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 And in a way, the flack is given rightfully considering the whole “girl next door” image is outdated and Hooters is kinda seen as the frat version of what people imagine the Playboy Club once was.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