Rumination No. 46: Gendered Straws

Whether marked on the door of a public toilet, a factor in the colour of the clothing that you choose to wear or simply the pronouns that you hear, gender and sexual expectations and conventions are virtually inescapable.

Twice in the last week, I’ve encountered a strange gender convention whilst out with Natasha for lunch and dinner. When our drinks arrived, her glasses contained a straw but mine did not.

Whether based on the idea that women don’t want to put lipstick on others’ glassware or that the female mouth requires an assistive suction-device to cope with chilled beverages by avoiding floating ice-cubes, this is a pretty ridiculous convention.

Beyond the issue of gender, there is also the simple environmental concern of handing out plastic straws willy-nilly. The ABC programme War on Waste did a fantastic job of showing just how many straws end up in landfill or even littering the streets. It also encouraged businesses on the show and viewers at home to consider refusing straws or taking their own.

Natasha and I often take our own straws but in café and restaurant situations such as this, you don’t really think to say, ‘Oh, in case you’re thinking of committed the ultimate ecological sin of slipping an unexpected plastic tube into my wife’s beverage, please don’t’. It kind of relies on someone asking if you want one.

I’m sure that there are women and even men out there who do prefer to have a plastic straw with their drinks. The only people who really require disposable straws are people with disabilities or medical conditions—businesses should take this on board and respectfully ask people if they actually need one. It shouldn’t come down to whether you identify as a man or woman or more strangely, whether the waitperson has decided if you are a man or a woman whilst serving you.