Did you hear about the group of feminists in Wales fighting to keep Hooters out of their town? So far, 309 people have signed a Facebook petition to keep orange hot pants and wings out of the capital city Cardiff because they feel it will increase sexual harassment of women there.
But more than twice that number has signed the "Say Hell Yeah to Hooters in Cardiff" competition petition. Looks like another beer and boob emporium is on its way to the United Kingdom. Another proud moment in American export history.
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As the mom of two girls and a homeowner who lives within walking distance of Hooters, I've always been conflicted about my Miami neighborhood's breastaurant. Sure, it's blatantly sexist, full of yahoo frat-boy types and employs a 1980s concept that is as tired and worn as Hugh Hefner, but it does have the right to exist. We're livin' in the Free World, where any idea, no matter how boneheaded, has a shot, as long as it's legal. I detest the idea of other people deciding what's acceptable for me, whether it's a book in a library or where I want to go on a Friday night.
But is this place for kids?
Would you care if your son's football team was sponsored by Hooters, as a kids' team in Australia was this year, complete with two skimpily-dressed waitresses cheering on the sidelines? Would you mind if your kid's class stopped off at Hooters for lunch, as an Arizona group of 40 high school students did on a field trip last year? (Their music teacher was placed on administrative leave.) Would you object like a group of Pennsylvania parents did in 2007 if the staff at your neighborhood Hooters started wearing short plaid skirts and knee socks to celebrate "Schoolgirl Thursdays?"
Not sure? Don't worry, Hooters even has Apple confused. The company's iTunes Store first allowed a Hooters' Calendar Sexy Screen Wash app in January then banned it a month later as part of its smut sweep. A week later, the app was re-approved for sale. It's now available in the online store – if you're 17 or older.
No such age limits exist at the restaurant, which has a kids' menu, placemats with word scrambles, and kids' T-shirts with slogans like "Life Begins at Hooters" and "Future Hooters Girl." Despite such enticements, I have a problem with this place (not to mention the tacky suntan-colored pantyhose). I get that some women who work here are just trying to make a buck, especially in this crappy economy. I get that some men like to leer at women while they wipe chicken grease off their chins and engage in boring sexual innuendos. I'm just not keen on bringing my tween daughters (or their young male friends for that matter) here because I think it's important to stress on their impressionable brains that women should be hired for their minds, not their mammaries.
Before you dads get all worked up, pause a moment to ponder the scenario of your sons hanging out in a place where the wait staff is stocked with well-endowed men in tight short shorts. Yeah, let's go for the wings. When I'm sitting at a restaurant table watching young women in shiny nylons under polyester shorts leaning over so their breasts spill out on the table while they take orders, I don't get hungry. I just get sad.
The beauty of the free marketplace is that eventually stale ideas get trashed. Hooters' popularity is sagging. Family squabbles over ownership after founder Robert Brooks' death in 2006 have drained the company of cash. Side ventures, such as the short-lived Hooters Air and the Hooters Casino Hotel in Las Vegas, have been money-losers. Recently, the CBS reality show Undercover Boss exposed a Hooters franchise for mistreating and humiliating its "girls." (One highlight: a no-hands eating contest to see who would be allowed to leave work early.)
The Atlanta-based chain is now reportedly looking for a potential buyer. I know a group of women in Wales who just might be interested.