Words by Violet Soliz
Many find Hooters to represent no more than tight uniforms and to-die-for wings. Then there are those who believe it is not acceptable for a young woman to wear a low-cut tank top and tight shorts as her job uniform because it is a scandalous exposition of the female body. There are parents that would not let their daughters work at Hooters because they do not want their daughter feeling like they have to show skin to earn money. These individuals ascertain that Hooters is anti-feminist for its display of a woman’s body as a sexual object.
I disagree with all of the aforementioned because I work at Hooters and still consider myself a feminist. I am a firm believer in the feminist concepts of gender equality and gender freedom. My employment at Hooters does not suddenly strip away the beliefs that I hold dear, make me anti-feminist, or make me a sexual object.
Feminism is an ideology that has brought about monumental political and social movements that work towards the common goal of achieving gender equality in the form of equal political, social, and economic opportunity regardless of gender. Feminism makes it feasible for women to gain access to birth control, abortion, employment, equal pay in the workplace, and education – all of which are a woman’s right. The concept of feminism changing women’s roles in society and being equal to men has been displayed in our reality through largely historical events such as women being granted the right to vote in 1920 by the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution.
Those who believe Hooters is anti-feminist argue that the uniform exploits the female body as a sexual object to men. A sector of feminism drives many activists to advocate for the end of sexual objectification in mass media. These activists therefore see Hooters as the enemy, a direct obstacle to the end of sexual objectification. Yet, many fail to analyze the Hooters company more deeply. The uniform is an athletic look consisting of a tank top, shorts, pantyhose, and white sneakers. Every Hooters has a poster in the back of the restaurant that shows the “Hooters Girl look” and specifically states, “The shorts must be worn on the hips and not below. They must not be worn too tightly causing them to wrinkle and scrunch. The shorts must cover the buttocks completely and not ride up causing the buttocks to show.” A girl will be asked to change if her shorts ride up in the back too high, revealing her butt. It is not stated anywhere that a Hooters Girl has to overly reveal her butt or breasts. The infamous “nose test” is another laughable myth that states Hooters Girls applicants must stand before a wall to see if their breasts reach the wall before their nose does. There is no nose test prior to becoming a Hooters Girl, and no test of any sort for measuring any part of the female body.
Despite the strict guidelines Hooters sets forth, the skin exposed by Hooters Girls continues to bother those against the image and the brand. The individuals that shake their head in disapproval fail to realize that it is up to the Hooters Girl to decide how much skin she wishes to expose, and even the company recognizes when too much skin is too much skin because after all, Hooters is a family friendly restaurant. I serve more families who bring their toddlers and grandparents than bachelors; the restaurant isn’t crawling with predacious young guys.
It is the Hooters Girl’s decision on what she is comfortable wearing and exposing. The Hooters uniform is meant to be form-fitting, not baggy or sloppy, yet not revealingly skin tight. Hooters Girls are servers at a family friendly restaurant, responsible for normal waitress responsibilities from making drinks to cleaning dishes to sweeping floors, all while creating a fun atmosphere for guests. My fellow coworkers and I are by no means strippers. In fact, to be a Hooters Girl it is specifically stated in the application that you must never have worked as a stripper, because that is not what the Hooters brand represents. This requisite is not specifically stated in applications for many other jobs. In fact, many other family friendly restaurants do not deny strippers from working at their restaurant.
The Hooters uniform is not the problem. It is a uniform that has guidelines just like all other companies that require their employees wear a uniform. The problem is those that do not understand that the female body is a work of art that was created for biological necessity, and is not there to be eyeballed sexually. I did not want to work at Hooters to get attention from men, I wanted to work at Hooters because of the company’s value to create a fun environment while maintaining exceptional customer service. Those who believe that the restaurant promotes the sexual objectification of Hooters Girls are making a critical mistake by looking at the women as sexual objects, rather than waitresses who are more than just their looks. After all, we are human too.
Society has taught girls that if they are wearing short, tight clothes they are naturally asking for inappropriate attention from men. Society has taught boys that it is okay to catcall girls that are wearing anything remotely revealing. We as a society have produced the message that the exposure of skin is not okay. Skin is meant to protect our bodies, and there is no avoiding it.
It is for the those reasons that there are dress codes in elementary, middle, and high schools. Rules such as shoulder exposure, length of shorts and skirts, and if leggings can be worn or not are in place because of the longstanding history of the sexualization of the adolescent female body. School dress codes focus on how young girls’ body exposure may distract her male peers rather than concentrating on what is best for the girls’ own comfort. Women are not sexual objects if one does not look at them that way. Women are always going to have butts and breasts, and these should be accepted for what they are rather than trying to shame women for their own body that they were born with.
Hooters has made me financially responsible so I can pay my college expenses and loans. My employment there has made me independent so that I do not need to rely on others to support me. Hooters has also made me appreciate my body for what it is, allowing me to grow more comfortable in my skin and be proud of how I was born and made to look like. This job has also motivated me to become healthier and stay in shape, but for my benefit and not the standards of others. When I am in my Hooters uniform I am confident; I do not feel over-exposed and I do not feel like an object for men.
The girls I have had the pleasure of working with at Hooters are some of the most down-to-earth, funny, life-loving people I have met. I have not worked with a single pompous or ditzy Hooters Girl, because that is not what the brand represents. The Hooters brand is a family friendly restaurant that people go to for amazing wings served by relatable, easy to talk to girls. None of us are sexual objects.
We all know the reputation Hooters Girls have for being beautiful and perfect. The thing is, when I am wearing the tank top and shorts, I am still me. I am still the over-thinker, Gilmore Girls binge-watcher, Disney obsessed, shrimp pasta lover, cheesy joke appreciator, very ungraceful and unbalanced, wakes up looking like a mess, and still wears fuzzy Eeyore pajamas girl. These things will never change about me, and Hooters will not change that, and Hooters will not change my feminist beliefs.