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Monday, February 4, 2008

Separate But Equal?

In this day and age when we have both a woman and an African-American courting the presidency, one still can ponder the state of equality in this country. Back in 1954, the Supreme Court ruled, in Brown V. Board of Education, that separate educational facilities are inherently unequal. But now, in the effort to court new business, some hotels are espousing the theory of separate but equal in the area of hospitality. In the fall of 2007, a new Marriott hotel in Grand Rapids, Michigan was hailing its revolutionary women's only floor. After a rash of publicity (and all publicity is good publicity, right?), the negatives outweighed the positives and the women's floor idea was put to bed.

But is separating the sexes at a hotel discrimination or good business?

The handful of hotels hosting female-friendly floors make the claim that women feel more comfortable and safer on such floors. Regarding the latter argument, one wonders, shouldn't a hotel be safe for all guests, not just for women? Furthermore, in spite of all security issues, wouldn't an all-female floor potentially be a greater target for ne'er-do-wells? For guests who want an extra sense of security--well, let them all pay extra and get restricted access to co-ed club floors. Let all guests be able to ask for an escort to their rooms, or their parking spaces, regardless of gender. After all, men want to be safe, too.

Maybe some hotels are promoting female-friendly floors, not from a sense of loyalty to its female friends, but out of loyalty to the almighty dollar. The Marriott was going to charge $30 extra a night for a room on its women's only floor, for the privilege of comforting amenities such as special hair dryers, upgraded toiletries, and chenille throws. Shouldn't comfort just be included in the regular price?

Even more offensive...in 2005, a Washington, DC hotel promoted its female-only floor by noting it was stocking its rooms with "items of special appeal" to females. Among said items--paperback novels by Danielle Steel and Nora Roberts, magazines such as Bazaar, and potpourri in the bathroom. Well, I don't know about you, dear reader, but I have never deigned to read chick trash, preferring instead classic literature and current non-fiction. As a business traveler, I would far prefer a copy of The Economist or Forbes in my room. And potpourri, IMHO, should solely show up as a category on "Jeopardy." And I'm curious as to the gender of the "decider" who selected Danielle Steel as the author of choice for the high-powered businesswomen who visit the nation's capital. Serving up such stereotypical girly amenities is insulting and sexist.

Feminista attorney Gloria Allred goes a step further. The existence of women-only floors and lounges in hotels are simply discrimination, she says. "What women (sic) want are equal rights," says Allred. "Not more rights, not less rights, but equal rights." I have to agree. Women have come far too far in the business world to take a giant step backward.

What if a hotel offered a male-only floor? After all, given that nearly 60 percent of all business travelers are men, wouldn't it be fab (and profitable) if hotels had special floors devoted to a majority of their market? Features could include a special room-service menu made up of brats and beer, magazines such as Sports Illustrated and Playboy (for the interviews), and a musky scent emanating through the hallways. After all, all men like that stuff, right? Just like women like frilly scents and mindless magazines and books. And certainly, a separate floor for male business travelers wouldn't be considered discriminatory in our politically correct world, would it?

It's hard enough as it is to be accepted as an equal in the business world. The concept of a women only floor simply caters to the stereotype of females as the weaker sex, fragile fillies who need to be protected and cosseted. It's balderdash. If women want equality with men in the workplace, it means being on their turf, regarding of whether it's a home game or a road game. Women don't need to be put in "our place" on female-only floors. Separate is not equal.

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