I’ve been living in Bangalore now for close to five months and I’m still not really on board yet with the different sets of rules and standards that exist for men and women. Some things seem like quite a big deal. For example, it blows my mind that women who are experiencing their menstrual period are not allowed to enter or worship in a temple. While other things are small and silly but still seem unfair to me…like when I pass by the small food and chai stalls, generally speaking there are only ever men gobbling down some mid-afternoon or late night chow or enjoying some tea while chatting with mates. Is this because Indian women don’t want to do these things or has society deemed it only acceptable that men can worship as a group 365 days a year or go out to eat and drink with their friends in public?
When it comes to heading out for a night on the town, there is definitely a different set of rules between the sexes. Anyone who has ever been out dancing at a club in India can attest to the fact that it’s pretty much a huge sausage fest! There are men, men, men everywhere! Granted my experience is somewhat limited but I don’t think I’m too far off! I have been to Pasha and Aqua at the Park Hotel in Chennai, only a couple of clubs in Goa and a dozen or so spots in Bangalore … but DAMN! Where are the women? Don’t get me wrong, there are a few. But I have a hard time believing that more women don’t like music, cocktails, socializing in public and dancing.
At Tito’s in Goa, I was literally the only woman on a dance floor with 25 or 30 guys. I was having a blast sweating and dancing my ass off with my mates (male business colleagues) but I definitely gave off the wrong signal to a few of the guys near us because I was staring at them a bit too long. In fact, I was literally in a trance a couple of times and just couldn’t look away! These guys were dancing together the same way I had only ever seen men and women dance together. And trust me when I say I’m an expert on seeing guys dance together. Back home in Spain, most of my friends are gay guys and I have been to more gay bars in the past decade than straight clubs. And even there I have never seen men dancing together the way I have in India.
I vividly remember this one group of guys at Tito’s who were “having it” and dancing with all their heart. Picture that scene from the end of the movie Grease when Danny and Sandy are together dancing on that silver thing that moves back and forth. Danny shakes and shimmies with his shoulders so that he is almost of on top of Sandy. Sandy shakes and shimmies with her shoulders, while arching her back and bending backwards. Then they swap. Well, well, well…these guys were recreating that scene almost to perfection and I was torn between thinking they looked cute for having so much fun or thinking that they looked dorky as hell dancing like idiots. I decided that they were really more ‘cute’ than anything but this was surely something that would never happen in Europe or the U.S. with straight guys – hell, even my gay mates would never do THAT in public. But this is India and there is a simple innocence and playfulness to the boys and men here when they dance together that makes me smile. But….there’s too many of them on the dance floor and it’s just not balanced in my opinion.
Recently I spoke to several club and resto-bar owners to ask for their take on the sausage fest situation and there was a unanimous consensus that this was definitely a problem. The biggest challenge they say they face today is how to change things so that there are more women in the bars to equal out the numbers. But how will this ever happen if women are staying in? In Bangalore, the upscale bars and clubs like F Bar and Skyye are doing what they can to resolve the issue by often allowing single women through the door for free (when I say single I do not mean unmarried, just not accompanied by men). Couples pay a cover charge of Rs. 2,500 – 3,000 per couple (USD $60-70). Lastly, right or wrong, single men or groups of guys who are not regulars or VIPs are not permitted to enter the club in a direct effort by owners and managers to end the sausage fest.
Vikram, a reader of my blog, made a comment last week that inspired this blog post. He’s pretty frustrated by all of this, and rightly so. Even when he and his buddies are decked out and dressed to perfection and are 100% willing to pay a cover charge, they are often not allowed to enter the higher end clubs – or they are forced to pay hefty cover charges on the rare occasions when they can pass. As someone who hates inequality, I understand his frustration completely. That would really piss me off if it happened to me.
Yet to be completely honest, on a somewhat selfish level, I sort of like this rule. Because the clubs and bars are still primarily dominated by the men, woman can often feel like a mouse in snake pit at certain bars. Especially given how aggressive and unjustifiably confident some Indian men can be when approaching women. So I’m cool with club owners trying to find ways to alleviate this problem. Not because I think Vikram and his buddies shouldn’t be able to go wherever they wish to enjoy their Saturday night because I do, trust me I do. But what other option do club owners have? As far as I see it, they could implement a ladies’ night but they can’t make every night ladies’ night, can they? And if they are already letting girls in for free most of the time…what else could they do to drive up the numbers? Please comment and share your thoughts because I am sure the bar and club owners would love to hear some new ideas to make everyone happy.
Why are the numbers still so skewed in India in 2011? In the U.S. and Spain, there are always more women on the dance floors than men. And the rules of equality are the same for boys and girls from the time we are teenagers – so the inequality that I perceive here in India is something new for me that I am trying to better understand. Obviously Indian women don’t socialize in public as much as men do, which creates the sausage fest. Is it because women really don’t want to and they have more fun at private house parties? Have Indian women simply not asserted themselves and their equal rights enough yet and family members put their foot down out of tradition and forbid or highly discourage this type of socializing? ((By the way, I know that “family putting a foot down” happens with men as well because I have a buddy in his 30s – a professional cricket player no less – and he has a curfew at home and his parents give him a hard time if he goes out mid-week!))
Whatever the reason, I find it all quite interesting. I wonder if and how soon things will start to change? I’m sure the club and bar owners would definitely love having more ladies around…and I bet the social butterfly and dancing queen in every Indian woman would enjoy blowing off a little steam and heading out on the town every now and again just for fun! So it’s probably just a matter of time now…