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SEXPRESSO: I/2 NAKED BARISTAS HIT SEATTLE

I just had a great discussion--well, heated discussion...ok, it was a knockdown drag out and I actually just threw a neighbor out of my apartment--about this article...
Candice Law at work.
Candice Law at work.
Questions raised: Feminist sexual liberalists v. sexist exploitation for profit--

@Boycott these businesses or support women who don't give a shit about what we may think about their personal choices regarding earning a living?

@Opening a door to exploitive porn/sexual violence or women/self owned erotica?

@Do we understand these workers as being submissive or empowered?

@Do we who may be critical of this fall into the Religious/Moralist Right category or Andrea Dworkin category?

@Can we order extra whipped cream in the event that we may feel moved to, um...oh, never mind...

Just askin'...Here's the article.

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Some coffee stands get steamier

By Amy Roe

Seattle Times Eastside bureau

MIKE SIEGEL / THE SEATTLE TIMES

Candice Law, a barista at Cowgirls Espresso in Tukwila, chats with customer Gary Lundstrom. She and other baristas vary their outfits, depending on the day's theme. "Everybody's excited to see you," Law says.

Barista Candice Law at Cowgirls Espresso in Tukwila says she makes more in tips than she ever did as a waitress at Hooters.

In a short, sheer, baby-doll negligee and coordinated pink panties, Candice Law is dressed to work at a drive-through espresso stand in Tukwila, and she is working it.

Customers pull their trucks up to the window, where Law greets each with an affectionate nickname, blows kisses, and vamps about as she steams milk for a mocha. "You want whipped cream?" she asks, a sly smile playing on her pierced lip.

The next customer rolls up, and Law throws a long leg onto the window sill, like an indie-rock ballerina at the barre.

"Do you like my leg warmers?" she asks. "Aren't they hot?"

Hot is not the half of it. To stand apart from the hordes of drive-through espresso stands that clutter the Northwest's roadsides, commuter coffee stops such as Tukwila's Cowgirls Espresso are adding bodacious baristas, flirty service and ever more-revealing outfits to the menu.

At Port Orchard's Natté Latté, baristas sport hot-pink hot pants and tight white tank tops. Day-of-the-week theme outfits ranging from racy lingerie to "fetish" ensembles are the dress code at Moka Girls Espresso in Auburn and at several Cowgirls Espresso stands in the area. Bikini tops are the special at Café Lorraine on Highway 9 in Woodinville, and the women of The Sweet Spot in Shoreline pose provocatively in Playmate-style profiles on the stand's Web site.

"In this area, we all know how to make good coffee," said Barbara Record, who opened Bikini Espresso in Renton last month. The trick is to set your business apart, she said, and sex is one sure-fire way to do that.

"It's just, how far do you want to go?" she said.

At Best Friend Espresso in Kenmore, baristas go thigh-high. An elevated service window offers customers a nearly full-length view of pretty, young baristas — some of them high-school students — in short skirts, tank tops and high heels.

Best Friend owner Wayne Hembree said he requires employees to dress "classy;" in dresses, skirts and a nice top.

"What I think most of them have found is that their tips are better if they wear short skirts," he said.

Occasionally, Best Friend does theme days, such as "schoolgirl" or adding glasses for a sexy "secretary" look, manager Heather Bacon said.

Longer commutes, a change in laws regulating the stands, and the saturation of the carryout coffee market have given drive-through stands a jolt in the past few years.

When the state's smoking ban went into effect last year, many bar, casino and convenience-store owners sought to make up for expected losses by renting part of their parking lots to espresso stands, said Lori Bowden, owner of the Cowgirls Espresso stands.

The advent of "sexpresso" is harder to track. Business and baristas debate over who pioneered the edgy outfits, but they agree that by sweetening the product, with a smile and maybe a shot of hazelnut syrup, they've reached out to customers who've never set foot in a Starbucks.

Drive-throughs are a growing part of Starbucks' business, too, with more than 1,500 drive-through locations throughout the United States. But a representative of the company said it has no plans to sex up the dress code, as it wouldn't fit the company's brand.

At places such as Cowgirls, the barista is the brand.

"If I'm going to pay $4 for a cup of coffee" said one male customer, "I'm not going to get served by a guy."

