Tree Hugging Bartenders
In these days of overwhelmingly serious issues, every once in a while we need a break from them. That's why some people exercise, or read, or send text messages like, "I'm texting now." People need diversions. So I have a gift for you: a question to ponder that is just something interesting that caught my attention: Why are there so many more liberal bartenders than conservative ones?
Sociologists Neil Gross and Ethan Fossey came up with some research recently that was reported in The New York Times. They investigated stereotypes like "university professors are liberal and bankers are conservative." They found that liberal and conservative stereotypes are self-perpetuating. Young people hear all their lives that journalism is a liberal field and running a corporation is something conservatives do. So it's not surprising that liberal young people might want to be journalists and conservative kids might be drawn to business.
Even when the researchers dealt with the labels that people gave themselves, many stereotypes held up. While the majority of people in most fields called themselves, "moderates," the professions that you would probably label "conservative" generally had more people in them that identified themselves as "conservatives" and vice versa. More artists, authors, and social workers identified themselves as "liberals," and more religious workers, physicians, and law enforcement officers called themselves "conservatives." No big surprises so far, right? But then we come to the statistic that caught my eye: more than five times as many bartenders consider themselves liberals than conservatives. Is there a liberal bartender stereotype that I just didn't know about?
What is it about bartending that makes it a "liberal profession?" Until now, I guess I believed in the stereotype that bartenders must be conservatives. My image was of a tough-minded guy who goes hunting on his day off and has a tattoo on his chest that reads, "If You Weren't Born Here, Go Home." As you can see, I also believed that bartenders have very big chests. But the statistics proved me wrong. More bartenders are liberal than conservative.
So how do bartenders fit into the liberal stereotype? What do they have in common with other liberals? Maybe the stereotypical liberal love of egalitarianism is represented by the fact that bartenders can be men or women. Customers don't care who pours their drinks as long as they keep coming. And interestingly enough, I think the typical bartender has much in common with the sports jacket wearing, pipe smoking, latte drinking university professor. The bartender is the professor, and the bar is his classroom. He or she is in complete control. Like the professor, a bartender can kick people out of his "classroom." Like the professor, the bartender can share his worldly wisdom with those around him. Like the professor, the bartender feels he is underpaid, considering the public service that he performs. Maybe their desire for "one world" and their liberal love of other countries is shown by their serving drinks like White Russians, French Connections, and Australian Virgins. Maybe they demonstrate their liberal disdain for tradition by mixing up concoctions like the Pineapple Martini.
Regardless of how bartending came to be in the liberal column, it's there. So I guess there must be many children who grow up in liberal homes, wondering if they should feed the hungry or serve the thirsty. There are probably scores of college students who can't decide if they should go into sociology or mixology. And I feel bad for all of those young liberals who go through the gut-wrenching choice of, "Should I work for Greenpeace or at the Green Grass Lounge?"
Once word gets out about these lefties who serve beer and cocktails, I assume outraged right-wingers will rail against them: "It's unnatural for someone to be able to pour four drinks at once without spilling a drop." "The liberal agenda includes serving all kinds of fancy drinks instead of just straight Bourbon." And can't you just hear Rush Limbaugh decrying, "Liberals are appropriating everything that was once ours. They've taken over the bars. What's next? Are they going to start foreclosing on people's mortgages?"
On the other hand, those on the right might not be upset about liberal bartenders at all. Let's face it. Just now, I was guilty of using a stereotype.
Lloyd Garver has written for many television shows, ranging from "Sesame Street" to "Family Ties" to "Home Improvement" to "Frasier." He has also read many books, some of them in hardcover. He can be reached at email@example.com. Check out his website at lloydgarver.com and his podcasts on iTunes.