WAVE's Review of Hooters
by Barbara Kasper and Barbara Moore
Originally published as "Restaurant puts workers on display"
in the April 12, 1995 Democrat and Chronicle (Rochester, NY)
This is WAVE’s - Women Against a Violent Environment - first
restaurant review. We decided as a community service we would review
Hooters, a restaurant chain which recently located in Rochester.
Several people had told us that the theme behind Hooters was really
“harmless fun.” It is, after all, a family restaurant, we were told.
Since we don’t fit the “humorless feminist” stereotype, some
“harmless fun” at a family restaurant sounded pretty good to us.
Along with another WAVE member we went to Hooters one Monday for
Upon arrival, we studied the menu. It held double meanings that
even non-feminists who have not had years of consciousness raising
could recognize. On the backside of the menu the intent of the
restaurant was clearly spelled out: “Now the dilemma...what to name
the place. Simple - what else brings a gleam to men’s eyes
everywhere besides beer and chicken wings and an occasional winning
football season. Hence, the name -- Hooters -- it is supposed that
they were into owls.”
“Quick,” one of us said, “write that down. And be sure to write
down what the signs on the walls say.” We read them off: “Caution:
Blondes Thinking; Hooters Waitresses are Flattery Operated.” And
there was another one that showed the outline of two breasts, shaped
to look like a road caution sign that said “Bumps.”
Although we were sure everyone had realized we were feminists who
had come to scope the place out, it was soon apparent that no one --
except our waitress -- was paying any attention to us. All the male
customers were like out of the Exorcist, with their heads spinning
around at 360 degrees. Except for the male sporting events being
broadcast from numerous big screen televisions, the only other thing
that could be causing them to crane their necks like this had to be
the Hooters Girls. In their bright orange short shorts and halter
tops, they were hard to miss.
These men were also watching a curious phenomena taking place at
the entrance to the restaurant. Some of the Hooters Girls were
gyrating with hula hoops as the onlookers did their onlooking.
Maybe, making hula hoop performance a part of all waitresses’ job
descriptions would bring more respect to this line of work. We had a
good laugh about how all of us -- college professors, librarians,
neurosurgeons -- should be required to hula hoop on the job.
We received our food. As we tasted our small and over-priced
portions, we wondered how Hooters got to be so popular. (There are
at least 150 Hooters restaurants in the U.S.) We concluded that
Hooters has proven that making fun of women and using women’s
breasts to sell chicken wings and beer is financially rewarding.
Since WAVE is always in need of money, we got to thinking about
how we could reduce someone to a stereotype and make a restaurant
chain based on that theme. What about a chain called “Geezers” that
featured elderly waiters and waitresses? Or what about “Gimps” that
hires people with disabilities to wait tables. Then there’s Sambo’s
... but, wait, that’s already been done. Besides, didn’t that chain
close down after a well organized boycott?
As we left we discussed the all-in-good-fun, family atmosphere
Hooters promotes. This is the dangerous, very serious side to
Hooters. Because Hooters has managed to mainstream the
objectification of women, it seems so harmless. Women have always
been made more physically visible (and therefore more accessible)
than men, by everything from advertisements for liquor to the
Playboy centerfold. Whether it’s MTV or Calvin Klein, women’s bodies
While we did not see any men stuffing dollar bills down the
Hooters Girls t-shirts, and none of the Hooters Girls were being
manhandled, a friend of ours had a different experience. She visited
the restaurant one weekend night and saw waitresses being grabbed,
rubbed against and fondled. When our friend asked a Hooters Girl why
she didn’t report this customer behavior to the managers, the reply
was, “It wouldn’t do any good.”
At Hooters, there is no penalty against ogling (and perhaps even
grabbing). The statement which prospective Hooters Girls are asked
to sign asks they acknowledge that “the Hooters concept is based on
female sex appeal and that the work environment is one in which
joking and innuendo based on female sex appeal is commonplace.” The
last time we checked, being the object of persistent joking and
innuendo of a sexual nature on the job was declared illegal by U.S.
courts as it constitutes sexual harassment.
The policy the waitresses sign also states: “I do not find my job
duties, uniform requirements or work environment to be offensive,
intimidating, hostile or unwelcome.” Much of the wording in this
statement is often found in company policies which define sexual
harassment. But sexual harassment doesn’t exist in Hooters’ world
view. No means yes. It’s a place where “boys will be boys” and
sexual harassment becomes normalized.
The Working Women’s Institute states that sexual harassment is
the single most widespread occupational hazard women face in the
workplace. We believe that Hooters constitutes an atmosphere that
legitimizes and invites sexual harassment. Sexual exploitation
should not be a condition of employment.
Call us humorless feminists if you must, but for our restaurant
review with a scale of 1 to 4, with 4 stars being the highest, we
give Hooters no stars at all.