I’d never been to one before, so a friend of mine decided to treat me to lunch there as a kind of way to alleviate my suffering following yet another round of dental surgery (I might as well live at the dentist’s office). I was in a bit of a haze throughout the experience, but here are some of the things I noticed:
Hooters is definitely not a “menz only” space. Some guys will bring their wives, girlfriends, and friends (friends such as me, par example). The waitresses will “deal” with the situation by lavishing extra attention on the female companions – making eye contact, asking how the food is, asking where you’re from, etc.
The waitresses have put-on voices, and the put-on voices are not at all sensual, but very strident and brash, actually. There’s something domineering and mischevious about it.
Fake tans galore. There’s something weird about this, when you think about it – across the world, “Fair & Lovely” commercials tell women that all of their dreams will come true if they will just lighten their skin. Over here, we’re frying ourselves in tanning beds.
Two men in business suits will sit and watch a woman in little shorts and a skimpy tank-top talk about the Virginia Tech massacre with her mouth full of chicken wings.
Yes, the chicken wings are good.
There’s something both weirdly innocent about Hooters, and I mean innocent in the sense of Teenage Britney Spears Innocent. It’s a frat-house version of burlesque, minus all the afore-mentioned sensuality.
An obvious question would be – can straight women (no, I’m not implying that lesbians are necessarily welcome at a place like Hooters) ever have themselves a chain comparable to Hooters? Not bloody likely, or so I should think. This has nothing to do with the fact that women can’t appreciate handsome men – and everything to do with the fact that, years upon years after Queen Victoria breathed her last, women are not supposed to show their appreciation of men. They can’t demand attention by paying money for it – there’s something distasteful and unfeminine about it, or so we think. And men are certainly told that they have been emasculated and castrated when they’re placed in that kind of position. I don’t know if this has more to do with social mores or biology or the way we perceive biology (the aggression implied by the male wee-wee, etc.). Although the more we move toward a state of perfect consumerism, the more of a reality a place like Hoses (the alternative to Hooters, or so we decided over lunch) will become.
Hooters waitresses get judged. A lot. But it’s amazing how much crap they have to put up with. On the flip-side, I think these women would rightfully object to being labelled as victims – after all, they do get compensated for their work, and they do make a choice to go into it, they are not slave-girls or “comfort women” or anything of the sort. You can’t call waitressing at Hooters unequivocally “empowering,” but you can’t call say it’s a case of total “patriarchal enslavement” either. Every Hooters waitress is an individual with individual experience – I’m sure that they have a lot of fun with some of their customers, and completely hate the others. I’m sure that some of them will have regrets about working at Hooters, and others will not. I hate the faceless ideals of “the orgasmically happy Hooters gal” and the “downtrodden damsel-in-distress.” Both are patronizing. The truth is – we live in a weird world, and people will make their way through this world in a variety of ways.
But what’s it really like to be a Hooters Girl? Hm. Well, here’s their employee handbook. It doesn’t mince words. “When you are in the Hooters Girl Uniform you are literally playing a role.” It’s Off-Off-Off-Off-Off Broadway theater with audience participation. It would be easy to make fun of the Hooters handbook (no black or even yellow nailpolish , ladies, and do be prepared for jokes and “innuendo” on “female sexuality”) – except for the fact that the stringency of the rules is somewhat commonplace.
Everything about Hooters is calculatingly low-key.
I never thought low-key could be sort of tiring by the end, but you live and you learn.