Tuesday, 7 February 2012

A victory for equality as Hooters closes its doors

Since its licence application in 2010, Bristol Feminist Network and Bristol Fawcett have campaigned against the opening of self-styled ‘breastaurant’ Hooters. Just over a year later, we are happy to report that it has closed its doors for good.

We believe that Hooters contributed to the normalisation of the sexual objectification of women on our high street. We have repeatedly argued and demonstrated that the impact of this objectification culture is very real and far-reaching. Research from the American Psychological Association on the treatment of women as objects shows that:

• Pressure on women and girls to look and behave in certain ways negatively affects their self-esteem and their mental health.
• Gender inequality is reinforced, and hopes for a level playing field are dashed, when women are valued for their supposed sex appeal at the expense of their other attributes and qualities.
• After being exposed to images that sexually objectify women, men are significantly more accepting of sexual harassment, interpersonal violence, rape myths, and sex role stereotypes.

From its sexist and degrading imagery and language to its uniforms, signage and bikini contests, Hooters normalised a culture that values women as only and always sex objects. We argued that an establishment that seeks to make profit from sexism in this way had no place in a forward thinking and equal opportunity minded city like Bristol.

We are pleased to see that Bristol agreed with us. The fact that Hooters has now closed shows that its presence was not welcome in our city. Potential patrons of the restaurant voted with their feet.
We are of course sorry that its closure has resulted in women and men losing their jobs. However we hope that the premises are quickly filled, and new job opportunities created, by a company that doesn’t seek to treat women as sex objects. We look forward to celebrating the opening of a new harbourside restaurant soon, one that fits our vision for an equal and forward thinking Bristol.


Rugbygurl said...

I understand everyone has a right to their own opinion and commend you for standing up for what you believe in. I do wish that you would have taken a second to sit and talk with some Hooters girls, to gain their perspective. It is hardly fair to judge a group of individuals without gaining their opinions first. What if Hooters promotes beauty and self love for the individuals who work there? The only difference between walking into a restaurant where there are women dressed in uniforms of tank tops and booty shorts and walking down a street highly populated with bars is that an individual is CHOOSING to walk into that restaurant. Girls aren't forced into working there, they chose to work there because it is a great opportunity to make money while having fun. Isn't feminist rights about allowing females to CHOOSE who they want to be? Clearly there are plenty of arguments you can bring up against the nature of Hooters, but before you go and judge them, how about getting the opinion of the girls who work there first.

sian and crooked rib said...

Thank you for your comment. Mine and others' objection to hooters was never about judging the girls that work there. I never have and never will! My objection was that hooters was a business that made its money by normalising the sexual objectification of women and by treating women as only and always sex objects. This treatment of women is harmful, as the research quoted in the post shows (and much other research besides). I believe that when women are valued only for their ability to match a very narrow definition of 'hotness' than equality and choice are an illusion. What does choice look like in a capitalist, patriarchal society? What happens to the choices of the women who are harassed by hooters customers, or who are made to feel bad about their bodies because they don't match the requisite level of hotness? Why are we telling girls and young women that their self esteem and/or happiness lies in their ability to reach this level of 'hotness' as opposed to their other attributes. To me, that's not choice, that's not empowering, that's not liberation. Hooters make profit by objectifying women who I don't think see much of that money!

I'm sorry staff have lost their jobs because ppl didn't go there. I've been made redundant twice so know how crappy it is. But I'm not sorry to see the back of hooters, and I do hope it shows that industries that profits from sexism are on their way out.

Unknown said...

Hi - I just wanted to say that it was very clear that you weren't passing any judgement on the staff of Hooters, and nor even the customers.

I always thought that Hooters - although not intentionally evil - was backwards and anachronistic and normalising a pretty tawdry and cheap view of women.

sian and crooked rib said...

Thank you :-)

hootersgirl said...

As a Hooters Girl ...and Proud I may add, I think all these feminists views are ridiculous, I was not forced my a male to get that job I did so out of my own choice, i chose to work in a friendly fun-filled atmosphere where all the staff loved their job (male and female). We had great custom, yes from a lot of males holding stag partys etc but also from a high number of females EQUALLY holding hen parties, birthday parties etc. If anyone actually knew the background of hooters in America it is a very much family based restaurant and that is what it is known as over there. Just like it was here, i served many lovely families where us girls would have a laugh with them and play with the children. Those families were not forced into us, they chose to come in as did all our other customers. If people werent so closed minded and actually came out of their bubbles to get to know us girls you would realise for a lot of us it was a place of work where we could enjoy ourselves away from other jobs, achieving uni degrees etc. surely holding down 2 jobs ( in choice) is a great success of equality. It was an amazing place to work and all us hooters girls were fullfilling our equal rights to work!

NW Yank said...

minAmerican here who has lived and worked throughout multiple regions in the United States and I just thought I would clarify hootersgirl's comment. Hooters is absolutely NOT regarded as a "family" and/or "kid friendly" restaurant in the United States by the general public but rather a bar/sports type restaurant for adults.

hootersgirl said...

I served an American citizen who was bought up going to the original hooters in clear water as a child, he would go every thursday with his mum and dad along with other families following a sports match. If it was not a family friendly restaurant why would they be welcomed and continue to wish to go there EVERY week for several years?! I also spent the summer in america and visited many hooters and to no surprise their custom included many families and couples. Despite all of that we had many families who loved coming to us for a fun family meal.

sian and crooked rib said...

Since this morning I've had physical threats and threats of sexual violence made against me. I have also had people encouraging others to harass and threaten me. I have had to go to the police to report the online abuse. i am obviously very shaken and upset.

All for pointing out that I find Hooters to be sexist.

Nicola said...

