When you think of the D.C. Eagle, women -- especially lesbians -- don't necessarily spring to mind. ''It's a pretty male-dominated space," admits Schelli Dittmann, the Eagle's marketing manager. "That's the nature of it. It's a cruise bar. You know, big guys in leather, smoking cigars, playing pool.''
But the Eagle is becoming less of an exclusively male space, in large part due to the efforts of Dittmann. The fourth Wednesday of each month the bar holds Dyke Night. Just like any other night at the Eagle, the overriding purpose is to engender a sense of community among like-minded leather devotees. But there is, of course, an ulterior motive.
''We're creating more opportunities for women to get laid in this town,'' Dittmann says of the evening she fostered. ''Why should the Eagle be any different for women than it is for men?''
(Photo by Todd Franson )
Dittmann hasn't encountered much resistance to her efforts. In fact, on Dyke Night's first night, ''a lot of men came out to support us.''
This Wednesday, Feb. 22, the bar will celebrate three years of Dyke Night, an event that's grown from 50 people to four times that.
''The first floor is always packed," Dittmann says. "But now we got 'em packing the second floor as well."
It's the only leather bar in the country Dittmann knows of with a specific event for women (the Portland Eagle had one in the past), and she sees its success in part as a testament to Washington's unusually gender-integrated leather community. ''Everywhere else the men and the women are very, very separate," she says. With more and more Washington events and membership clubs open to women, "Washington is kind of a phenomenon.''
Dittmann, 37, has been active in the leather community for about 10 years. She initially got involved just for a change of pace: ''I was looking for something that was outside of where I'd been before.''
With Dyke Night, women now know they can come to the Eagle at an exact time and find other women there, too. And Dittmann says women are coming to the Eagle more frequently at all other times, too.
''It would be a rare occasion now to come into the bar and not see women here.'' Not a lot, but enough that women don't feel uninvited. And Dyke Night, Dittmann says, is attracting increasing numbers of younger women who aren't into leather -- at least not yet. But except for a substantial increase in the level of estrogen in the room, Dyke Night is really no different from any other night at the Eagle: ''We keep the lights low, we keep the music going, you can play pool, you have a good time, and it's a very cruisy environment. It's fun.''
Just as Dittmann intended it.
Dyke Night's 3rd Anniversary event happens this Wednesday, Feb. 22 at the DC Eagle, 639 New York Ave. NW, 202-347-6025. Visit www.dceagle.com for more information.