Female bouncers on the up

// 3 October 2006

The number of female bouncers at clubs is on the rise, according to research by the Economic and Social Research Council.

The Independent reports on the phenomenon, which is partly explained by legislation allowing the authorities to withhold a venue’s license if it doesn’t employ women, and partly by club owners trying to promote a “softer” image.

Female bouncers come from very varied backgrounds. The 50 women door staff interviewed by researchers in five cities had diverse previous work experience including as a kissogram, a dancer, a tax officer, a DIY store assistant, a lifeguard, a bus driver, a call centre worker and a recruitment consultant. “It’s an attractive job for a lot of women,” says O’Brien, who undertook the SIA training course as part of the research. “It pays well, the hours fit in around childcare and school runs, they meet people – and many love the buzz of a nightclub.”

Some already had employment histories of controlling an environment – one was a former prison officer, another an ex-RAF police officer and a third a matron at a girls’ private school. And there were a significant number who, like many of their male colleagues, had grown up in an environment where being a party or a witness to violence was common.

Female bouncers are at once subject to the expectation that they will be less inclined to get into fights than their male counterparts, and expected to be “one of the lads”, on both the giving and receiving end of violence.

The women say many of the club customers do not differentiate between male and female bouncers. “A lot of people are under the impression that a guy is not going to turn around and hit a woman,” says Gail. “But that’s not the case. If you get in the way of half the guys here they’ll just smack you back out of the way. The guys don’t care whether they’re hitting a guy or a girl at the end of the day.”

The same woman reported being deliberately hit by a male colleague because she tried to stop him fighting with a customer he didn’t like. She recalled that he had accidentally punched her in the head, knocking her out, but when she came round and again tried to intervene, she says: “He said, ‘Well, I didn’t mean to hit you that time but you’re in my way this time’, and smacked me in the back of the head again, so that was me out cold again.”

And yet although they refer to themselves as “doormen”, they are often perceived very differently from their male coworkers:

But the research concludes that women bouncers occupy “an exceedingly ambivalent position”. Their very employment on the door may appear to challenge an established order, yet the expectation – from their male colleagues – that they will sort out fights in the ladies’, or check handbags, or try to defuse what Westmarland describes as “girl trouble” reinforces traditional feminine roles.

This Liverpudlian news story reinforces this idea, headlined as it is: “More women bouncers ‘with gentle touch’ needed”

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