A Philosopher's Blog

Is Ladies’ Night Sexist?

Posted in Ethics, Philosophy by Michael LaBossiere on April 6, 2011
Ladies' Night (song)

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A segment on Den Hollander, a lawyer who become moderately famous for his crusade against ladies’s night drink pricing, appeared recently on the Colbert Report. This mocking segment got me thinking about this topic and the philosophical issues involved with the matter.

For those who are unfamiliar with the concept of ladies’ night, this is a practice followed by many bars and nightclubs that involves free (or reduced prices on) drinks and admission for women. The objective is, of course, to lure in women with the special pricing and use the women to lure in men (who will be paying full price).

On the face of it, the claim that ladies’ night is sexist seems laughable. After all, it is simply a marketing device used to increase business and hardly a device of cruel oppression. To claim that this practice would be on par with claiming that deals limited to children (such as reduced movie prices) or the elderly (such as reduced admission prices to some parks) are cases of ageism. Since such a claim would be absurd, it would follow that the attack on ladies’ night is absurd as well.

It could also be argued that ladies night is not sexist on the basis that men are not actually being harmed by the practice. After all, while men do have to pay more than women on ladies’ night, men typically go to ladies’ night to meet women who have been knocking back the free (or cheap) drinks. As such, far from oppressing men, ladies’ night is actually advantageous to men in two ways: 1) there will be more women present and 2) their judgment will probably be impaired by alcohol.

However, it is certainly possible to argue that ladies night is sexist. After all, what the customer is being charged is based on the customer’s sex and this not does seem to provide a relevant difference that would justify a difference in pricing. As such, this would seem to be a clear case of sexism.

In regards to the analogy to special pricing for seniors and children, there are various replies that could be made. The first is that the analogy breaks down because everyone gets to be a kid (and hence can have access to the children’s specials) and everyone has a shot at being a senior (and hence can get access to those specials). In the case of sex based pricing, men do not get to become women without expensive medical procedures, and hence men will not have access to that pricing. The second is that many of the discounts are situations that involve relevant differences. For example, children’s meals are often less because they are smaller than adult portions. As such, the analogy seems to fail.

It can also be argued that age based specials are, in fact, cases of ageism. After all, in those cases in which there are no relevant differences (such as portion size), then a difference in treatment would seem to be ageist in nature. Likewise for ladies’ night.

Another approach to arguing that ladies night is sexist is to consider whether or not the following would be a case of racism. Imagine, if you will, a night club that offers (in addition to ladies’ night) a whites’ night. On white night, whites get free admission and free drinks , while non-whites have to pay the normal prices. No one is excluded based on race, it is just that whites get special pricing for that night. I am inclined to believe that whites’ night would be regarded as a sexist event. However, it seems no more racist than ladies’ night is sexist.

It might, of course, be argued that whites’ night would be racist and ladies night would not be sexist because there is an established history of racism against non-whites and there is not an established history of sexism against men.

While this is a point worth considering, accepting this sort of reasoning would seem to involve accepting that without an established history of sexism or racism against people of type X, then an action cannot be sexist or racist against people of type X. This would mean, obviously enough, that racism and sexism could never occur. After all, there could be no racist or sexist acts prior to racism and sexism and there could be no racism and sexism prior to racist acts.

It might be replied that ladies’ night is not really sexism or at least not a big deal because it is such a small thing. After all, allowing women to have free drinks while men must pay hardly seems like a big deal. It is not like men are being denied the right to vote or being denied access to scholarships that are only for women. There is no systematic or wide scale oppression; just a difference in drink prices.

That reply does have some appeal. After all, it actually is a little thing and people generally find it laughable that anyone would be concerned about something so silly. However, the fact that something is a little thing does not mean that it is not sexist.

In light of the above arguments, it seems reasonable to believe that ladies’ night is actually sexist. As compensation for years of cruel oppression, I only ask that the ladies buy me a drink now and then.

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13 Responses

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  1. A J MacDonald Jr said, on April 6, 2011 at 7:33 am

    I think the point of Ladies’ Night is simply to get more women into the bars. And yes, it’s sexist. Unlike race, a person’s sex makes them radically different from persons of opposite sex. In other words, two women of different races have more in common than do a man and a woman who are of the same race. And there’s nothing wrong with that either . . . men and women are different, thank God, and we should not try and make the two too much alike, because they are not.

  2. T. J. Babson said, on April 6, 2011 at 10:27 am

    Actually, one of the greatest advantages of being a male (at least a white male) is that you are never allowed to feel like you are a victim. Oddly, this is empowering.

    • frk said, on April 6, 2011 at 10:53 am

      Phew! I’m relieved to hear that those sites gathered at Google under “male victimization”–even white male victimization– are mere hoaxes.

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on April 6, 2011 at 12:55 pm

      True. In general, a claim that a white male is subject to discrimination tends to be dismissed with mockery.

  3. […] Is Ladies’ Night Sexist? (aphilosopher.wordpress.com) The freshest in culture. Featured on PopPressed If You Haven't Yet Seen "Win Win," You Should Go See It […]

  4. Sunny said, on April 9, 2011 at 4:53 am

    “It might be argued” and “that might be said” I found that while the article was well-argued and based on real life information it lost the drive because you were too academic about it. The last line was the best of the whole article but by then it was too little too late.

    To add my 2 cents..
    Yes, Ladies’ night is sexist, against men! If a decision is being taken based purely on the customer’s sex then it’s sexist. But business policies are based on real life, practical principles of what works, not what’s fair. Business policies lean towards fairness and equality only when regulated by the law. And still you can’t make everybody equal because God didn’t.

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on April 9, 2011 at 11:05 am

      Occupational hazard. Philosophers tend to relentlessly qualify and this can be a problem in a non-academic venue. While we do it because of legitimate concerns, it does make such writing seem detached from the “real world” and a bit waffling. I’m still working on getting the right balance between being properly philosophical and being “real.”

      • Sunny said, on April 10, 2011 at 11:33 am

        Thanks for the response, Michael. I just read my comment again and I am sorry if I came across as too harsh. I did love the topic and the informative article. I just got a bit irritated with the detachment.Thanks for explaining your side of it. I didn’t know you were a philosopher. Good luck finding the right balance. πŸ™‚

        • Michael LaBossiere said, on April 11, 2011 at 2:17 pm

          No, your comment was not too harsh. In any case, if someone cannot take the harsh, they need to stay out of the blogoverse. πŸ™‚

  5. Mark said, on May 23, 2011 at 3:17 pm

    Anyone who thinks white men have an advantage should visit a homeless shelter sometime, and count the number of men VS women.

    Ladies night IS discrimination.

  6. Leonard Lawrence said, on December 5, 2013 at 3:19 pm

    Tickets to an event scheduled for December 29th at the Hakkasan night club located in the MGM Grand Casino in Las Vegas are gender based. Admission is $30 for women and $60 for men. Isn’t gender based pricing supposed to be illegal?


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