I hate Hooters, and it has nothing to do with the food. I’ve only been to a Hooters restaurant once, and it was such a long time ago, I don’t remember what I ate or if I enjoyed it (though a little owl tells me the food isn't the number one reason people go there).
What I despise most about the franchise is that its name is demeaning to women. Of course, I also hate Hooters and other restaurants like it because they objectify women.
My hatred for Hooters: a brief history
My hatred for Hooters didn't happen yesterday or since the Harvey Weinstein scandal broke last October. I've been offended since the 1980s when the franchise first came on the scene.
Back then, I had nowhere to go with my loathing. Hooters was just there, a part of the cultural landscape, along with Michael Jackson, the TV show “Cheers,” and, yes, occasional unwanted sexual advances from powerful men in the workplace.
But the conversation has shifted—no thanks to Weinstein and a slew of other big names. Sexual harassment is front and center. Now seems like as good of a time as any to talk about Hooters.
Why has it been OK to disparage women but not other groups?
Can you imagine another allegedly family-friendly restaurant franchise with a name that's a derogatory word for male body parts? Of course, not. It would be rude, infantile and gross. No one would go there.
Nor could you picture a restaurant with an obvious racist or anti-semitic slur as its name.
Last month, Eataly, the Italian marketplace in River North, caught hell--garnering customer complaints and plenty of negative press for a window sign that said “Bring home an Italian, worth the smell.”
The sign was removed within a week, according to Louis Rago, president of the Italian American Human Relations Foundation of Chicago.
After all these years, why hasn’t there been similar outrage over Hooters?
Hooters isn't the only "breastaurant"
To be fair, there are other so-called “breastaurants” (Yes, it’s an actual restaurant category) such as Twin Peaks—which feature a scantily clad female waitstaff donning outfits accentuating their you-know-whats.
Don't think Twin Peaks, which currently has 81 locations in 25 states, gets a pass from me, either. I imagine its corporate leaders think Twin Peaks is a pretty clever name. Well, hardy har har. This female is not amused.
You might think the existence of Hooters and Hooters-like restaurants are small potatoes in a discussion of what causes male bad behavior. I'm not buying it.
I'm not saying that Hooters and other restaurants of its ilk are totally responsible for men sexually harassing women, but I do see these places--along with other cultural norms such as misogynistic song lyrics and gratuitous female nude scenes in movies—as contributing factors.
If it’s okay for a restaurant to be called Hooters, a name which disrespects women, it’s just a stone's throw to males making crude comments to anonymous females on the street, to uncomfortable, inappropriate talk and touch in the workplace and beyond, to perhaps, even sexual abuse.
Is there a witch-hunt against men? Maybe.
A couple of weeks ago, Liam Neeson said as women in the entertainment industry come forward with their stories of sexual misconduct, there is a “bit of a witch-hunt” happening against high-profile men.
Neeson might not be wrong. While I’m appalled and repulsed by what Weinstein and others were alleged to have done, I’m not convinced that some of these famous men should lose their careers over having had acted like, well, stupid jerks (Al Franken) or insensitive, clueless bores (Aziz Ansari).
But guys, you’ve been in the driver’s seat on this issue for a loooong time. A little backlash is hardly surprising. I hope some real, honest dialog can now take place between men and women, and maybe one day the pendulum will swing back a bit the other way.
Until then, I say Times Up for Hooters and other restaurants like it.
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