Las Vegas: Is it Woman-Friendly?

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In case you missed it, Friday (March 8) was International Women’s Day. International Women’s Day is an annual observance that celebrates women’s achievements and shines a spotlight on women’s issues globally, in particular equality or the lack thereof. I wasn’t really thinking about that when I first started writing this post, but in hindsight, it seems appropriate to be publishing this today. Consider this my International Women’s Day post, Vegas style.

This past week, I read this article in the Las Vegas Review Journal about three new “women’s restaurants” being planned for the city. On the surface, creating a restaurant from the female point of view doesn’t seem like a terrible idea. It does provide a balance to horribly offensive chains like Twin Peaks and Hooters whose sole appeal seems to be the size of their waitresses’ breasts.


Showgirls on Strip


But if you had asked me what needs to happen to make Las Vegas more woman-friendly, I can honestly say that “restaurants catering to women” would not even have made my top 20. And if it did, it would have very different features than SHe Steakhouse, which features smaller portion sizes and lower calorie food selections (yes, let’s turn food into a gender issue, as if there aren’t just as many obese men in this country as there are women), a fashion show runway (because the notion that all women love to shop isn’t a stereotype or anything), and “seductive female dancers”.

Of course you would want to have “seductive female dancers” in your “restaurant for women,” because having female sexuality shoved in our faces is exactly what women have been missing for so long in Las Vegas culture! Oh thank God this restaurant is finally giving us what we want!



Stripper Bar

Nothing sexist about this, eh?


This of course, just triggered my brain to think about what I’d really like to see happen in Las Vegas, as a woman. If Las Vegas really wanted to become a more woman-friendly destination, the answer is not creating isolated “women-focused restaurants”. No, to become more woman-friendly, Las Vegas as a whole needs to stop objectifying women. It needs to stop using women’s bodies to sell things.

How many times have I been forced to view media images announcing new restaurants or entertainment venues that, instead of featuring photos of those places, feature women with unnaturally large breasts about to pop out of their too-tight dresses–or worse yet, wearing nothing but a bikini? No matter how inappropriate it might be, the practice continues because the Vegas motto is “sex sells”. But you may notice that their definition of sex is limited to women’s bodies.


Sirens of TI

Several years ago, TI felt the need to “sex up” its pirate battle by getting rid of the English Navy and adding sexy sirens. There was no need for this; the show was already packed all the time.


I might give Las Vegas a pass if they were selling the fantasy of sex for all sexual preferences, and had half-naked men on display in equal number to half-naked women. It wouldn’t make me comfortable, but at least it would be fair. Lots of women (and gay men) visit Las Vegas, and our money is just as green as anyone else’s. So how come Vegas doesn’t have half-naked male pit dancers and cocktail waiters? How come the porn slappers aren’t advertising “men direct to your room”?

I think we all know the answer to that.

Last month, on Valentine’s Day, there was a piece of performance art on Fremont Street by local activists to draw attention to the objectification of women. The point of the performance was to demonstrate how oversexualization and objectification of women leads to violence against women. I applaud what they were trying to do with this, but I knew even as I read the article it was a complete waste of time in a city like Las Vegas.

Vegas is too busy making money off women’s bodies to pay any attention to how that particular economy damages women. What’s even more disturbing to me is how many young women have bought into this paradigm of using their bodies as a commodity. Instead of getting an education and learning skills and doing good in the world, they’re focused on using their bodies to manipulate men into giving them everything they want. Why else do we see so much botox and plastic surgery (at alarmingly young ages!), women mutilating their bodies to try to fit some ideal image of beauty that was constructed by men–not for our benefit, but for theirs?



Shows like Chippendales are token venues to appeal to those attracted to men, but overall, men’s bodies aren’t commodified in Las Vegas the way women’s are.


Do you know how women dress when we’re hanging out with our girlfriends and there are no men around? We wear comfy clothes and flats without makeup. But add men into the mix, and suddenly, we (heterosexual) women are cramming ourselves into uncomfortable dresses that display too much cleavage and wearing four-inch heels that leave our feet raw and sore at the end of the night–all so that we can appeal to the way men want women to look.

Can women enjoy Las Vegas then?

