For my two weeks selling roses at the Oktoberfest, every day starts with a ritual shared by many other women working on the Wiesn: Put on make-up, a low-cut blouse and stockings, and then the traditional dirndl dress. Bind the apron strings on the left or right, depending on your relationship status.
As a final touch, tie a traditional costume scarf around your neck, make sure your cleavage shows and pull on tight, padded cycling shorts underneath the dress.
Wait a second: Cycling shorts under the dress?
Women who serve tables or sell pretzels and flowers outdoors need to fend against inclement weather, but for waitresses in the large rowdy beer halls, it’s also a protection against gropers.
It’s not noon yet, but the Wiesn is already jam-packed and rocking as servers carrying beers and trays laden with food push through the crowds. People are having a grand time. As alcohol levels rise, inhibitions vanish, strangers become friends, arm in arm even before the brass band has gotten started.
Female employees and Oktoberfest guests alike are exposed to sexual harassment at the festival that has drawn 3.3 million visitors in its first week alone. A week into the 186th Oktoberfest, Munich police reported 25 cases of sexual assault, including three rapes.
The good news is that the situation has been improving in recent years: Police reported 67 cases of sexual assault on female workers and visitors to the festival in 2107 — a record high. The number of cases dropped to 45 in 2018, according to police spokeswoman Claudia Künzel.
Things have clearly changed since the #Metoo debate was launched. Women, and sometimes men, increasingly refuse to tolerate sexual harassment and turn to the police instead.
Also Read: Some Simple Answers for MeToo Sceptics
Change in public perception
Slap the waitress’s behind, caress the flower seller’s cheek and kiss the girl sitting on the bench next to you: This behaviour no longer remains without consequences. The public perception of such individual physical trespasses has changed radically.
Complex question arise that have no simple answers: What are men allowed to do? And what about women? How close may a man come to a woman; where are the boundaries? Are bosses allowed to give their female employees roses? Are signs of affection misinterpreted?
Also read: ‘She Said’: #MeToo and the Makings of a Movement
Dark red lipstick a deterrent?
These days, it seems some Oktoberfest revelers think twice before they even link arms to sway to the music with the woman sitting next to them on a bench. Most visitors however keep seeing the festival’s relaxed atmosphere as an opportunity to flirt outrageously.
Wiesn waitresses resort to a simple trick to fend off men who try to make sure their faces are covered with bright red and pink lipstick marks by the end of the night: They wear dark red lipstick. Men, rumor has it, don’t like the color. At least that was my experience.
Featured image credit: Reuters