of the most outdated gender-based customs may have disappeared (e.g., providing menus without prices to females, insisting on separate uniforms for female servers), a recent article in the New York Times insists that they are long from irrelevant today. Restaurateurs who eschew these concerns are often met with some form of resistance whether it is over-riding the dining software or addressing customer complaints. Servers are urged to “read the table” to decipher how to deal with ordering, serving and billing. This “reading” is not unproblematic and is likely complicated by social locations other than gender (race/ethnicity, class, sexuality). The resulting patterns of interactions are also important for understanding patterns of domination and subordination in the social world. While you may not care if your server makes the wrong assumption about who is picking up the tab at dinner, research shows that you are likely to be keeping track of patterns of spending within your intimate relationships.
What an interesting way to look at gender roles! I have often thought of the gender roles that come into play within family life as well. I think I read something a few years ago (possibly by Annette Lareau) about how even in the most egalitarian families, women were primarily the ones who planned all of the families meals, even if they didn’t participate in the preparation. Meal planning is a really stressful activity- especially when there are multiple kids in the home with different preferences.