Yes, of course, otherwise I wouldn’t keep going back. But we need to willfully ignore all the signs that our gender is being treated like pieces of meat in a butcher shop window. Which requires a little hypocrisy, I guess. I have always been treated with respect, even though (or perhaps because) I don’t play those games of using my body to get my way. I pay for my own meals, drinks, and other expenses. I expect to be treated like a human being, and I am. The oversexualization and objectification of women is something I have learned to tolerate in order to enjoy the city, the same as I have to tolerate all the cigarette smoke in the casinos and the drunken idiots staggering down the sidewalk at 10 am.  But it’s not always easy.

As you can see, this whole exercise has fanned the flames of my latent feminism. I’m embarrassed that it’s taken me this long to tackle the topic in this blog. To answer the question in the title, no, Las Vegas is not woman-friendly. But it could be.


Diablo's She Devil

Yes, this is definitely my version of hell.


If Las Vegas really wants to become more woman-friendly, here are a few suggestions:

  • More women in positions of power, making decisions–not just in government, but also in the casino-resorts and entertainment industry.
  • Treat all women with respect as human beings, despite what their bodies look like or how they’re dressed.
  • Create an economy that no longer treats women’s bodies as money-making commodities.
  • Educate our young men and our young women–in a systematic way–about how oversexualization and objectification of women’s bodies does lead to violence and oppression against women.
  • Crack down on violence against women.
  • Create a woman-friendly bar and nightclub environment where women don’t have to worry about being slipped date rape drugs.
  • Stop using female customers as “lures” to get men to spend money in nightclubs and topless pools.
  • Abolish the exploitation of women’s bodies in advertisements and other media.
  • Remove any and all pamphlets, tee shirts, and signs announcing “girls direct to your room”.
  • Remove giant billboards featuring half naked women.
  • No more cocktail waitresses dressed like dominatrixes or sex kittens.
  • No more half-naked pit dancers.

I’ve got more suggestions, but this blog post is long enough as it is. Don’t worry, next week I’ll get back to our “regularly scheduled program” here on the blog. I just needed to get this out of my system.


27 thoughts on “Las Vegas: Is it Woman-Friendly?

  1. Priscilla

    Just got back from trip to Vegas solo and I agree with all that you say. It will never change as the demographics are in their favor. I chose instead to focus on what interested me – the art scene is super! Many galleries to check out and great restaurants that have nice places to sit at the bar where the staff are dressed appropriately and of course the shows in town are good. Most hotels have good workout rooms, spas and yoga studios and I had high tea with a friend which was an unusual thing to do there.
    If I focused on all the negative stereotypes I would have gone nuts, instead I rebelled by spending my money in places where I was respected. Maybe that will drive the business owners to evolve our way, if we speak with our wallets?
    Great post!

    1. Gray Cargill Post author

      That’s pretty much what I do, too, Priscilla. Vote with my wallet. Nothing sexist is getting my money. High tea is awesome isn’t it? Which one did you go to?

  2. Priscilla

    The high tea was at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel and was terrific!
    For some reason I can’t see the other comments on this post and tried using the link you sent me with your reply to my first comment to no avail. I must be doing something wrong.

    1. Gray

      Ah, I wondered. I need to try that one next time.
      No, I don’t think you’re doing anything wrong. I was having a little technical difficulty with the blog this morning. Hopefully, that has cleared up now.

  3. Steven

    This may come as a shocker, but as a man, I completely agree with you. I think your post is right on and I’ve often wondered how the clearly one-sided objectification of women in this town has flourished for so long. Have men not tried to sue to move into the cocktail waitress (or “waiter”) business? I honestly don’t know.

    Don’t get me wrong, as a straight male of 42 years, I notice an attractive woman when I see one – no matter what she is wearing. But I honestly could do without it flaunted right in front of me the way it is.

    In a way, it presupposes a lot about men, too. And contrary to the Vegas stereotype, not all men are interested in calling a 1-800 number to get a girl pictured on the back of a pickup truck to surprise him in his room late at night. Quite honestly, the pictures on most of those things are scary enough! They all scream “I want to ROB you…” [shudders]

    Also, when I take my wife to Vegas, which is often, I always think carefully about what casinos and restaurants (and thruways I will traverse) with her so as not to subject her to views that might seem degrading. Same goes for shows. So far I’ve done well, but it can be tricky. I don’t face this in other towns.

    Speaking of which, a short while back I wanted to take her, and our two young teens, to the TI pirate show. In over a decade of going to Vegas none of us had ever seen it. Good thing I checked the reviews beforehand. The new sexed-up sirens version would NOT have gone over well.

    Five years ago I could have walked my wife down Fremont Street in the evening. I wouldn’t even think about it now.

