16 November 2011

Is Hooters Exploiting the Hooters Girl?

About 17,000 years ago – because that’s exactly how long the Internet has existed according to ancient pictographs – someone asked me the following question on my Formspring account:

An SAT word for sure.
Do you think Hooters exploits women? What do you think of the word exploit? It seems to be used all the time whenever a woman is showing skin.

At the time I decided not to answer it because it had all the makings of a great post topic.  Of course good intentions don’t always turn into good actions.  In some cases good intentions actually turn into you being lazy as shit and not doing anything at all.  That, my friendies, is what happened to this poor question.  So it sat there and felt all lonely as other questions were promptly replied to with all sorts of wonderful answers.  And now 17,000 years later this little question is finally get its chance to shine.  Cinderella is going to the ball, bitches.

First off, lets go ahead and look up the definition of exploit according to my totally intelligent MacBook:

verb |ikˈsploit| [ trans. ]
make full use of and derive benefit from (a resource) : 500 companies sprang up to exploit this new technology.
use (a situation or person) in an unfair or selfish way : the company was exploiting a legal loophole | accusations that he exploited a wealthy patient.
benefit unfairly from the work of (someone), typically by overworking or underpaying them : making money does not always mean exploiting others.

There you have it.  Does Hooters make use of and derive benefit from me?  Yup, they sure as shit do.  But then again pretty much every restaurant and profit-seeking business does that.  That’s called being an employee.  You work, and they make money.  Capitalism is fun!

Moving on from there however, I’m forced to consider if Hooters uses me in an unfair or selfish way; in this case I have to say no.  While some probably won’t agree, I cannot see Hooters employment of me (or thousands of other women) as a Hooters Girl as selfish or unfair.  Yes, they make money because of certain traits I may have, but they also pay me for those same traits.  In my opinion as long as I’m being paid for a job that I willingly accepted there is nothing even the least bit unfair about it.  And as the last definition further points out, I have to be overworked or underpaid for it to be true exploitation.  I work three to four days a week and make enough to support myself while getting a graduate degree.  Seems pretty fair to me.

Besides, if Hooters exploits me to make money then whom am I exploiting to make my own?  It could be argued that in all reality I – as the Hooters Girl – am exploiting the countless people who come in and sit at my tables.  After all so many people, falsely, think Hooters Girl are all simply skanky flirts who practically rape people for tips.  If that were the case the real exploitation would be directed at the customers, not the staff.

Lets be honest, does Hooters use sexuality to its advantage?  The very clear answer is most certainly yes.  But this is hardly a phenomenon limited to Hooters.  A casual stroll in your local mall will easily prove my point.  In fact if you don’t believe me, I dare you to stop in front of an Abercrombie where a half naked, poster-sized man or woman will great you in dramatic black and white before you even step inside the store.

Sex sells, it’s a simple fact that countless companies and individuals have taken advantage of for a very, very long time.  Does that mean that someone is exploited in doing so?  Certainly not.  Exploitation by its very definition involves someone doing an awful lot and getting no return.  In most cases, including Hooters, all parties are willing participants who know what they’re getting into and know what they are expected to give and receive.  You eat, you pay, I work, I make money, Hooters gives me a wage and I in turn help Hooters make a profit.  That’s just business 101. 

So what do you think?  Is Hooters exploiting me?


  1. I don't believe so. They take advantage of your natural abilities and inclinations but they pay you--not much, I know--and you are also in a way using them, too, for your own ends. Which is fine, that's how it's supposed to work. I don't see anything grossly unfair about it--I'm sure there are inequalities but that's inevitable when you work for somebody. I hope that makes sense. It's been a long day.

  2. I don't believe it's exploitation because like you said you are being paid for said job. In fact I view other waitressing jobs as exploitation before Hooters. You are able to live off working 3 days? Most servers aren't able to say the same. Some of the women (and men) I work with at Joe's have to work 5-6 days a week just to live.

    Although Hooters is nice year long. People don't seem to want sea food when it's cold.

  3. I don't believe you're being exploited. I totally back you on people knowing what they get themselves into before they perform the job.

  4. Virtually all work is a form of exploitation. The question is: what kind are you willing to put up with? When it comes to hiring people based partly on physical attributes, I would just remind people that physical attractiveness is far from the only way in which this happens: manual labor, the military and athletics are just a few other examples. There's more factors to consider than that, but I think that that fact is often forgotten by people, and it's pretty important. Physical qualities are an important part of many jobs, many of which are broadly accepted.

