Judge Rules Casino Waitresses Are “Sex Objects” First, Employees Second

Last week, Atlantic County Superior Court Judge Nelson Johnson ruled against 22 cocktail servers who filed a lawsuit against the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa for weight discrimination. The casino’s policy required frequent weigh-ins and prohibited the “Borgata Babes” from gaining more than 7 percent of their body weight from the time they were first hired. There were a handful of male “Babes” at the casino. The women said that Borgata didn’t hold them to the same expectations with the same consequences, but the judge ruled that there wasn’t enough evidence.

This especially sucks, because Borgata is supposed to be super gay friendly. I like their shiny building, and I have tickets to a concert there in September. I expected better. Clearly, that was naive.

borgata.14.1.65

A “Borgata Babe” In Action
Via The New York Times

With regard to Borgata’s weight policy, I feel like this should go without saying, but I’m going to say it anyway: beauty come in sizes other than “skinny” and “skinnier”. Even in the mainstream media, we have Christina Hendricks, Queen Latifah, Kat Dennings, Amber Riley, Adele… the list goes on. These women have repeatedly been praised for their looks not just in spite of their size, but often because of it. Borgata’s narrow view is outdated, and very likely does not align with the real life preferences of the customers they hope to attract; in addition to the deeply problematic concept that women’s contributions at work are tied to their appearance, this rule smacks of fatphobia on Borgata’s part.

Truthfully, I think this policy doubles as a sneaky form of age discrimination. Nothing in the policy expicitly forbids non-skinny people from being hired (although it’s also totally possible that Borgata has practiced sizeist discrimination in their hiring practices); it just forbids skinny people from becoming non-skinny, and large people becoming larger. But most women aren’t vampires or Bianca Lawson. In the real world metabolisms slow down, and it is both normal and healthy for human bodies to change as they get older.

Ageless beauty a la Bianca Lawson Via Happy Place

Ageless beauty a la Bianca Lawson
Via Happy Place

Unsurprisingly, not all of the “Borgata Babes” have been able to comply with the strict 7% weight gain limit. (I know you’re doing math in your head, so for reference: a server originally hired at 120 pounds would be suspended or possibly fired for weighing in at 128.5 pounds. Purportedly, 7% is the gain that would require a person to go up a clothing size.) In an attempt to comply, the Borgata waitresses resorted to bulimia, starving and diet pills. Their employer reportedly advised them to diet, take laxatives, and even stop taking prescription medications.

According to Simon Law Group, 686 women and 46 men worked as Borgata Babes from February 2005 to December 2012. Twenty-five women were disciplined for weight gain — a few more than once — and none of the men.

In the ruling, Judge Nelson found that there was not sufficient evidence of gender discrimination, pointing out the lack of proof that the men had been in violation of the rule. He also spoke in support of Borgata’s position that maintaining a certain weight is part of what the employees agreed to do as entertainers.

“The Borgata Babe program has a sufficient level of trapping and adornments to render its participants akin to ‘sex objects’ to the Borgata’s patrons,” Johnson wrote. “Nevertheless, for the individual labeled a babe to become a sex object requires that person’s participation.”

In other words: “They should have known better.”

In other other words: “They were asking for it.”

Ding! Classic case of victim blaming, placing responsibility for change on the people being exploited rather than the people doing the exploiting, and avoiding looking at systems and institutions in favor of the individual.

Are you sufficiently repulsed yet?

The sad thing is, this isn’t even a new issue – we’ve already solved more or less the same problem when it came up for airline stewardesses… two decades ago. In that case, it was found that the main function of a flight attendant is not to be decorative or to turn people on; it is to provide service to patrons. Why is the job of a cocktail server any different? Even if additional weight did make someone less attractive to certain customers – why does it matter? Are they suddenly unable to take orders and serve beverages?

Did anyone else watch Pan Am? via Telegraph.co.uk

Did anyone else watch Pan Am?
via Telegraph.co.uk

People do not lose worth by gaining weight, whether they are employed as “sex objects” or otherwise. Regardless of occupation, all people have a right to be in control of their own body. Ruining one’s health is not a reasonable expectation for any profession, and firing someone for gaining weight is disgusting.

