In 1977, a group of former Feminist Studio Workshop students created The Waitresses based on discussions that emerged about their common experiences as waitresses. They realized that the waitress was a trope for various female stereotypes: the nurturer, the servant, and the sex object. Furthermore, the status of waitresses cut across many feminist issues they wanted to address such as money, work, and sexual harassment. As their first piece, The Waitresses organized the performance art series Ready to Order?
The Waitresses decided to perform Ready to Order? as guerrilla theatre in various restaurants around Los Angeles. While the group obtained permission from the restaurants, the customers were unaware of the performances that would occur. The Waitresses drew heavily on humor and irony in their performances, which was appropriate to their guerrilla theater tactics, since audience members had not even consciously chosen to be members of an audience. The use of humor also fit with the group members' desire to provoke thought rather than place blame (see Documents 11B, 11C, and 11D).
Restaurants provided more than a thematically appropriate performance venue. The group consciously chose to offer their work in a public setting in order to establish a sense of unity among The Waitresses and other workers. The Waitresses were strongly committed to not only raising awareness among patrons of the economic issues faced by waitresses but also to reaching out to food service industry workers. Thus, The Waitresses organized panels and discussions with a variety of organizations that worked with food service employees. The text of the flyer included a translation of the events schedule in Spanish in an effort to reach as many food service workers as possible.
Invitation to Ready to Order? Some of the members of The Waitresses appear in costumes that represent various female stereotypes that waitresses represented to the group. For example, one member is dressed as a cocktail waitress, representing the sexualized aspect of waitress work. Another is dressed as a diner waitress, representing the nurturing female.
READY TO ORDER?
We are six feminist women artists. Between us, we have waitressed 14½ years. Because of abusive treatment on the job, all but one of us have found other work. On April 25-May 1, 1978, we will all waitress again, as a group of artists, "The Waitresses." Through our performances, we will make known our experiences as women, as artists, as waitresses.
SCHEDULED MENU OF EVENTS
We continue to serve the public, this time offering a new kind of menu. Our feast includes art performances by "The Waitresses." In our exploration of waitressing, we have located these key issues: stereotype, ie., waitress as mother/nurturer, servant/slave, and sex object; women and money; women and work; and sexual harassment. Each performance will focus on one issue while naturally touching upon all of them. To provide a fuller experience during this week, we've included various workshops, panels, and discussions. We hope you'll enjoy our palatable assortment of events. Bon appetit!
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