At some point in the last few days, one of my female customers at the coffee shop overheard me call one of my friends 'hon' when she (the friend) came in for some quiet study time. The customer (who is nameless at this point, even to me) apparently took offense to me calling this friend of mine by a familiariaty instead of her name. The customer then complained to Lisa yesterday about me and stated that she felt I was being sexist. Some students that were in the shop at the time overheard her complaining to Lisa and made the remark "Yeah, it's not like we're in a diner in Indiana, and he's not a grandmother." and "No kidding... I know I'm not his 'hon'!"
First off, I'd like to say that I have called many people hon over the years, and none of them have actually been 'my hon', and many of them were my male friends. That is a familiarity that I use amongst my friends to indicate a level of caring above the random pedestrian off of the street. Secondly, none of the poeple that I call 'hon' on a regular basis take offense at it. Ever. If I have called you hon in the past, you were offended by it, and are reading this, please post a comment to correct me.
When I am in a professional/corporate setting, I would not dream of using it, not even to my friends there. That would detract from the level of professionalism at the workplace. I understand that. However, when I am working at a coffee house, it is my profession to make people feel comfortable, welcome, and caffeinated. I feel that I can do that better if I am friends with the customers than if I maintain a stiff, Corporate Professional manner towards them. During the 2 years that I managed a cigarette store and the three years that I worked at Insomnia Coffeeshop I called hundreds of people 'hon' because it set the tone of friends instead of server/customer.
I would like to add that there are currently 5 other people that work at that coffeeshop besides myself, but that they are all female. Out of those 5, 3 of them use the same sort of familiarity with the customers. That, apparently, is acceptable simply because they are female. And I was accused of sexism? Hold the phone a minute, I'll expand on that. It seems to be acceptable in these people's minds for a female to call people by familiarities, and even more so for elderly women. But when I male does the same thing, on the same level, to the same people, it's sexist. I see that as an extremely sexist mind-set in and of itself.
1. Discrimination based on gender, especially discrimination against women.
2. Attitudes, conditions, or behaviors that promote stereotyping of social roles based on gender.
That is the first definition that comes up when you look up 'sexism' at dictionary.com. I agree with the second one, but I find it ironic that the first definition of the word "sexism" is sexist in and of itself.
I really did take offense to this entire thing, and as such, I will be circulating my resume more vigorously. I do not want to leave the shop, but if people's closemindedness in reference to me is going to cause them to think badly about the shop, I would rather leave. I do not want to give the coffeeshop a bad name just because of a misconception in the mind of some femi-nazi. I do not use that term lightly, or very often, but in this case I think it is truly the closest to the truth about the customer that complained. I also do not mean it to be offensive, simply descriptive of the stereotype that she was displaying.
As of today, I have switched back into 'Corporate Professionalism' and will remain so until I find somewhere else to sling coffeegounds or whatever work I do end up finding. I do not make this decision lightly, or easily, but I do not see that I was left with much choice. I will still be friendly, but not nearly to the level that I have been. I will likely not get articles written about me in the SF Bay Guardian calling me the 'preternaturally nice...spirit of the coffeehouse experience' or any other such thing.
I also regret that at this point I will not be hanging out at the shop anymore and will only be there when I am on the clock so as to not display my friendliness to the customers that might take offense. Since I do not know who complained to Lisa (the owner) to start with, this is my recourse of action.
I now open this up to general discussion and debate if you people so wish to comment.