Thursday, December 20, 2007

In which michael5000 dishes some hate on "Hooters."

I was delighted to notice last week that the "Hooters" on my route to work has gone out of business. Business failure doesn't usually give me that warm, happy rush of schadenfreude, but for Hooters I'm glad to make an exception.

Now, don't get me wrong. I'm no puritan. I've got no problem with people strutting their sexuality. Regarding the Hooters namesake, I've got no problem with large breasts, or the appreciation of large breasts. Like, whatever.

What I do have a problem with is disingenuity, and the whole Hooters concept is nothing if not disingenuous. The basic business model -- hiring friendly young women on the intensity of their smiles and the volume of their boobs, and having them serve food in, basically, underwear -- has always attracted notice from people with the crazy notion that this sort of thing might somehow reduce women to a crude sexualized cartoon. The Hooters response has remained quite consistent over the years: their critics are killjoy fuddy-duddies who just don't get the joke. Too serious! Lighten up!

It's amazing how effective this line of defense has been, considering the obvious flaw in its reasoning: there's no joke to not get. I mean, sure, the IDEA of a restaurant staffed exclusively by big-boobed young women might have been kinda funny; there was a Seinfeld episode that explored the concept if memory serves. But when you take that idea and start writing a business plan, the laughter dies down a few sentences into the first paragraph. A restaurant chain is a money-making enterprise. To claim that the hundreds of thousands of hours of work put in by executives, financial professionals, attorneys, graphic designers, managerial staff, kitchen staff, and of course the attractive young female shock troops -- to claim that all of that maintains the spirit of a "joke" is absurd on the face of it. Defending the enterprise as some sort of elaborate performance art installation, a revolutionary comment on the place of boobs in modern society, is just asinine. It's radically disingenuous.

Moreover, it's OBVIOUSLY disingenuous. Whether or not you buy the idea that the Hooters business plan is demeaning to women, for its owners to respond by saying "you just don't get the joke" is not addressing the critique. It is merely insulting the critics. It is a gloating sneer of a reply from people in power who feel no responsibility to respond to or even really acknowledge the concerns of the community in which they operate.

And really, that's no way to behave. Their parents should have taught them better. To laugh in the face of those who criticize you corrodes the basic civility that holds a culture together. So it's this that has always pissed me off about Hooters, much more than the two-bit T & A reality of the place, which is just kind of adolescent and tacky.

So farewell, Montavilla neighborhood Hooters! It makes me happy that you couldn't turn a profit here. Wouldn't it be grand to see a more socially valuable enterprise taking your place between Stark and Washington? But who am I kidding. Doubtless we'll get another payday loansharkery, or maybe a strip club. Still, even that would be an improvement in my book. I’m not crazy about strip clubs, but they are usually pretty honest about what they are.


Jennifer said...

I had a student who worked for Hooters Airlines (and maybe still does). She's an intelligent and sensitive young woman.

Point A) When she wore her Hooters Air coverups to class one day because she had to go to a meeting afterward, several of the other young women in class swarmed her at break demanding to know all about it and how they could join.

Point B) One day she told me that a woman had seriously yelled at her (to the point where my student cried) for not being a feminist and having no respect for herself or other women by taking this demeaning job. The woman, by the way, was boarding the plane at the time as a customer.

McGuff said...

Your point is well made, and as it turns out, supported. Ironic - I just read this earlier this week on Wiki:

Free speech

Because of strong free speech protections of the Oregon Constitution,[14] Portland reportedly has more strip clubs per capita than both Las Vegas and San Francisco.[15]

Dan Nolan said...

My problem with Hooters has always been with those freaky legging hose that they wear. They don't look real. That and the contrived way in which everyone (customers and employees) acts in those places weirds me out. I'd much rather go to the strip club and get chicken wings somewhere else afterwards or vice versa.

Anonymous said...

The Hooters here in Confluence just went out of business too. I thought it was because our rust belt town couldn't even muster up support for big boobs. But maybe we're more like Portland than I thought - too cool for Hooters! One of my students - a high school senior - worked there briefly, but quit after being harassed by a customer and receiving very little support from management over the issue. I told her not to put it on her resume.

Michael5000 said...

@Jennifer: She won't have had that job for at least a year or so, since Hooters Air ceased operations.

Point A: The main benefit of working for an airline has always been the travel perqs; so, I would say your students' enthusiasm for an airline that really only ever went back and forth to Myrtle Beach was somewhat misdirected.

Point B: is a smashing vignette.

@Phineas: Oh yes. Free speech has a very broad application here in the Beaver State. Strip clubs have also acquired a kind of hipster chic in some quarters, a trend I dislike but am powerless to reverse.

@Dan: Yeah, people act contrived because they are thrown into this weird situation. Usually, if you are/were with an attractive young woman in her underwear and she is/was being all smiley and attentive, you can/could make a set of basically optimistic assumptions. To overrule those assumptions and instead politely order the chicken strips is cognitively confusing.

Michael5000 said...

@Sandy: Woo-hoo! Double the schadenfruede!!

Note: To judge by Jennifer's student and Sandy's student, Hooters employees can't catch a break coming or going.

Rebel said...

When I worked in the accounting dept. of a fairly conservative company we once had a reimbursement for a 'business' lunch that took place at Hooters. When I mentioned to a coworker that it didn't seem like an appropriate to be conducting business, she replied "Oh no, it's like a family restaurant." I was left with serious questions about the nature of her family!

I have mixed, although generally negative, feelings about strip clubs in general, but you're right Hooters is essentially a PG-13 strip club, and really - what's the point?

Anonymous said...

There is nothing funny about bad wings and orange polyester shorts. . . grim.

Michael5000 said...

@Rebel: "Hooters is essentially a PG-13 strip club, and really - what's the point?" -- I wish ~I~ had written that.

@chris: Yeah, I wasn't even going to bring up the color scheme.

Bridget said...

So I drive by that spot almost every day, and hadn't even realized that the Hooters was going out of business. Of course, I barely noticed when the Damon's went out of business and the Hooters went in. Not a big chain restaurant fan. On a purely practical level, I wonder if offering free wi-fi would have made a difference?

Anonymous said...

For a while here they were trying to market the place as a family spot. There were coupons and photos of waitresses with young boys at a supposed birthday party in the place.

Yes. Disingenuous is a great word for it.