A group of Mexican women has started an unusual crusade: To regain their right to enter and be served at certain pubs. Turns out that Mexico—even cosmopolitan Mexico City, where abortion and gay marriage are legal—still has watering holes which do not serve women or only grudgingly tolerate their presence.

The majority of these are neighborhood places where the policy is in place “by tradition,” according to proprietors. But there are also places where women are explicitly barred from entering, despite government anti-discrimination rules.

Galled, a group of women calling itself Mujeres a las Cantinas (roughly, “To the Pubs, Ladies!”) has vowed to take back their right to quaff.

“It bothers us that these places claim that it’s ‘tradition,’” Karina Almaraz, one of the group’s organizers, told BBC Mundo. “Because that’s the same argument that buttresses, for example, a husband hitting his wife, or, in some communities, parents selling their daughters. People think it’s just the way it is.”

Mujeres a las Cantinas’s first target was a restaurant called El Mirador, where the male patrons were said to chase away women by whistling and clapping whenever one stepped into the bar area. (Waiters would then escort them to a nearby annex where they could eat and drink in peace.)
According to Mujeres’ Facebook page, in the days before the July 28 protest, two of their members had tried to enter El Mirador and had been denied.

Reaction to the group’s plans was not all positive. “Pink Taxis, Curves and other gyms, beauty parlors, Woman’s [strip club] and other nightclubs, women-only cars on the metro and buses—versus two pubs in all of Mexico City,” wrote one male critic on Facebook the afternoon of the protest. “I think first we need to solve the inequality from the other side.”

Someone claiming to be the manager of El Mirador wrote that the restaurant had never turned women away, and asked for the specific names, first and last, of those who had done so to the Mujeres. “Please, no lies,” he wrote.

The protest itself also started with a whimper. “We are here, is anyone else? SOS!” wrote an early arrival, while the rest of the crew gathered at a nearby subway station. But then, under the eye of a reporter and photographer for the newspaper Reforma, a group of about a dozen women ate, drank and waved placards with slogans such as, “Discrimination is Unconstitutional” and “Tradition Does Not Discriminate.”
Whether the lesson will stick is another matter.

“There are places for everyone; for women, for gays,” a resident Archie Bunker who declined to give his name told Reforma. “Can’t there be a single place just for men? I come here because of the tradition that we run women out.”

Then, declaring himself “a misogynist,” he fled into the night with the rest of the regular male customers.

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