A competition of sexist relativism
Contender: Malaprop's Bookstore/Cafe's "A Cafe of One's Own"
When: Saturday, Jan. 17
Stats: A women-only (or is that womyn-only?) poetry-and-prose reading held in the heart of one of Asheville's most tolerant venues.
Advantages: Understanding. Polite listeners. A safe place for women writers to share their innermost thoughts and feelings. A smoke-free environment. Coffee.
Handicap: Obvious, really: no dudes.
Lucky crowd member is likely to go home with: A good book.
Experience: Boring. The themes on this particular night ranged from how great it is to be a woman when you don't need anybody else to how much it sucks when your husband leaves you for another woman, and how generally rotten men can be. Most of these revelations arrived via soft-spoken personal essays and poems, yet the majority of listeners were respectful and attentive -- if, perhaps, not enthralled.
Malaprop's is the perfect place for this kind of reading; for me, however, the whole thing got dreadfully dull after about the third reader's monotone turn at the mic. I'm not saying there wasn't talent in the room, but just that cautious writers and reluctant readers were the norm.
In other words, it was no different than any other local open mic. The only remarkable thing about this one was its women-only prerequisite -- an exclusive stance you'd think an everybody-friendly place like Malaprop's would want to avoid.
Toward the end of the evening, when the host was pleading for more readers, a young man rose to volunteer his talents. He was instantly dismissed with, "I'm sorry, sweetie. It's women only. You'll have to come back for the regular open mic. Do we have any other readers?"
At its core, then, "A Cafe of One's Own" seems just a tit-for-tat for all those times women weren't allowed in the boys' club.
Fair's fair, I guess.
Contender: Club Mix's wet T-shirt contest
When: Thursday, Jan. 22
Stats: A contest to see whose chest looks best in a water-laden cotton top.
Advantages: Cheap thrills. Booze.
Handicap: Damp clothing in January.
Lucky crowd member is likely to go home with: A drenched exhibitionist.
Experience: Amusing. Lecherous American fun.
And a wet-T-shirt contest doesn't absolutely have to be sexist, right? Club Mix, after all, is a gay/bi/lesbian-friendly bar.
I hoped their version of this roadhouse staple would turn the cliches inside-out: Maybe there'd be men and women competing to see who looked the best hosed down; maybe the crowd would be filled with just as many lecherous females as males. And maybe -- just maybe -- when the drenched contestants came out to shake what their mamas gave them, high-pitched catcalls from the ladies would overpower the bellows from the boys.
Alas, it was not to be. The contest featured only females, thus destroying any hopes of an equal-rights angle for this review. Yes, a few women did show up to watch, but the crowd was dominated by leering guys. The contestants came out, got doused and then jiggled for a bit in the faux smoke beneath the disco lights, to the tunes of DJ Macon Beats.
Eventually, the field was narrowed down to two -- a top-heavy brunette named Heidi, and Stephanie, a cutesy blond, who flashed the crowd (an outright rules infraction, I'm sure), thus securing her title and the $100 prize.
And the winner is ...
Malaprop's gets the "honors" this time for hosting the most-sexist event. "A Cafe of One's Own" strictly forbids men from participating in a field where both sexes can fairly show their skills. That said -- and I'm speaking solely on aesthetic grounds here -- jiggling around in wet T-shirts, if it must be done, should probably remain a women-only endeavor.