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Laura Mandanas is a Filipina American living in Brooklyn. By day, she works as an industrial engineer. By night, she is beautiful and terrible as the morn, treacherous as the seas, stronger than the foundations of the Earth. All shall love her and despair.

Laura has written 65 articles for us.

7 Comments

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    Wow, this is horrible! Both the discrimination and the fact that it’s upheld in court!

    And there is another thing I feel the need to mention: clothing size and beauty standards (yes, even the outdated conventional ones!) do not depend directly on one’s weight. Because muslce weighs more than fat, a woman who has started an exercise program with a weightlifting component, might end up as skinner-looking person who actually weighs considerably MORE than she used to! Which is nearly entirely irrelevant to the subjet of this article, because even if this weren’t the case, such blatant and disgusting discrimination is completely unacceptable. Yet, I feel the need to mention it because many people feel that “fat-shaming” if nothing else might motivate people to get in shape. But actually this obsession with the single number on the scale might actually turn people away from certain forms of exercise such as weight lifting despite its health benefits and, ironically, get them objectively fatter (i.e., having higher body fat percentage, despite lower overall body mass).

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      Not to be nit-picky, but muscle does not weigh more than fat. It is more dense, so when you gain muscle, you may appear to gain more weight.

      Fat loss and weight loss are different goals!

      One pound of fat and one pound of muscle are the same weight (obvs). They are just different sizes (one pound of muscle being much smaller than one pound of fat).

      The rest of your comment is sound. :D

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        Yes, obviously that’s what I meant! :) That muscle weighs more than fat *per unit volume*. So you could look slimmer and closer to the conventional standards of beauty if you lose some fat and gain some muscle; however, with a ridiculous regulation like this, you would actually be in violation! I am just pointing out the irony, and the ridiculousness if using a single number to measure… anything meaningful about your size, shape, physical fitness, or appearance.

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    Unfortunately, this is nothing new to me, although the fact that it was ruled this way is quite surprising. I have to admit, I’m curious of how this all turns out because I’ve actually worked in a place like that before. But instead of being a waitress in a casino, I was a waitress in a high end strip club. Does that make a difference, I wonder? I guess that’s why, although I did think it was bullshit, at the time, I also sort of felt like… “Well… I guess that’s part of the job?” Because of course, you’re in a strip club and *sex appeal is the point. Although, for an odd side note, our uniform covered much more than theirs apparently does, so maybe it wasn’t really that different after all…

    The ruling is still pretty damn disappointing though. I had always secretly thought that as just a waitress they had no right to make requirements like that… turns out I was wrong… :/ I just hope they get paid more than server wage. If they’re “entertainers” they’d better be paid like one!

    *sex appeal as defined by your boss. Which, in my case, did = thin.

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      I’m not sure about this place, but at a lot of casinos the wait staff is actually classified as models so they’re allowed to do things like that. (Which still doesn’t make this anything other than gross bullshit, no one should be treated like that. Ever.)

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    I’m torn between absolute disgust at this issue and amazement that Bianca Lawson appears to be ageing backwards.

    I just reblogged some relevant words on tumblr so I’ll share them here:

    The idea: “Well, you post these pictures what do you expect?!” – is exactly what I am fighting against.

    I expect to be treated with respect no matter how much or how little clothing I have on.

    -fatsmasher.tumblr.com

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    I’ve read the article and found myself not astonished at all. Although it’s completely unfair, the fact that a place that focuses on the gloss and glare and perfection of the world would choose people that fit society’s standards of that image is unsurprising. All though the tides are turning, quite a few people in Western culture still believe you cannot be beautiful and bigger. You can be beautiful for a bigger person though, but you can’t separate the two in many eyes. That’s sad and I’m glad that it’s changing.

    However, my question here would have it been possible for the women to know what they were signing up for if it was company’s policy or policy not disclosed to potential employees before signing up?

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