Ladies, Get Thee to Hooters!

I for one cannot see any possible problems with encouraging people to stay late and drink lots of alcohol in a restaurant catering to the male gaze and fantasies about well-endowed waitresses.
Publish date:
September 11, 2012
sexism, hooters, you are not fooling anyone

Good news, everybody! Hooters is changing its aesthetic! That means no more gross, exploitative costumes wrapped around its waitresses, who were previously forced to conform to a narrow image standard and forced to parade around for entertainment value and titillation factor to lure in male customers! And no more grossly sexist jokes on the wall and in their ads! HOORAY! People of all genders can now enjoy the Hooters fine dining experience! Feminists, book your tables NOW.

Ha ha, just kidding. But not about the plans to spruce up, actually.

It seems Hooters execs have realized that in the breastuarant1 business, competition is, so to speak, stiff. They may have been pioneers in the field, but thanks to the rise (ha ha!) of a number of copycats, Hooters is just plain old boring now. You’ve got to have something else that makes you stand out from the competition, and the chain has decided that the secret lies in the 51% of the population that, generally speaking, is not a fan of Hooters and all it stands for. Yes, folks, Hooters is going after the golden demographic otherwise known as “ladies.”

Thus, it’s freshening up a bit around the corners in the hopes of attracting or at least appeasing women, turning itself into a destination location for people of all genders. Or at least a place where poor, beleaguered husbands can eat in peace without being harassed by their wives for it later. Men, start your expense accounts!

But...“[Hooters CEO Terry] Marks insists Hooters will be every bit as sexy as always and that the iconic uniforms are there to stay.”

So, uh, what about the aesthetic is going to change to appeal to women, exactly? Because I’m pretty sure many of the objections from women are centered around the uniforms and the bro culture there.

The campaign is going to include remodeling in a number of locations to give them a more modern, sleek look; less wood panels and murky gloom and more open bar area and clear view to the street or patio, in warm climes. The menu is also undergoing an overhaul, supposedly to make it more appealing to women, whom we all know don’t like fried food at all ever, and thus need some delicate salads and that sort of thing to satisfy their primal urges.

Hooters is also “creating a night scene,” and I wish I was kidding here, people, I really do, but there you have it. Some restaurants will be staying open late to catch the bar crowd and make the chain more appealing to all those Gen Xers out there with money to burn. I for one cannot see any possible problems with encouraging people to stay late and drink lots of alcohol in a restaurant catering to the male gaze and fantasies about well-endowed waitresses. Can you?

Marks says that:

There’s an opportunity to broaden the net without putting wool sweaters on the Hooters girls2. Everything we do should appeal more to women, but nothing we will do will turn men off.

Right, because the problem women have with Hooters is that some of the wait staff might get cold.

OK, yes, I get it, it’s a reference to the idea that women want the Hooters girls to cover it up, which, you know what? Is not actually necessarily the case. The Hooters uniform isn’t as much the issue as the idea behind it, and what the women who work at Hooters are expected to do for their paychecks. I’m sure some women do find the uniform offensive, and those who do are unlikely to suddenly start approving of Hooters with better lighting and green salads on the menu if the uniforms stay the same. I’m assuming Marks has already written them off, though.

For those of us who are concerned about more than just what the Hooters “girls” are wearing -- like, say, the fact that grown women are called “girls,” the makeover is not fooling us in the slightest. Lighting the restaurants up to drive away the good old boy atmosphere and dragging the menus out of 1983 doesn’t change the fact that the restaurant is still predicated on serving up women as objects of fascination and desire for diners, and that it’s still primarily targeted at men. The decor may be changing, but the vibe remains the same.

Evidently, Hooters is seeing more women at its West Coast locations, at least, so clearly this is working for some, and I’d be really curious to hear from them about what, specifically, made them decide to start going to Hooters. Are the salads really that good?

Image credits: BemDevassa, Joseph A Ferris III

1. xoJane editorial listserv, can we please nominate this the worst portmanteau of all time? Return

2. Uhm, dude, have you ever seen a gloriously attractive woman working a sweater (that link is, uhm, NSFW)? There’s a reason “Sweater Girls” were huge in the 1940s and 1950s and let me give you a hint: It’s not because they were modest models of propriety and feminine virtue. Return