I just found out that my own city in the suburbs is considering opening a Hooters. The new Hooters would replace another restaurant which also served a lot of meat -- Fuddruckers. The location is right across from Burlington Coat Factory and Buca di Beppo, bringing a whole new meaning to the term "strip mall."
By opening a location in my sleepy town, it appears as if Hooters has exhausted the tourist traps and they're hoping to expand to the suburban family demographic -- they do have a kid's menu after all. Apparently, Hooters is a family dining establishment when it can make them money, but it's also an adult establishment which offers "vicarious sexual entertainment" when it can get them out of equal employment lawsuits (e.g., requiring weight limits for female servers, not hiring male servers, etc.). Last year, a San Francisco attorney representing the National Organization for Women filed a complaint against Hooters claiming that they can't have it both ways -- that they can't defend themselves as adult establishments in lawsuits, while at the same time be catering to minors who are legally barred from such establishments.
Now, what kind of sick world are we living in if kids and sexual entertainment can't mix? What's next? Will they have to stop selling their "Hooters Gear" for kids? Where will responsible daddies buy their little sons "Hooters Girls Can't Keep Their Hands Off Me" t-shirts, "Your Crib or Mine?" bibs, or "I'm a Boob Man" rompers?
Anyway, back to my neighborhood -- let's just say that families who live in the suburbs aren't too thrilled with their potential new neighbor, as hundreds have let the city know. In addition to its breasts, legs, and thighs, Hooters is known for its wings. What if PETA came to town and used their typical tactics to protest Hooters, right alongside the local community? Would it be a protest or promotion? What a conundrum.
In response to the controversy, Hooter's CEO Rick Leukert was quoted in the local paper with a message to all the haters: "I would challenge them to go to Hooters and to look and see," he said. "The wonderful ladies who work for us are single moms, college students, family women, from all different backgrounds."
Oh, well that's a horse of a different color! People thought they were all just trashy sluts, but turns out they're actual real live women. Carry on then, for no one could have any other possible reason to object.
It's a clever little trick that the CEO chose to divert attention to the women's character, as if that were even the issue. No reasonable person questions whether Hooters girls deserve respect (please note: I said reasonable). Why not instead of debating their character, we debate the underlying sexist society that encourages its members to treat women's bodies as commodities? Or what if we debate the character of the
pimps business people who profit from women's sexual objectification? Or what if we examine the psychological, sociological, and economic issues that lead women to see these types of jobs as viable/profitable options?
Surely, these will be the issues debated in the comments section of the local paper, right?
Once you wade through the stream of adolescent booby puns, you come across the truly sexist attitudes of the commenters -- and the lone woman who had the nerve to be a voice of reason, but instead became the object of their anger. The comments were primarily attacks on Hooters-hating women, and the attacks fell into three categories:
1) Get back in the kitchen and make me a sandwich.
2) You're just jealous because you're too fat/ugly to work there.
3) You're a humorless, butch, flannel-wearing, man-hating feminazi who wants to take away all the boobies. The nerve of some bitches!
How very enlightened and original! It's as if they've attended the Rush Limbaugh School for Women's Studies and Gender Relations. Such intellectual and well thought out arguments! And to think these fine men are members of my own community. The pride their mothers must feel.
While they differed in style, the Hooters CEO and the commenters were participating in the same process: by diverting attention to women's character (favorably or unfavorably), they were justifying their own sexism, their privileged male position in society, and their self-serving "right" to treat women as objects.
That's it -- I'm co-opting the owl idea from Hooters and asking Woodsy to consider moonlighting outside of his U.S. Forest Service gig as an anti-sexism bird of prey. It's about time that our society decides to give a hoot and not pollute ... with trashy places like Hooters. And we can use cutesy owls for it all.