  5. Very well stated Sauce. thank you ;}

  6. I love your blog Sauce, and I really admire you. But there is still something about the 'Hooters Girl' that makes me uncomfortable. Partly because it is discrimatory (no 'Hooters Boys') and partly because you are hired for certain assets that go beyond waiting and entertaining tables. Hooters hires a 'type' of girl and discriminates against others.

    So I guess you're not being exploited but you are working for a misogynistic company. Openly mysoginistic too. And while Hooters girls do earn nice tips is it worth perpetuating such an outdated company?

    Massively meandering post but I'm still having trouble being 'OK' with Hooters, despite all your positive work!

  7. Crabby Girl, I said "live" I never said live well. Honestly though, Hooters does pay my bills on three to four days and allowed me to save enough money when I was working more to allow me to get through the semester without too much financial stress.

    maxi, what are your thoughts then regarding cheerleaders? How about models? There are many jobs that hire based on looks (some obvious and many not so obvious) and very few are judged in the way Hooters is. I am totally aware that Hooters makes money based on my look, but then again I'm making money based on that look too. What I love though is that as much as the way I look matters, I find my personality is what makes me more money in the end.

  8. I don't know much about cheerleading, coming for the UK. So I'm afraid I can't really talk about that. You do get men on cheerleading teams but I would imagine that the women are the ones getting the flak about looking 'hot' in their uniform. So it is sexist and discrimatory.

    Modelling is also incredibly discrimatory and do I agree to 14 year old coathangers marching up and down the catwalks at the beck and call of the vagaries of the fashion industry? Hell no!

    So the same goes for Hooters. They hire women purely based on their own prescribed version of beauty. Barring men and women not conforming to that arbitrary standard from working as a server and earning money, despite how good of a server they may be. I mean uniforms in s,xs or xxs?! What like Hooters can't cope with a woman being a medium, or gawd forbid, a large and still be attractive!?

    Like I said, I don't believe you are exploited, but you (and all Hooters girls) are working for an outdated, discrimatory business that, IMO, should be phased out.

  9. Maxi, do you have any idea how many people really, REALLY dislike the idea of a "Hooters Guy"? Talk about the 99% . . .

  10. I understand and appreciate where you're coming from, maxi. But I can state without a doubt that I was hired for my personality (which is a very crucial part of the equation). There obviously still is a looks component and I understand why you find it offensive. I don't necessarily agree with your stance, but I totally get it.

    Als, just for the record, I've always made it quite clear that while the sizes are xxs-s they actually fit many more body types than one would assume. A small would probably fit anyone up to a size 10ish (and we've had girls this size). That would equate to a medium or large by most standards.

  11. @Janus. Why? Wha's wrong with a guy in tight clothes serving food? Hooters is a family place so it souldn't matter what sex the server is.

    @Sauce. I'm sorry, I'm not here to argue with you on your own blog. I agree you're not being exploited (at least, not any more than all us minimum wage employed!) and I'm not actually offended by Hooters either. In fact when I'm in the US next summer I will ask my friend to take me there so I can see for myself.

    However, I do think you are being slightly disingenious by saying personality is what you were hired for when, IIRC you were initially unsuccessful due to your appearance. And the small size uniform may fit a larger girl, so why not size them like any other company. Can they not handle a 'large' girl working for them?!

    I'm not realy gonna push my point any more. I feel rude doing this on your blog. You are clearly a smart and funny (As well as being an excellent writer) so I'd like you just to consider what Hooters stands for and perhaps evaluate them slightly more critically! Now, I've said my pennysworth and now will continue to lurk.

  12. I understand this position... and I love that women like you take this and empower yourselves and flip the oppression of women on it's fucking head! Yay....I think it's grey area lies in that it leaves many girls believing that their sexuality can be their livelihood long-term (like when we used to be wives as a job) or that women are ALWAYS available to be for sale for men. It's the fantasy and the sexuality that has to BE PUT UP FOR SALE and BY THE WOMAN and WITH SOUND MIND before it can be bought. It's not the woman who is for sale, but her character and actions on that particular night at Hooters. When it's not a choice, but a default or out of desperation that a woman sells her sexuality that it leaves strippers, hookers, and Hooters girls, and women in general in more danger of of being "stolen" or raped or trafficked (real word?) because they've been angled into the position of an object which can be bought and sold...and therefore sometimes, by those who feel cheated because they can't afford such a commodity, to be stolen. This does indeed lie in the fault of the human trafficker or rapist or abuser...but it does blur lines a bit. Good for you for clearing up who is IN CHARGE or at least SHOULD BE in charge in this situation! You are strong for being able to see this so clearly and have no blurred lines for yourself.



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