It’s Time for Hooters to GTFO

AP Photo/The Oregonian, Michael Lloyd

The common line about Hooters restaurants is that customers “just go there for the wings,” wink, wink. But no one’s unclear about the Hooters business model: sell sub-par food, invite clientele to objectify the female wait staff, tolerate sexual harassment, and present this all as “a family restaurant” where it’s all just fun and games, relax!

At GQJaya Saxena reexamines the boob-branded chain of sexist wing-slingers to see why our modern world, flushed with new life by the #MeToo movement, still has a place for this kind of business. Of course it shouldn’t, Saxena shows. But as long as the business model remains profitable and men dehumanize women, Hooters will continue operating as a place where men can ogle women in low cut shirts and short-shorts.

Strip clubs and sex work are still stigmatized in America. Waitresses everywhere are routinely harassed by customers, and are often told to suck it up or risk losing tips, but for Hooters Girls, there is significant job overlap with the stripping industry. Writer and stripper Janis Luna recently described her job as “to flirt and make them feel like a man.” Strippers look cute, they interact with you for tips, they listen, they laugh. The main difference for Hooters Girls is the parameters of the transaction are never clearly articulated.

If Hooters proves anything, it’s that women’s sexualized bodies aren’t actually offensive to the concept of “family fun.” But what Hooters lacks is transparency, and they use the plausible deniability to keep employees from complaining. “​Back then, my reaction to [Hooters being called a family restaurant] was more like, sure it is! We see families all the time! ​But I was definitely being defensive,” said Hubbard. “In reality, customers were 90 percent men, and we only saw a kid every few shifts. I don’t find it cute at all now, just gross and manipulative. It lets them say: We’re just playing around! Don’t be so uptight! It can’t be THAT offensive if kids are here!”

According to Anderson, she even had to sign away her right to sue if she was sexually harassed on the job. “When you are hired you sign a ton of documents, including one that basically states that you will not file a sexual harassment lawsuit against Hooters,” she said. “It also says that if you ever file any kind of legal claim against the company you forfeit your rights to go to court and instead will handle it within the company in arbitration.”

My recommendation: a complete rebrand, where all Hooters restaurants are converted into owl sanctuaries that house rehabilitated and/or endangered owls that children can learn about, interact with, and help rehabilitate. Fire all the male managers and let any of the cooks and female waitresses stay on as docents and biologists. Then when visitors rehash the old line about just coming for the wings, they’ll mean it. Until then, Saxena shows us how Hooters remains, like one of their lecherous male customers, on the wrong side of history.

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