Lov Carpenter works as a house mixologist for a catering company in Chicago and as a brand ambassador for a bitters company out of Brooklyn. She has spent the past twenty years in the restaurant industry, starting as a hostess at a Red Robin in Seattle and eventually working up to a server and bartender in various Michelin-starred restaurants in Chicago. She loves exposing people to food or drinks they thought they previously disliked. "Some of my best shifts behind the bar or on the dining room floor are when I could get someone who said I hate this food or I hate tequila to see it in a new and different way."
She is optimistic about her future in the restaurant industry. She said, "I feel like I still have so far to go in my career. I feel like over the past year I have been able to create my own path."
But her career has caused personal scars. Sexual harassment has been an ongoing battle for Lov and for most all people working in the restaurant industry. According to a report by Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, 60% of women and transgender workers reported that sexual harassment was an uncomfortable aspect of work life. Furthermore, the majority of workers reported experiencing ‘scary’ or ‘unwanted’ sexual behavior, and a significant portion - over 25% - reported that being touched inappropriately was a common occurrence in their restaurant.
“You're just a piece of meat. Women in the industry are so sexualized. It is so ingrained in the industry that it wasn’t until a couple years ago when it finally went off like a light bulb. This isn’t normal.”
Often Lov's long resume and thorough experience in the industry don't matter in relation to her physical appearance. In particular, she remembered interviewing for a position in which another candidate, who eventually got the job, had little to no experience, but was hired because she was a, "young white girl with big boobs." Lov said that these experiences have affected her emotionally and psychologically. "For a long time I let it really affect me and I really let it seep into my psyche. I felt like I needed to look a certain way or act a certain way in order to gain the approval of my employers. It finally became too exhausting."
Part of this exhaustion resulted in what Lov said was struggling with alcohol abuse. "Over the years I’ve had to reevaluate my relationship to alcohol over and over again. Once you remove the alcohol abuse layer, or peel back the drug abuse layer, you have mental health issues at the core. Nobody really talks about those things. You are supposed to be in this industry where everyone is having a good time and have a happy face on, but no one wants to talk about the fact that they can barely get out of bed that morning. Nobody wants to hear it."
Lov isn't resigned though. She wants to be a part of something that helps change these demeaning industry practices. "Overall I feel like I have been really lucky in the industry. I feel like I’ve done a lot of this stuff alone and it's really challenging so I would like to be able to help other people."
This piece was filmed in 2017.