The Alarming Fine-Dining Practice Of 'Women's Menus'

The 1980s were a time of vibrant music, fabulous fashion, and action-packed movies. The decade saw the rise of pop, rock, and heavy metal music and the emergence of hip-hop and electronic music. Iconic movies such as "E.T.," "Back to the Future," "Indiana Jones," "Star Wars," and "Jurassic Park" were released, and who can forget all the colors and various styles that people of all ages and genders wore? Technology also took off during this era, with personal computers starting to make waves and the emergence of new technologies such as the compact disc (CD) and the camcorder.

That decade was also a time of political uncertainty and upheaval, with women entering the workforce in higher numbers than ever before, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, setting off a chain of social developments to put women on equal footing as their male counterparts. One of those changes happened in a small restaurant over a small menu, but it had some big players.

Women's menus upheld antiquated gender roles

As women were gaining more ground in all areas of life in the '80s, there was one point of contention that businesswomen or women out on a date had to deal with. It was a small thing, but it had huge implications — the women's menu (sometimes referred to as the ladies' menu). If you have never heard of a women's menu, you have Kathleen Bick and Gloria Allred to thank. Yes, that Gloria Allred.

According to Mental Floss, some fine-dining restaurants used women's menus in the last century. These menus listed the same items as the regular menu, but no prices were listed. This was done under the assumption that the male was paying for the meal, and it helped the female feel more comfortable to order whatever she wanted without worrying about the cost of the final bill. This, of course, led to some issues, especially when women were the ones paying. It was the '80s, after all; women were earning more than ever, according to Pew Research, and they were ready to spend like never before. Enter Kathleen Bick.

Suing women's menus into submission

In 1980, Kathleen Bick took her business partner, Larry Becker, out to dinner in Los Angeles and received a women's menu, where Becker received a menu that listed the prices, Atlas Obscura reports. Bick was offended by the assumptions and the unequal treatment, so she and Becker sued the restaurant for discrimination. They hired Gloria Allred, one of the most well-known discrimination lawyers in the country, to represent them in the suit. The lawsuit caused a stir, but it was eventually dropped, and no information was released on why it did not proceed. The restaurant did, however, agree to put an end to the practice of women's menus.

Today, women's menus are a thing of the past — or are they? As recently as 2019, a famed restaurant in Peru was sued for engaging in the practice, according to the Seattle Times. So, while it may be a rare practice, it is still in place in some high-end, expensive restaurants worldwide.