That attitude has been a boon to Cowgirls. Bowden, a former vending-machine-company owner, has acquired seven drive-through stands, with a total of 26 employees, all of them women.

Though most of the stands in the area pay minimum wage, Law said she makes more in tips than she ever did as a waitress at Hooters. One recent morning, she served 400 customers between about 6 a.m. and noon.

"Your customers freakin' adore you. Everybody's excited to see you," Law said. "You spend a few minutes with them and they leave."

They come back, too.

When Ryan Reed pulled up to Best Friend Espresso for his usual, a 24-ounce iced vanilla latte, on a recent weekday afternoon, he knew what to expect.

"The owner [Wayne Hembree] always hires super-hot girls," Reed said. "That's basically his philosophy."

Hembree said actually, he looks for customer-service skills. The dress code, which he started four years ago, was inspired by an employee whose polished look boosted business, he said. Hembree also requires staff members to wear makeup and do their hair, "and these guys, I won't lie to you, they like that," he said.

But Best Friend has made some enemies. Jeff Marshall, whose wife, Wendy, owns the gift shop Chalet Cadeau, said the couple moved their business from Kenmore to Kirkland last month in frustration over neighboring Best Friend Espresso. Marshall said the business caused traffic problems and drove customers away from the gift shop.

"It's disgusting," he said of the stand. "It's an undesirable business from a community that's trying to sell itself as a family-oriented community."

Kenmore City Manager Steve Anderson said city officials looked into Marshall's complaints.

"We've heard of issues and we've had undercover investigations, police surveillance, and it resulted in nothing," he said. Likewise, King County sheriff's spokesman John Urquhart said the business isn't breaking any laws.

Bowden said law requires that employees cover their breasts and buttocks, so there will be no "thong Thursday," as some customers have requested.

Back in that cow-spotted stand in front of Silver Dollar Casino in Tukwila, Law steams milk and dreams up new themes.

"I like the idea of Saran Wrap Saturday," she mused. "Now they've got those colored Saran Wraps. Dude, they could totally make a cute outfit."

homepage: homepage: http://molotovmojada.blogspot.com


enough already 22.Jan.2007 17:26

exploiting irrational responses for big tips

Perhaps it's time to mention that the women being presented as products are not the only people being exploited by this kind of commerce. As a guy I can attest that the mental and emotional response to this kind of imagery is hardly voluntary, and I remember an America where you could get a cup of coffee at a drive-through window without having to figure out if you really wanted to see a lingerie show right then. The normalization of pornography in this country may or may not have been a good thing up to the point where people who didn't want to be exposed to it could easily opt out, but we seem to be passing that point.

hypocritical judgements 22.Jan.2007 19:06

me

The only person on this planet who knows if Candice Law is being exploited is.... Candice Law.

So rather than making assumptions, set aside your moral high ground preconceived notions for a moment, make an espresso run to Tukwila, and ask her. You don't even have to look into the window if you don't want to. Until then, you are just yet another person in a long line who is deciding for yourself what is appropriate for women to do, and expecting all the women of this world to abide.

Amy Roe, the original reporter of this story seems to have done that and her story doesn't seem to imply an exploitation issue. In fact, I get the impression reading her article that Candice Law is happy having fun with her career.

Until then it seems kind of hypocritical for others to frame this as an exploitation issue.

So here's my jab at those questions:

@Boycott these businesses or support women who don't give a shit about what we may think about their personal choices regarding earning a living?

-> Choosing to not support women who don't give a shit about what you think about them -in an effort to make them into something more of your liking- is exploiting them.

@Opening a door to exploitive porn/sexual violence or women/self owned erotica?

-> I don't know -and you don't either-. Maybe you can ask Candice when you go ask her if she is exploited or not?

@Do we understand these workers as being submissive or empowered?

-> We don't fully understand them.

@Do we who may be critical of this fall into the Religious/Moralist Right category or Andrea Dworkin category?

-> Only those who are critical of this would know.

@Can we order extra whipped cream in the event that we may feel moved to, um...oh, never mind...

