• Thu, Mar 7 2013

Hooters Is Trying To Be More ‘Female Friendly,’ But I’ve Always Gone Regardless

hooters-women

I know Hooters gets a lot of flack for its business model: gorgeous women wearing tight tank tops, short shorts and flesh-toned nylons and serving wings. And in a way, the flack is given rightfully considering the whole “girl next door” image is outdated and Hooters is kinda seen as the frat version of what people imagine the Playboy Club once was. That said, I am admittedly a frequent patron of Hooters and, though I certainly consider myself a feminist, I have no real qualms with the concept of the establishment nor its employees provided the work environment at each individual franchise is made a safe one. And apparently, Hooters is trying to appeal to more women, anyway.

Hooters has been releasing commercials that depict it as less of a sexy place and more of a restaurant where you can kick back, either as males or females, and have a few drinks with wings. Their efforts may be working, according to YouGov BrandIndex, which calculates the approval rating of companies:

To measure the Impression score, YouGov BrandIndex asked adults over age 18, “Do you have a general positive feeling about the brand?” The measurement scores range from 100 to -100 and are compiled by subtracting negative feedback from positive. Last August, the women’s Impression score for Hooter’s stood at -26. For men, it was -3.

I have been going to Hooters for several years now. I’ve been on numerous dates there and have spent plenty of time hanging out with friends there. My ex of several years and I used to there every Wednesday for Wingsday (10 boneless wings and fries for $4.99, woo woo!) and would find one whenever we’d travel since they’re cheap, consistent and have an excellent happy hour. And yet a few other boyfriends, quite a few friends and many strangers in communications classes found this extremely disturbing.

To me, Hooters is no worse than GQ or any other magazine or website that uses scantily-clad women (or men) as part of its appeal. Since companies like GQ are deemed “classy” simply because of the fact that the women on those covers are generally famous celebrities or models and they pseudo-cater toward a more “upscale” clientele, I can’t help  but wonder if Hooters women might be seen differently if the clientele were seen as gentlemen, the way GQ portrays its image. It is difficult to ignore the fact that Hooters servers are generally wearing more clothing in their day-to-day jobs than the folks in any of those covers and editorials, equally designed to sell clothing, magazines and other products.

My issue with people having a problem with Hooters is not that I don’t totally agree that selling stuff using sex is getting pretty damn old; it’s that it (A) usually consists of slut-shaming the servers themselves and (B) generally comes from people who have never been to one nor talked to anyone who’s worked there. I know multiple women who have worked there, and they have frequently told me that while it’s obnoxious when guys try to ask them out — “no more than at a bar, though, and here, at least they have to tip me,” one said — the most annoying thing is when people, both women or men, try to convince them they’re “better than this” or give them these pitying looks. It’s patronizing and presumptuous.

“I chose my position over being a bartender or other restaurant job because it’s fun,” I recall one telling me. It’s just like that ridiculous way that people tend to assume things about sex workers’ and strippers’ lives (“has daddy issues” and “isn’t well-educated” just to name a few) without ever having asked any of these women themselves. That same server went on to tell me how she rarely feels out of control and, when it feels like a customer is too rowdy, they just do what every other bar does — toss the person out.

You had better all know what’s this is from.

Yes, Hooters is not for everyone, but most of the women I’ve taken there for happy hour who assumed they’d feel threatened or objectified or out of place have totally tossed that notion out the window within minutes. The men I’ve brought who swore it had to be a den of vile sexist behavior realized very quickly that the women working were typically well-spoken individuals who were simply employed at this restaurant rather than another; they were no different as a human being than other places’ servers, they simply have a tight uniform. When it comes to the business itself, I take issue with things like their innuendo clause (servers are expected to be a-okay with sexual innuendos, as it’s part of the job) and how they can’t have visible tattoos (because it bums me out); I certainly don’t take issue with the idea of using sexuality to sell food.

If people want to hate Hooters, then they can feel free to do so, provided they’re articulate regarding what they dislike and consistent across the board about it. If you hate Hooters’ business model, then hopefully you don’t shop from any fashion label that uses models’ sexuality to sell products, don’t subscribe to any magazine that’s ever used sexy poses or outifts to sell copies and refuse to support photographers who sexualize their subjects to sell prints and books. Just don’t practice selective awareness and protest.

I have no qualms with the actual Hooters women nor the practice of using sex to sell stuff; the only concerns I have are for the treatment of these employees (by customers and anybody else) and that each female feels safe and in control of her situation at all times.

Photo: Hooters

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  • Liz Grierson

    I have no issue with the women who agree to be taken advantage of by Hooters… (I guess that sums up my position right there). I do have an issue with a restaurant chain that requires its employees to wear those uniforms, to tolerate sexual harassment as just good fun, to wear stuffed/push up bras and full makeup, regulates body shape as a condition of employment, and which has really terrible discriminatory hiring practices. The huge amounts of unofficial pressure applied to the waitresses to take advantage of Hooters’ discount plastic surgery arrangements (subject to negotiation depending on your location) is also kind of vile.

    • http://www.facebook.com/sameurysm Samantha Escobar

      Total agreed with regard to those policies (also, I had forgotten about the hiring process, and I am really glad you pointed that out). I think that I am just frustrated that most of the criticism I hear is (A) regarding the female employees themselves and (B) people who get upset about how they use sex to sell their product, yet still follow and support brands and industries that do similar things. I support the fashion industry but openly criticize it when I see something problematic, and I have definitely written feedback regarding what I wish would change about this corporation, as well.

