Feminists in Cardiff, Wales are protesting a plan to build a Hooters in their town because the restaurant will "contribute to sexual harassment of women." Are they out of line?
Broadsheet's Tracy Clark-Flory quotes a statement by Cardiff Feminist Network head Sally Hughes:
We want to say 'no' to Hooters and sexism in our city. We believe that Hooters would objectify woman and we're concerned that a Hooters in this area of Cardiff will contribute to sexual harassment of women in the city. ... There are big groups which come to the city for stag parties and other events, and we want to make sure the rights of women in the city and women working at Hooters are protected.
Of course, "stag parties and other events" also often take place at strip clubs, of which Cardiff appears to have several. But Laura Murphy of The F-Word says, "While this may not be the biggest issue facing UK women, and while Hooters is not a strip club, the fact that the chain is not yet established here means we stand a better chance of preventing it opening than we do of tackling existing chains like Spearmint Rhino." This may be true, pragmatically speaking (although the "Say HELL YEAH to Hooters in Cardiff" Facebook seems to be quite popular), but is protesting Hooters a good use of feminist energy?
As Clark-Flory points out, there's no obvious evidence that sexual harassment occurs more often in Hooters than at other businesses — or that parties of men on their way to Hooters will harass other townsfolk. And the question of whether businesses that rely on female sex appeal are inherently anti-feminist is an enormous can of worms. Many strippers and sex workers would say they aren't — and in truth, some objections to Hooters may be kind of unfair. Clark-Flory writes, "I've always been of the mind that strip clubs — which sell sex appeal straight-up — are preferable to Hooter's brand of cowardly, snickering objectification of women," and I too find something icky about the restaurant's combo of hot wings, hot pants, and stupid owl logo. It's a bro-y version of human sexuality, and a kind of outdated one at that. I'm perfectly willing to say I don't like it, and that it represents an idea of female sexiness I find, frankly, boring, but I'm not ready to say it shouldn't exist.
As much as I might not want to visit Hooters, it's not morally any different than, say, Dita von Teese in a martini glass, and if we start trying to ban one form of titillation, we'd better be ready to ban them all. Which is not something I'm prepared to do.