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Strangers in the night, say “goodbye” to “hello”

It has made world news that at least two bars in Australia have effectively banned men from approaching women.  The latest venue to do so — a joint in Canberra called The Maple Bar — has issued the following edict to its clientele:

Gentlemen, don’t approach ladies, and if you are so lucky to have one approach you, treat her as you would your mother. No hooting, no hollering. Be polite and approachable, but let the lady advance to you if she chooses.

The manager of the establishment, Sophia Kadinsky, has defended the measure on the grounds that many men in their establishment “have liquid courage at 2am in the morning and they can be totally disgusting”.

This is entirely true, which is why we have Responsible Service of Alcohol laws — to prevent people from becoming “totally disgusting”. Perhaps the establishment in question may be forgiven for having trouble implementing such laws, which, of course, is a matter for Ms Kadinsky and the Liquor Licensing Branch. Nor can the bouncers of the establishment be expected to deal with any unwanted male advances inside the premises — they’ve got their hands full imposing the dress regulations at the door (“jacket and tie, a smart shirt and pants and leather dress shoes or loafers”), which must be a busy gig turning away so many Jesus Christs while opening the velvet rope for comparatively well-dressed gentlemen.

In any case, I think this new gender apartheid will prove to be a blessing for the finer members of the human race. Just as most women know the pain of being approached by a stranger not to their liking, every man generally deemed physically unappealing knows the anguish of approaching women in a social setting. For hundreds of years, some weird social more has decreed that men are charged with the task of making such moves, and for the man not blessed with handsome looks and a military bearing this can be a humiliating experience.

Now that the boot’s on the other foot, it is men who’ll combat unwanted attention while women will be forced to endure upturned noses and backs turned as men giggle with their mates about the horror that just dared to introduce herself. But will this necessarily be a good thing, or just an arbitrary switcheroo?

I suspect it’ll be for the better. Folklore tells us men alone love with their eyes, while women fall in love with a man’s personality. While I haven’t glanced at the pages of a woman’s magazine for a while, such folklore insists what I’ll find inside are pictorials by the finest portrait photographers of balding, muffin-faced gents blessed with “real” middle-aged bodies, so there’s a good chance women will approach similar men in bars, which is perhaps why Ms Kadinsky described such men as “lucky”. Provided the men don’t engage in any “hooting and hollering” at their good fortune, this can only be a good thing.

I can only see two problems arising should this sort of nightclub directive catch on.

First, I think we have to all agree that the new regulations can’t be enacted retrospectively. It will be a shame to see some of our respectable senior citizens — our grandfathers and the like — pursued like aged war criminals for having approached young women for the honour of the next dance back in 1939. Some of us owe our lives to those moments. Let’s just say they lived in “less enlightened times” and let them live out their twilight years without being called creeps.

As for treating an approaching woman “as you would your mother”, well, when I greet my mum, I squeeze her tight, plant one on her cheek and make it a habit to tell her she doesn’t look a day over 70.

What works with your mother doesn’t always work in a pick-up joint, I guess. But then, who wants it to?



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