Friday night was business as usual for 28-year-old Shoshana Fisher, who works as a bouncer at Pianos, a bar on Manhattan's Lower East Side. That night, the bar was hosting a 7 p.m. show featuring five different bands. Fisher was wrangling a snaking line of patrons waiting to get in, while also keeping an eye on those who'd stepped outside for some air or a smoke break.
Some time around 11:30 p.m., Fisher heard a woman outside yell, "He just grabbed my ass, oh, my God!" When Fisher went up to the woman, who she guessed was in her mid-20s, the woman said a man on the street had grabbed her rear end and fled to a nearby venue. She told Fisher she wanted to call the police and report her assailant, which is when Fisher and the other bouncers swooped into action, escorting the man back to Pianos and pulling up security footage catching him in the act.
The authorities arrived on the scene soon after and removed the man in handcuffs.
Fisher's friend Eliel Cruz-Lopez tweeted out a screenshot of Fisher's Snapchat story showing the man's arrest. "This is what happens when you grab a girl's ass unsolicited at my venue," she'd captioned the photo. "BYE."
All in a day's work.
"You rarely hear the term 'door woman,' but being a woman has really helped me identify who should and shouldn't come inside a venue in order to create a safe space and environment that's fun for everyone," Fisher said in an interview with Mic. Indeed, finding a female bouncer or door person is still so rare that coming across one usually provokes a trend piece, and being one, a personal essay.
Fisher said Friday night wasn't the first time she's called the police on a patron — and it's certainly not the first time she's taken action against a man who was harassing a woman at the bar.
"It's happened every night at every single establishment I've ever worked for," Fisher, who's been working in nightlife for four years, said Sunday. "It's a nightly thing and I consider it to be a part of my job."
The 28-year-old Upper East Sider said she takes an unapologetic, intersectional feminist approach to deciding who is or isn't allowed into her clubs, a philosophy learned from her time studying black studies and political science in college. She believes it makes her better at her job and helps keep women and other marginalized groups safe at Pianos.
Fisher's job is more or less bystander intervention: keeping an eye out for potentially dangerous situations and intervening before it escalates or someone gets hurt. It's an everyday practice that many say could be the key to changing rape culture and preventing sexual assault.
With this in mind, Fisher has a few hard and fast ground rules. If a man disrespects her or tries to hit on her at the door — a common problem for the few female door people and bouncers out there — she won't let him in. If she overhears a man waiting in line catcalling or otherwise verbally harassing women on the street, she won't let him in. If a man shows up to the door by himself — without any friends or a date — she won't let him in. This one's admittedly a little more controversial, but Fisher argues that she knows from experience that men alone at a club can be trouble for women.
Piano's other bouncers are on the same page as Fisher, which means they back her up completely when any of these men get angry, call her a bitch or ask to speak to the manager.
"Men constantly call me sexist for not letting them in," Fisher said. "I respond something like, 'This is the opposite of sexist. Do you want to go into an establishment and make women feel uncomfortable?"
"You rarely hear the term 'door woman,' but being a woman has really helped me identify who should and shouldn't come inside a venue in order to create a safe space and environment that's fun for everyone."
Fisher said whenever she's having someone removed from Pianos or denying them entry, she first tries to make it into a "teachable moment." She's had success at least once before. Before she kicked out a white man who said "nigger" a few weeks ago, she asked him, "Why do you think it's OK to say that? Let's have a conversation about that."
She said the man was receptive to her and left without putting up a fight.
Of course, Fisher can't convert every predator and racist into a feminist — or at the least a better person — but she can teach them one valuable lesson: If they're not going to change their behavior, they're not welcome at Pianos.
"Every night I'm able to prevent someone from going inside who's speaking to a woman inappropriately or saying something racist or implying ableism and using that as a teaching moment, person-to-person, makes a difference," she said. "And the people who are causing the problems aren't going to show up again."