-> Ok, I won't mind.

it's looks like not a cold weather occupation 22.Jan.2007 20:27

CVI4ever

She's probably waiting for that slob to get his order and stop gawking so she can slam the fuckin window shut

/ 22.Jan.2007 22:46

/

Whether a particular barista is being exploited, or is exploiting, the trend is one more example of business catering to, and encouraging, the more superficial aspects of human beings.

not superficial 23.Jan.2007 11:17

Sam

People's sexuality isn't superficial to them, it's usually one of the most intimate and identity-defining aspects of a person. If this was just superficial it wouldn't be harmful, but sexism is indeed harmful to women because men still treat women as warmblooded dick accessories instead of human beings with equal rights and opportunities.

I wish ours was not a pornsick, misogynist culture where, goddess forbid, if Candace Law was raped that her job as a minimum wage titty-elation drink dispenser would be held against her. As things stand now, her willingness to exploit her sexuality this way would make prosecution of any sex crimes against her nigh impossible. The rape culture isn't her fault, but she and all woman still bear the consequences of men's vigin/whore pathologies. Until those consequences are less deadly and rapely to women, businesses like this and the men who patronize them are The Problem.

Sell What You've Got 23.Jan.2007 15:05

j

Ok, of course this is tasteless, and I think these women outght to be a bit more critical, but who the hell gave you or anyone else a right to make decisions about how other women earn money.

If you were gifted with a voice or an artistic eye, I imagine you would have no problem making a living off it. Why shouldn't someone born with an attractive body earn a living with their natural talent.

Sex is fucked up in our culture, but mostly by men who don't respect women. We should fight the criminals, fight the companies that don't promote women, fight the actual harm done to women.

But the harm done to these barristas is done by the fucked up men oggling them, they are the problem. If you want to do something, address the sick idiots that drive big trucks out of their way to look at pretty women.

I think if we accomplished the legitimate goals of feminism, that we would still have half-naked barristas and strip clubs, but they would look very different. Sex is a good thing, and should be an overt part of a healthy culture. Our culture is sick, but overt sex is not the source of the problem--the problem is ideas, values, religions, and politics that infect our population.

liberated half-naked baristas and strip clubs 23.Jan.2007 19:29

i can't wait

This is not about anybody's sexuality. This is not about who how where or when anybody wants to have sex with anybody else. This is about some people using their own and/or other people's bodies for a competitive advantage in a degraded marketplace.

Notwithstanding Gangi's question about "boycotts," the only people making decisions about how these women earn money are their employers. Nobody on this page has advocated regulating these businesses or even judging the employees. We're just sharing our perceptions about the situation. The last commenter seems to think there's some other market for this kind of business besides "fucked-up ogglers," and if they would just reform or go away that women with these particular kinds of "natural talents" could get on with the liberating business of "making a living" selling their bodies. This position seems, at the least, a bit problematic.

Cowgirls Espresso in Tukwila:
> Customers pull their trucks up to the window, where Law greets each with an affectionate
> nickname, blows kisses, and vamps about as she steams milk for a mocha. "You want whipped
> cream?" she asks, a sly smile playing on her pierced lip.
>
> The next customer rolls up, and Law throws a long leg onto the window sill, like an indie-rock
> ballerina at the barre.
>
> "Do you like my leg warmers?" she asks. "Aren't they hot?"

Best Friend Espresso in Kenmore:
> "The owner always hires super-hot girls," Reed said. "That's basically his philosophy."

we could both make money 23.Jan.2007 21:44

the invisible camera of Adam Smith

I could do a "Barrista Girls Gone Wild" video, from the customers perspective. This is but one example of how an economy grows. I need the bread

Commodity Fetishism is Normal 24.Jan.2007 03:19

Human Cat

This culture in its 'post modernity' embraces sexuality as a surface appearance in order to keep commerce moving in the way business owners and the elite desire. The language and assumptions about people living under capitalism are usually revealing of some kind of hypocrisy, moralism, or types of reified thinking on the part of critics. 'oh my look at that girl in the skimpy clothes selling people coffee...she must be a/slutty, b/desperate for a job, c/a sign of the times' etc. No where do people look at the overall context. When people are in a situation of dispossession, many consider almost anything to get the money needed to buy survival in an imposed scarcity of distraction and consumerist neurosis. So the girl at the drive thru coffee booth is the flesh pressed into service to make more drive-thru consumerism 'sexy', but that doesnt' mean she mignt not like it in some ways. Everyone is different. The prostitute and the CEO don't sit at the same table, so our varying levels of dispossession weigh on us, and some will use sexual appeal to compete just as others will use the cliche firm handshake... normalization of banality is a post-modern turnon that should be subverted when it appears.

reply to Human Cat 24.Jan.2007 11:09

Sam

"So the girl at the drive thru coffee booth is the flesh pressed into service to make more drive-thru consumerism 'sexy', but that doesnt' mean she might not like it in some ways."

