In the US sitcom Frasier in season 3, Frasier responds to Daphne’s comment about men using sex to get what they want with the following: “How can we possibly use sex to get what we want? Sex is what we want!” the audience laugh cheerfully because of course it rings true. Populating a fast food restaurant with skimpily clad women seems to prove the point.
Today was the public opening of Hooters in Bristol and my friend Martin and I were there to try out the chicken wings and the atmosphere. I was curious to see how my self-esteem would hold up when my noticeably six-month pregnant body was compared with the young women in short, orange shorts, tan stockings and very tight fitting tops.
Surprisingly, there was little, metaphorical, space to be anything but cheerful inside. ‘Welcome to Hooters’ was shouted when we entered and this happened with every customer’s entrance. There were songs for birthdays and stag dos and dances for special songs such as Cotton Eyed Joe.
The customer service is done American-style with a varied-in-length chat approximately every 10 minutes. The protests against Hooters were mentioned and our waitress Haley thought they were misunderstood, after all there were strip shows about which people could complain. And this isn’t a strip show is it? I asked and she was almost horrified. Not at all, she replied, it was a lovely friendly place to work. She was raising two little ones, aged three and one respectively, and she even asked about the bump.
There were few other women in the restaurant and the men weren’t lecherous or even drooling. The customers were quiet and getting on with their dining amongst the noise and the constant interaction, our waitress visited our table over 10 times.
The girls were enthusiastic, bubbly and constantly smiling. With all the movement, how could they not be in a good mood? I was feeling great but then it may have been the company or the chicken wings but it was also the enthusiasm of something new. The waitresses were almost child-like in their level of interest and intimacy but lunch time on the first day isn’t where the problems are going to appear.
The announcement of Hooters’ opening was greeted by some advocates of women’s rights with outrage. I agree that dressing women in skimpy clothes and using them as bait to lure in men in order to sell fast food is probably not a great use of women. The prices aren’t that cheap with burgers at around £8 and 10 chicken wings selling for £7.49 or £7.99 boneless.
The price of women selling their bodies is sometimes not much more than our meal at lunch £15.98 for two plus a £2 tip. On June 8, 2010, a man was jailed after subjecting his 28-week pregnant victim “to a terrifying rape after he refused to pay her £20 for sex”.
A prostitute is a professional sex object and I can’t find much argument for saying that women in Hooters aren’t objectified as the same – sex objects. They get dressed in a sexy way to promote the restaurant and get paid for it. The difference between the two is that in the restaurant there seems to be some form of protection, the four walls, the managers, the bouncers who may well be there on a Friday night. Not quite ‘harmless fun’ but perhaps a good advertisement for legalised prostitution and brothels.
I enjoyed my lunch but I don’t think the waitress needed to talk to me for 20-30 minutes to prove that she was an individual.