    I know many people feel if you took out these old staples like “Girls Direct to Your Room,” and others, Vegas would cease to be Vegas. But like you, I disagree. I think it would simply become a slightly different, and better, town. And it would attract a different clientele both as tourists and residents (after all, the former usually precedes the latter).

    I hope we live to see a day when that happens. I’d still enjoy coming to Vegas and I’m sure many others would, too.

    1. Gray

      It doesn’t shock me at all, Steven. I know plenty of men who would be very uncomfortable with the “in your face/sex sells” treatment of women in Vegas. You raise a really good point, too, about traveling to Las Vegas with your wife and kids. I don’t necessarily want to see Vegas turn into another Disney World, but there’s got to be a way to keep the adult aspect of the city intact while getting rid of the blatant sexism and not sending messages to kids about how women should be treated. As another friend of mine said, it’s got to really mess with the self-image of young girls growing up in Las Vegas. Thanks very much for your comment, that was a really thoughtful post.

  4. Marc

    I’m surprised that I don’t read about more women that feel this way. If they do they usually keep it to themselves, I guess.

    Marketing people often take the easiest way to get customers. In a town called Sin City it’s easy to get away with selling sex. If it didn’t work then they would use a new tactic.

    As I joked with you on Facebook, this is the easy way to get the low hanging fruit/customers. The majority of men don’t mind the blatant sexism. Speaking honestly, I don’t mind it.

    It will take people like you to stand up and say something and do something about it. I always tell people that the way to let a business know that you don’t like them is to spend your money elsewhere. If that’s in Vegas then you can spend it at places that fit the criteria you mention to be more female friendly. If it means boycotting Vegas (which I don’t think it does for you) then there are plenty of other great places to visit in this country.

    Bravo to you for bringing up the subject. It’s a good discussion whatever your opinion may be

    1. Gray

      Sure they do, Marc. Look at me–I’ve been going to Vegas for 12 years now, and this is the first time I’ve spoken of it–despite the fact that women’s issues are very important to me. I think a lot of people think “Well, what can I do? I’m just one person, my opinion’s not going to change anything.” But you never know. Sometimes, all it takes is one person speaking up.

      And you are absolutely right that the best way to get things to change is to spend our money on those things that are woman-friendly in Las Vegas and withhold our money from the things that are sexist. I remember when gambling used to be the biggest money-maker in Vegas, and now it’s entertainment–nightclubs/day clubs, shows, alcohol, things like that, and so we see casinos shrinking and more clubs and bars springing up. Because that’s where the money is.

      You offer some good thoughts, thank you, Marc.

  5. Lance

    It’s vegas. Sin city. I’d love to see the porn slappers and relentless strip club promoters disappear too, but mostly because they are annoying and scummy. You mentioned chip and dales, but left out thunder from down under. Or the fact that some strip clubs have a male and female side. I just saw zumanity last week; more guys half naked than girls. As far as heels and dresses, guys hate being forced into sports jackets and itchy polyester pants too. Again Vegas is sin city and hopefully always will be. I need a break from conservative ass Utah from time to time. We hide Cosmo covers in the grocery store for gods sake. I absolutely agree with you about this: Violence toward women should come with harsher penalties than it does now and young men and women should be raised with an emphasis on respect toward each other and for life in general.

    1. Gray

      Thanks for your comment, Lance. I’m not trying to take the sin out of sin city, I’d just like to see it be a bit more balanced and a bit less reliant on using women’s bodies (especially to sell things or make money). Shows like Zumanity definitely seem like a good compromise to me–sensual, yet featuring both men and women. Something couples can go to and both of them would probably find something enjoyable about it.

      And wow, I had no idea Utah was that conservative. Of course, I haven’t seen Cosmo in probably 20 years, so I have no idea what’s on the cover.

  6. Clay

    I don’t have substantial contributions here, as I think others have done the heavy lifting…

    BUT, I did want to share, that I did, once, several years ago, actually see *one* male cocktail server, at Bally’s. It was the only time, and I’ve never seen one before or since. there or elsewhere in my 20-odd (or perhaps 30-odd) years of vacationing in vegas…

    1. Gray

      Did you take a picture, Clay? You might have been able to sell it to the Enquirer. That’s like witnessing Bigfoot in the wild. LOL.

  7. Tisha

    I just wanted to say this is a great post and I LOVE your blog! Look forward to many more posts from you as I am taking my first solo trip next month.

