Monday, January 23, 2017

Bresnahan's Ladies Cafe

Evening Star, September 19, 1900
Bresnahan's Ladies Café

Location: 426 Ninth Street, Washington, DC, USA

Opened/Closed: c. 1900

Especially after the Women's March on Washington, the pressure on women to be "inclusive" (include males) is big again--as if women had a long history of excluding males.

What a big joke.

In reality, that has rarely happened. Women have had the authority to exclude male from various gatherings for only very short periods of time in history and under very limited circumstances--all while men were quite comfortable making the dominant cultural institutions all male, or at minimum, with tiny, hard fought for token female representation, for centuries.

Sometimes, we get the cognitive dissonance thing--which is very popular today. We call an event or space something "for women, "but then let the men run amuck anyway.

While it's very popular today, it's not unique to today, as the ad for the Bresnahan's Ladies Café shows. Even while the power in Washington government was 100% controlled by men in 1900, men could still barge in and take over this little "high-class" ladies café.

So why bother with the name? Because it was a crumb, and you have to start somewhere. Even as women were barred from going into many Washington restaurants, cafe's, and bars, especially with no male escort, they could still go to Bresnahan's. Without a male escort. But they still had to put up with loud men taking up seats and tables anyway. (And yes, we're talking exclusively about wealthy white women who even had this limited "privilege.")

Sound like any "women's" places you know of? That is how persistent  and consistent the patriarchal domination of space has been over history. 

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