Sending big love your way, Sian. Your post was factual and unemotional. I am really sorry that something so straightforward has resulted in abuse towards you (of course I would be sorry to hear of you being abused for any reason whatsoever...!). Stay safe and keep your chin up...

PS - Comments about individual "choice" fail to reflect how those choices have broader societal impact on the way that women are viewed and treated more generally... In any case, the "feminists" didn't shut down Hooters. Lack of customers did.

jilly11 said...

I am the mother of teenage boys and have tried to bring them up to respect women as equals. A group of 13 year old boys were taken there to 'celebrate' their football clubs end of season. Their comments cannot be repeated here but reinforced every negative viewpoint about places like Hooters and their effects on societies view of women.
Thank you Sian for having the strength of character to stand up for what you and others like you believe in. Those people who are abusing you and threatening you just go to prove how right you are. Good luck

badger said...

I have read your blog a few times now and find it very interesting (espescially the rape culture article by the way)and i am really sorry to hear that you are being threatened and abused. I hope it eases off and you can keep up the good work. Thank you for writing this and every article, it is important.

MediumRob said...

It always amazes me that people try to

1) Defend Hooters because it gives people jobs
2) Complain when it (and similar bars) shut down because of 'damn feminists' (or similar)

Here's the thing: Hooters is a retail business. It needs to provide something that people want in order to survive.

People didn't come into this business enough for it to stay open. Now either they refused because they agreed with feminists, or Hooters as a brand wasn't providing something people wanted in Bristol - or at least, not enough for it to stay open.

If a business isn't viable, it can either stay the same or it can change. And Hooters stayed the same and so it died. No one forced it to maintain the same uniforms, the same theme or anything else. It chose to. Had it adapted, it might have survived, just like other bars and restaurants in Bristol, and it still would have been able to provide jobs - just not such degrading ones. Which surely would have been a win-win situation for everyone.

Perhaps another restaurant will now come along that can provide jobs to the former Hooters employees but with a model that might actually work. And not objectify women at the same time.

pamish said...

They let girls work there? I would have thought that there should be a minimum age limit eg 18.

MariaS said...

Hooters Bristol closed because it didn't make enough money. It's most likely just a casualty of economic hard times, but the sexist nature of its business will certainly have deterred some potential customers.

What Hooters sells is really its "girls" - customers get served by young women who they are positively encouraged to objectify. Many potential customers will choose to go elsewhere either because they actively reject sexism, simply feel unease at what's expected of the workers, don't want to bring children into a venue that promotes sexist and sexualised attitudes to women, are wary of going into a space where they expect there will be lots of men who are drinking and acting in harrassing and entitled ways, or feel alienated by the overt deliberate appeal to straight men above all others.

Sian never said that anyone forced any woman into working at Hooters nor that women working at Hooters didn't like their job - that's a misrepresentation of her argument. Feminism is about working for the liberation of all women from inequality and oppression, and one achievement of this ongoing struggle is, yes, that women are freer to choose what kind of work they do and have somewhat better rights to fair, equal pay and working conditions. Real equality still hasn't been achieved and women still have to fight to participate on an equal and respected basis with men at work. That an individual woman chooses one kind of job over another, isn't in itself something feminist or not feminist - from a feminist perspective what's important that she isn't restricted to particular kinds of work and that she is not disadvantaged, excluded or marginalised at work for being a woman.

Individual women, all of us, make choices within a system of gender inequality that is stacked against us. Judging individual's choices isn't a useful thing to do (which is why Sian hasn't done that). Feminism instead looks to change the system.

Feminists criticise businesses like Hooters because it actively reinforces the idea that women should be valued above all else for their looks, their bodies, and how sexually appealing they are to men, and trades on the sexual objectification of women who are performing service work. These kind of attitudes to women are unfair and harmful.(Hooters isn't alone in this of course.)

Hooters doesn't promote "beauty and self love" in its workers - it clearly recruits based on very narrow range of looks, age and body shape, and minutely polices female workers' appearance.

Service work has always been predominantly performed by women, and often, as in other jobs, workers have been subjected to sexual harassment. Such workers are not in powerful positions, usually relatively low-paid, and there are strong pressures on them to put up with abusive behaviour. Women have fought hard to challenge sexual harassment both in the workplace and elsewhere.

To work at Hooters women apparently have to accept that: "the Hooters concept is based on sex appeal and the work environment is one in which joking and innuendo based on female sex appeal is commonplace." - that is, behaviour from customers that would constitute harassment in any other workplace. That some women who work for Hooters don't mind this isn't the point - no one should have to put up with it as part of their job, yet that IS a fundamental part of the job of Hooters server.

In short, Hooters is really blatantly selling itself as a space that gives men the opportunity and license to sexually objectify women workers.

Han said...

Sian I'm sorry that you've ended up in the situation that you feel threatened.

I'd stand with you thought because I do agree with you about Hooters being sexist.

@Hootersgirl - you keep talking about the original Hooters but it's more about what the establishment has become now in a modern context. The original Hooters might have been a family establishment but it's not now - then again I am going on what I've seen referenced on TV and things like that rather than personal experience.

anilsays said...

You did well to highlight the closure of Hooters. The concept is as dated as 'my wife did that' and mother-in-law humour.

It seems odd that in 2012, we are still going over old ground. It's also surprising - and annoying - to find those confusing an attempt to treat women as people as that of eroding their rights. Coming from women, this viewpoint is even harder to comprehend.

Hope you are not discouraged by this. Unfortunately, looks like there's still a fair way to go in achieving non-object status for women; probably further in Bristol.

DiodeLadder said...


I understand what you're saying and too many people are focusing on protecting the good name of the ladies who worked at Hooters; this is not your point.

I hope the nastiness you're experiencing, passes.