  8. Abby

    I can’t believe it’s taken me so long to reply! Oh, boy, I could write a novel… My point of view might be a bit surprising… Being that I live in Vegas and have a “real” job, I am of course constantly at odds with the meritocracy of this town, as much as I love it. (I of course live in the suburbs, but still.) I hate that skinny blonds with big boobs are are paid so much more money than me, and don’t get me started about dating in this town… All of that said, it is almost strange to read all of this through a tourist’s eyes. In my mind, those “objectified” women are actually put on a pedestal. Anyway, the flip side is that they often don’t finish college because they are already making six figures at a nightclub. This puts a bit of an expiration date on their careers (although most marry young anyway). Soooo… I hope I don’t sound too bitter!! (Being single and broke and so over the 24-year-olds making twice my salary!) Just thought I’d give a local’s perspective, since you already know that of course I could do without the half-naked women parading around everywhere and agree with you on every aspect of this post. Oh, and SHe lol… I was pleasantly surprised that all of the men ordered “she” cuts of steak (only the meats are labeled “he” and “she”), and the runway was not a silly fashion runway (like I, too, was expecting), but more of a dance floor with one tasteful Betty Page-type dancer. She was so cute! And the best part? The bar was packed with men. Checking me out…. Only in Vegas!

    1. Gray

      Wow, you did have a lot to say, Abby. 🙂 Thanks for the response! And I appreciate your perspective, because you see SO much more of this than I do, especially because of your career. (Sometimes, I’m so glad I live in Vermont.)

      Well, one of the guys who has the restaurants at the Palms did admit that one motive they had for creating their “women” restaurants was because they knew the men would follow. I guess your experience just proves it.

  9. Wendy

    Hi Gray
    This is a very interesting subject which created a great conversation with my co-workers at lunch today. We all agreed “sex sells” and creates tremendous profits in Sin City and will never go away.

    I have questioned the men and women who hand out the scantily clad pictures of women who you can call “for at date”, why are there no pictures of hunky men here that I could ask out? To which they look at me with a puzzled look on their faces. I suppose there are ways to hire a male date for the evening in Vegas, although I admit I am naive about the process.

    I too was disappointed with the TI Pirate Show turning into “babe watch”. The original show was way more fun.

    I enjoy people watching in Vegas and asked some young girls walking in front of us in their 4 inch high heels on the Strip-girls you look like you’re in pain, to which they both screamed out, we are!!

    Why do I keep returning to Vegas? I enjoy the lights and the atmosphere. I enjoy putting on a skirt and a bling top and watching an entertaining show. I enjoy the restaurants and shopping. I enjoy the escape from the responsibility of my life for 4 days to de-stress and unwind by a pool with no one but me deciding what I want to do that day. I know the objectification of women is there, I’m not ignoring it, but choose to spend my money and time in Vegas on things that don’t cheer on that concept.

    A fun way to see men change into women for the evening is the Divas Show at the Imperial Palace (now called The Quad). Female impersonators create roles as celebrity singers, dress in fabulous gowns and makeup and put on a great show.

    1. Gray

      Hi, Wendy,

      I’m so pleased to hear that this sparked discussion for you and your coworkers. Your experience sounds very much like mine. I notice the double standards, and I dislike them, but I try to focus on the things that reflect my values. I guess that’s all any of us can do for now. I haven’t seen the Divas show yet. Maybe on a future trip….

    1. Gray

      Haha, yeah, Clarissa, that’s what I like to call Vegas pretending to throw us a crumb…but it’s too isolated an occurrence to really count as “equal.”

  10. Clarissa

    The D on freemont street has some work to do…the girls are in bikinis singing songs, while one of men is in his 50 and not taking his clothes off either 😛

  11. Michel

    I fully aggree with the suggestion made above regarding the degradation of woman. I have been in Vegas a few years ago and I was shocked that within a few minutes on the strip I was given 4 or 5 ‘woman cards’ promoting woamn as a sex toy.

    1. Gray

      That’s what I mean when I say it’s shoved in our faces all the time. Just walking down the Strip is like running the gauntlet.

  12. Mary @ Green Global Travel

    I think that many women and men would agree with you – though with said, it seems unlikely that Vegas will be making drastic changes in the near future and that is a major for consideration for travellers who choose to frequent a city renowned for this aspect of it’s culture. For those who choose to visit Las Vegas, please “vote with your dollar” in regard to gender, politics, and eco-travel practices! Money is always a powerful motivator!

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