      While I am not saying that sexism is right or excusable by any means, I think that the idea of using sexuality to sell things is all right provided those whose sexuality is being utilized are treated well, paid fairly and are 100% comfortable with the situation.

  • Amanda

    I personally do not and will not go to Hooters, but only because I have really terrible, pathetic self esteem issues that I need to address. Whenever I see an attractive woman with large breasts, I get really upset at myself for having small ones, feel unattractive and it really makes me want to go for a breast augmentation.

    Yes, I know this is extremely ridiculous, I really need to get over it.

    • kj

      It’s not ridiculous at all! Accepting the validity of your insecurities is the first step to overcoming them.

    • http://www.facebook.com/sameurysm Samantha Escobar

      You are not extremely ridiculous! I have similar issues, but with the exact opposite body type. I try to be comfortable with my body, but when I see tall, thin women with small breasts, I admittedly get hella jealous and super self-critical. You are not alone! <3

  • Tusconian

    I have an issue with Hooters, for the most commonly given reasons: discriminatory, etc etc etc. However, something that a lot of people don’t and refuse to understand is, in those jobs (low paid, low skill), pretty much everyone hiring is hiring pretty strongly based on looks. Breastaurants get the bulk of the ire because they’re very up-front about it, but don’t think for a second they’re the only, or even worst, offenders.

    The vast majority of female service industry workers, and a good amount of male service industry workers, are hired primarily because of their appearance and image. Easiest task, go to any large, popular bar geared towards college students. The majority of the bartenders and servers will be conventionally attractive girls dressed not too differently from the servers at Hooters or Tilted Kilt. Very few of them will be nonwhite, even if the bar attracts a diverse clientele. A good chunk of them will be actively terrible bartenders, partially because a good chunk of them are under the legal drinking age, and don’t actually have any idea how the simplest drinks should taste. Even though these bars are designed for mixed-gender groups, a lot of them choose to be, or are trained to be, significantly more pleasant to male customers. There are also usually a few male bartenders, who are always over the legal drinking age, and can look any old way or be of any race; they’re not really expected to flirt with female customers.

    But that’s an easy target. I worked in a restaurant that was, allegedly, actively trying to avoid the clientele Hooters and the like attracted. But we still had to be “known” for having attractive girls that fit a specific image, and wore fairly revealing clothing; if we weren’t hiring, certain female applicants would be sent away without even taking a resume, but if the (usually male) manager thought the applicant was cute (thin, white, usually blonde and hipster-looking or preppy), he’d keep it on file, and suggest she be given an interview. When we were hiring, women with certain images would still have their applications thrown right into the trash. Male applicants were rarely accepted for server positions, even if they were qualified, but would often be put on the bar much more quickly than female servers who were more qualified, because they liked the idea of having girls walking the floor. This is how it was at every nearby place that wasn’t entirely family run. Even places that don’t have a blatant, covert “mission” to push the image of “tough guys, hot girls” have a lot of unwritten rules. Sometimes, even if it’s not a place where female servers or cashiers are expected to appeal to male customers, there are unspoken rules about what kind of makeup must be worn or not worn, who’s natural hair is “unprofessional,” who has a “perky” look regardless of their actual demeanor, etc etc etc. If you go into a store or coffee shop where the majority of the staff are dressed a certain way (save uniforms, SOMETIMES), and you aren’t dressed that way, you may as well put your resume in the trash yourself to save them the trouble, no matter how easy it would be to dress that way for work. I’ve filled out resumes that asked more about my music preferences than my qualifications (none of them were music shops).

    Working in a store or restaurant is not like working in an office job, where someone very well may be judging women for their appearance, but the job is given based on qualifications. It is very much appearance and image based. So yes, I have an issue with Hooters, but those crying discrimination and superficiality specifically at Hooter’s and the like should know that Applebee’s or the local organic eatery may not be significantly better just because their standards and methods of discrimination are different.

  • kj

    First off, I have nothing but respect for the servers who surely work their butts off at Hooters, as we all have to bring in the dollars one way or another.

    The problem with Hooters is, it’s not just about “using sexuality to sell things.” It’s about explicitly privileging the male gaze, yet claiming to be a “family friendly” establishment. I would never bring my children to a place where my son would learn that women are decoration, and my daughter would learn, look, this is what beautiful looks like. If you don’t look like these official examples of beauty we have hired, you are UGLY.

    Does this shit happen in regular restaurants? Sure. But it’s codified at Hooters and that’s not something I can accept.

    Maybe if these breastaurants were part “pectaurants” and had dudes walking around shirtless or something, I would buy it. Buy as far as I know, they don’t.
    And just for the record, I’m actually not a huge fan of fashion that uses sex to sell their products – I’m looking at you, Victoria’s Secret.

    Also, just for the record, I’m totally down with strip clubs. Because strip clubs don’t pretend to be family friendly – and that’s ok.

    • Rumionemore

      There you go, dude. I wouldn’t want my daughter or sister to work in one of these joints, but I cna see how women would go if they could look at good-looking men. Byut it still ain’t family friendly. No way.

  • Rumionemore

    I’ve never been to one of these places, but what woman in hell would go with her husband or boyfriend to some cheesy place like this to watch them oogle younger, slimmer broads? I think they shouild feature hot men in tight pants – or just good looking guys – period – as waiters. That’s even-Steven. Oh, and men don’t care if their wives and dates stare at other men, do they?