Food & Drink

FOOD: “Female-Friendly Restaurants” Aren’t an Advancement for Women, They’re an Outright Insult

by Lea Faminiano

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[Image from the STK website]

[Note: this article focuses on straight women, because I feel that is the target demographic of these female-friendly steakhouses.  Also, I am a straight woman, so I feel most comfortable writing from this perspective.  However, I feel that so-called female-friendly steakhouses are insulting and unrepresentative of all women, regardless of sexual preference.]

In compiling the food + drink news articles for this website, I recently came across two articles that caught my attention – one that introduced me to the concept of “female-friendly steakhouses,” and another, an interview with Eva Longoria that centers around her Vegas Steakhouse, SHe by Morton’s.  Intrigued, because I am a female who loves steak, I wanted to see what the new hype was about, but…I don’t get it.  In fact, I hate it – and I’m a little insulted.

Here’s where I’m coming from.  I’m female, and I have a lot of very stereotypically “feminine” things going on – I wear at least some makeup and/or perfume every day, at least one piece of jewelry, too, my nails are always painted and my dress collection is out of control.  There are a lot of stereotypically “un-girly” things about me, too (I don’t really care about shoes, for example).  I think we can all agree that steakhouses have a generally “masculine” tone about them, in terms of the decor and atmosphere, and especially the branding – mainly geared towards men, but I’ve never had a problem with it and I don’t know anyone else who has.  I enjoy steak, my carnivorous female and male friends enjoy steak, and as long as its good, there’s never been any issues.

Morton's Porterhouse Steak

[Image of a Morton’s porterhouse steak – the non-female-geared restaurant – from Robin’s Dinner Night]

Recently, there seems to be the need for restaurants that are “female-friendly,” since apparently, the food industry feels that there’s an unfulfilled niche of restaurants catering directly to the female population.  Really, though, they’re tarnishing our image and glorifying the idea of the stereotypical woman.  Here’s where my criticism begins – starting with SHe by Morton’s.  I have to admit, I’ve never been to this place, so my opinions will be based on research.

The portion sizes for steak at SHe by Morton’s breaks down like this: He-Cuts, She-Cuts, and We-Cuts.  She-Cuts come in a choice of a”6 oz center cut filet” or an “8 oz marinated skirt steak”, while He-Cuts range from 8-22 ounce steaks, and there are four steak options for He-Cuts as opposed to two for She-Cuts.  What if I want a He-Cut?  I could take many guys I know in an eating competition and I actually did once at a McDonald’s in Paris, where I inhaled two large fries, two sodas and two Big Macs in one sitting, and then was still hungry enough to eat a vending machine Snickers on the way home.  At no point did I feel like my femininity was lost.  Don’t even get me started on how males might feel about this – the fact that all they might want, or be able to consume is a 6 ounce filet could potentially make them “feminine.”

It’s really just all in a name, but if the whole “women eat less than men and men eat more than women” idea is still around, have we advanced at all in society?  It may be statistically true, but do we really have to designate portion size based on gender?  If we do that, should we bring back pink for girls and blue for boys, too?  All humans were created equal – all steaks should be, too.

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[From the SHe by Morton website – the caption reads “A Typical Night at SHe.”]

Now, about the atmosphere these restaurants are emanating.  Christina M. on Yelp states that at SHe by Morton’s, “there are dancers wearing lingerie.”  Though I think women are beautiful, there’s a time and place for half-naked dancers, and for me, dinnertime isn’t one of them.  I understand, yes, this place is in Vegas, but really, could you have picked something more original, something more “female-friendly?”  Not that I’m saying half-naked men (half-naked anyone, really) are any better, but…that’s what strip clubs are for.  I understand that sex sells, but come on – where is the class, the elegance?

Turning our attention to another establishment, STK has eateries around the world, calling itself a place with a “female friendly mindset.”  I popped into the Meatpacking location recently to get a sense of the vibe – it does a pretty good job of looking like it’s not a typical steakhouse, and the portions are at least given their normal, gender-less names.  There are still the same soft porn-esque performances, which I’m realizing might be a trend at this kind of joint.  However, the branding is what really got me – go to the website and check out the commercial for the place, and please, don’t tell me it’s geared towards women.  Even the way that they portray the idea that women can act like men at STK is embarrassing – with the actresses licking their steak-sauce fingers in a seductive manner while dressed in heels and tight, cleavage-baring dresses and using power tools, since, you know, that’s exactly what we women do.

There’s even little details – I understand the convenience of putting mirrors on the backs of the dessert menus at SHe by Morton’s.  It’s cute, definitely kitschy, if you look at it from one perspective (and I guess it could be useful, too), but from my own, it’s condescending to make a “female-friendly” detail one that assumes that all we want to do is check ourselves out and apply more makeup.

Could the problem be the patrons?  If a woman feels “un-feminine” in a typical steakhouse or other restaurant with a masculine atmosphere, in my opinion, that’s the woman’s problem.  The location of any place – whether it’s a restaurant or bar or your friend’s apartment or a baseball stadium – should not threaten your sexuality, honestly, it shouldn’t threaten anything about you whatsoever.  The food industry should not be catering to this.  If you’re a woman and you want a big plate of meat and you also want to be in a more “feminine” restaurant, there are plenty of places out there that are pretty, elegant, and whatever it is that the woman in you may want, where you can order a steak.

I’ve said it many times and will stand by this statement for the rest of my life – if your food is good, then nothing else matters.  To the “female-friendly” eateries out there, I say the same thing to you – but if you really want to be our friend, please, be respectful of who we are.