Every once in awhile a post will pop up on Facebook by someone who’s irritated by Hooters. The post usually mentions the stupidity of taking kids to the restaurant and goes on to talk about how the female servers are dressed. Always, the conversation turns to what the servers are wearing.
As the first in the genre known as “breastaurants“, Hooters has been around for about 30 years. I remember when they first opened when I was a teen. For over 3 decades female Hooters servers have been wearing the same skimpy outfits of orange short-shorts and a white tank top with the Hooters name on it. Back in the mid 80s it was just something kitschy that few people probably expected to last. It was so “out there” that for about 20 years they really had no competition. Now there are others and it’s not just sports bars, but there are coffee shops and BBQ joints, too.
In my understanding of restaurants you don’t stay in business if you don’t have decent food. That makes me think there’s more to Hooters than what meets the eye. And this is where I get to make a confession. My grandmother, z”li, ate at Hooters several times a month for about 5 years. She had been out shopping and wanted a quick lunch and asked the cashier for a suggestion. The cashier was, in her words, “a nice young man”. I’m sure he was probably in his 20s. At the time my grandma was probably in her early 80s. Maybe he thought it would be funny to send this little old lady to Hooters. Maybe he was being sincere when he recommended the Hooters nearby. Despite whatever he though, off to Hooters my grandma went. And it began a wonderful relationship between an octogenarian Jewish woman and Hooters.
I had the privilege to have lunch with my grandma at “The Hooters”. I also heard about her first visit, the time “these nice businessmen” paid for lunch, the time she took one of her fellow Gold Star Widows members, and the countless times she had “such a lovely waitress”. And not once did my grandma ever say anything about how the servers were dressed. Not once. And this from a woman who was devoutly Jewish and who thought it risqué to wear a sleeveless top without a sweater or blouse over it.
Now it’s 2016 and we’ve spent the last several years talking about not placing blame on rape survivors based on their clothing choice, that what women wear is not an invitation to judge them, that young girls should not be exposed to body-shaming, having conversations about fat-shaming, encouraging body pride, and so on and so forth. Yes, we’ve had the dialogue. And we’ve become outraged that women on the red carpet are asked about their clothing but men are not. Seriously, we’ve talked and talked, and typed, and tweeted, and hashtagged this conversation into the mainstream.
Stick with me, because here comes my Hooters Hypothesis. There’s an exception when it comes to Hooters. And on that I’m finally calling BS. It’s hypocritical and, well, BS, to preach about a woman’s right to choose what she wears without being shamed for it, and then with that same breath degrade the women who work at Hooters. If you don’t want to go there or take your family, then don’t go. But stop with the shaming. I’ve seen your posts, the ones where you’re sighing over the “hunky” server. The one of the “hot” backup dancer. The post of the “amazing looking” bartender. Those. I see them. So does everyone else. So shut up about the women who work at Hooters.
That is, unless you’re willing to talk about how much confidence they must have, how brave they are to work in a place where some (male) patrons have little self-control when it comes to their hands, and what courage looks like to deal with people like you who think it’s perfectly OK to shame them for working an honest job.
Do I want my daughter to aspire to a job at Hooters (or Tilted Kilt, Twin Peaks, or the others?) Not really. Then again, I’m raising her to be a strong, confident, and independent woman so it’s not really my choice.
What I do want is for the shaming to stop. Across the board. Let’s just stop shaming women. It does nothing for the younger generation of girls to see and hear such negativity. It does nothing for the young women who are just trying to make an honest living. And, in general, it give boys and men permission to do the same thing.
Cocktail waitresses in Vegas should be able to wear whatever themed outfit the casino requires without thinking what you’ll say about her. Hooters can require short shorts. Airlines can go back to hot pants and go-go boots for all I care. Seriously, it’s not that difficult to just not patronize places where you feel uncomfortable going with your spouse or kids. And if enough people don’t go then maybe the business will rethink it’s required clothing. Because, honestly, this is probably more of a “you” problem than a “them” problem.
The conversation should not be about what “these women” are wearing. It should be about the fact that people should not be degraded or ridiculed for the clothing they wear. We should all be teaching our kids (boys and girls) to be respectful of (both men and) women regardless of what they are (or are not) wearing. So, just stop with shaming women who work at Hooters thinking it’s OK because they somehow deserve it.
It’s your turn, now. What are your thoughts on this double standard?