I'd rather keep the focus on the sexist entitlement of men who do what you call "the flesh pressing into service" than focus on the least powerful persons on the totem pole, but I would like to remind you that the satisfaction of FOX employees is never brought up as an excuse for FOX's sexism. The feelings of FOX employees are inconsequential to critiquing the cultural products of the media behemoth.

Exploitation 24.Jan.2007 13:10

Working Class Mama

Candice is doing what all of us women are taught to do to get ahead. Pandering to the male gaze/fantasy. Many of us are even taught to like the attention. Taught that our self esteem relies on it. That our value as human beings is rated by the amount of sexual attention we recieve from men. The intentions and implications behind the attention are commonly misunderstood or not even considered by a lot of women. We are taught that being favored by men is the step ladder to hoist us out of the pit of female exclusion. I'm not sure that punishing HER is the right answer, although part of me cringes in disgust that she's the competition for a woman who may have more dignity, independence, and insight.
I would discourage men from supporting such behavior. Think about the sick logic and emotional dependence that you are really supporting behind the painted smile and batting eyelashes.

Hypocrisy 26.Jan.2007 16:46

Coastrunner

We have the woman voted most emulated by teenage girls (Britney Spears) showing her shaved vagina in public, a 12 year old actress acting out an explicit scene as a rape victim, and our teenage girls going to school dressed like sluts.

Why, exactly, is a barista wearing a tank top a threat to western civilization?

maybe you don't know what the word "hypocrisy" means 28.Jan.2007 20:39

look it up

The same people who are not sure Candace Law working a drive-through window in her underwear is a good thing don't think those other things are good things either -- except maybe for "teenaged girls dressing like sluts," whatever that means. Look, if you think "slutty girls are bad" then you're part of the problem. The "slut" concept is another part of the social machine turning sex into commerce. "Sluts" undermine the market price of female sexual attention by spreading it around too freely. The problem here is not "dressing slutty," it's businessmen gradually turning all of Oregon into one big strip club.

upping the porn o meter 03.Feb.2007 03:10

thea

the issue I think which is worth highlighting here, as working class momma alluded to is not the situation that the women working at these espresso joints are in, but the precedent being set for all other barristas. If women have the choice of working at one of these joints, or a place where they don't have to be sexy eye candy then it's ok, but if the whole industry goes in this direction and women/girls have less of a choice in the matter then we have a problem. Hospitality as it is is already a bit this way. Looks matter and a lot of waitresses are abnormally hot, so let's not pretend their job is to merely serve food and beverages. Now it seems the skirts are getting shorter and the sex element more overt. so what is there other than boycotting the industry? regulation. maybe that's a dirty word in this country. but it's a way of keeping the smut in the smut zones, and preventing it from permeating the rest of the public environment. what are the rules in these areas? could anyone open up a strip club anywhere or are there regulations in place. maybe they need to reassess the regulations around coffee take away joints. personally, I would prefer to live in a world in which all people could use sex to sell, but only the eye candy itself could profit, not some dude behind the scenes. In an ideal world, women and girls would have so many options for making a living, that parading their bodies and hot outfits would be done purely for their own pleasure, not for the pleasure of others.

Wow 06.Feb.2007 16:18

Candice Law

Gatta tell ya....I love my job....the term exploit means someone else is doing it to you....guess what? I started the bikinis and stuff on my own! I love wearing it, again I love my job, and I really appreciate the person who said the only person who knows if Candice Law is being exploited is Candice Law. It's true. Unless you've been to my stand you have no clue on how the place is run or how I act. You all read a newspaper article about me and what I said. You have no idea what they left out or anything that was really going on in the interview. Notice what she said I was wearing and what I was wearing in the pics are totally different.....I actually did most the interview in sweats. I play with my lip ring at the dinner table with my parents...it's not a flirting thing. Would you like whip cream on your drink? Take it how you want to, I'm sorry I smiled when I said it. There's always more to situations than everyone knows about....take that into consideration before you begin to judge.