- Hooters is both famous and infamous for its scantily clad waitresses.
- As a young woman and feminist, I’ve always thought Hooters had a pretty sexist concept, so I never set foot in one.
- I went to a location in New York to eat my first Hooters meal, and my experience was full of surprises.
- The biggest one? I’d go back.
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I’m a feminist.
I’ve gotten in a lot of arguments over it, mostly online but also sometimes with my more conservative family members. I’ve also been called a “feminazi” by totally original and bravely anonymous men on Reddit, which I consider a badge of honour.
So it tracks that I’d never set foot in a Hooters until work called for it. Hooters is possibly the most notorious of the “breastaurants,” the food establishments that draw in a mostly male crowd thanks to their scantily clad waitresses.
Sure, I’m attracted to women as well as men and people in between. But I like my women like I like my coffee: not from chain restaurants.
Still, as Business Insider’s in-house try-everything-person, it was my duty to journey into what I see as the land of commercialized misogyny.
However, my odyssey didn’t quite go as expected. Read on to see why.
In the late afternoon, I went to the Hooters restaurant in midtown Manhattan in New York City.
The interior was dimly lit and covered in wood panels and flat-screen TVs. The back of T-shirts said: “Delightfully tacky, yet unrefined.” Whoever came up with that slogan probably didn’t realise that the “yet” is unnecessary.
I was surprised to see a store selling merchandise at the front. Who wants a T-shirt that basically screams “I objectify women”?
There was also a high-tech jukebox that needed more love.
The walls were covered in bikini babes …
… but all of the wall TVs featured only men, either playing sports or talking about them. Most of the patrons appeared to be men dining alone or with their bros. I was surprised, however, to see several mixed-gender groups and even a family or two.
As I was taking photos, a male patron who was leaving the restaurant looked me up and down and approached me. “Hey,” he said. “I like your shoes.” I thanked him curtly and hurried to my table.
Once at my table, I looked through the menu. I was sceptical of both the chardonnay and the raw oysters advertised as Monday specials. Good thing it wasn’t Monday. My server, Diana, recommended the Daytona Beach Style wings, which are unbreaded wings fried, tossed in sauce, then grilled.
I waited about 40 minutes for my wings to arrive, which was the lowlight of my visit. I watched as waitresses in orange booty shorts and white tees or tanks zoomed by me with trays of wings balanced on their palms. Always the bridesmaid, never the person eating the wings.
When my wings finally did arrive, they were served by a guy wearing a black logo tee. He wasn’t even wearing orange booty shorts! I was so disappointed. I may have been the only solo female diner, but I, too, deserved my wings with a side of booty. Was it because I’m a woman? Maybe I should have just worn a T-shirt declaring “Also here for the butts” in bold print.
I turned my attention to the wings on my table.
Diana had told me these wings were her favourite because they were extra crispy and spicy.
I was stunned by how tasty these actually were.
The outer glaze was sweet and just a tiny bit spicy.
They were on the smaller side, but they packed a big flavour punch. The skin was crispy and saucy while the meat inside was juicy.
I started to question everything I believed in. If I liked Hooters’ wings, could I still call myself a feminist?
I wrenched my mind away from questions of morality and integrity and refocused it on my next morsel: a drumstick.
Since I’d eaten the first wing without sauce, I decided to give this one a generous dip into my ranch cup.
It was also good with ranch, but not better. I decided to eat the rest plain.
I lost myself in my 10-piece platter, which actually contained 13 wings. They were so good that I’d forget I was in a Hooters until an orange butt would walk by and I’d make awkward eye contact with its owner, who I assumed was wondering why I was there.
After all, it seemed to me that what Hooters offers its diners (in addition to food) weren’t things that I lack: female attention and boobs.
As they walked the floor, the waitresses’ expressions were steely. I recognised the same “don’t talk to me” face that I wear when I face harassment on the street. I found myself developing a profound respect for these women as I imagined what they might endure from their patrons on a regular basis.
I pondered their struggles as I polished off wing after wing …
… after wing.
I found my mind wandering to other unexpected questions, like “What do Hooters’ other wings taste like?” “Should I have tried the hot wings instead?” “What about the original?” “Will my feminist friends judge me if I become a regular at Hooters?”
How many people who “read Playboy for the articles” also “go to Hooters for their wings”? And am I in danger of becoming one of them?
I definitely was. I’m definitely coming back to Hooters for the wings.
When I was done, Diana brought over my check and a box for the leftovers. I asked her to pose for a picture. She agreed. “I’m a journalist,” I told her, but she didn’t seem to care. I’m sure she’s heard that line before.
From my understanding, each check comes with a personalised flirty note from the server. Diana had circled her name with a heart, which was good because I hadn’t remembered her name from when she introduced herself. Still, I wondered if she was really happy to have me, or if that’s just what she says to all the guests. I chose to believe the first.
And, even if I don’t need the ego boost that Hooters may offer for some customers, Diana provided me with one last compliment on my way out: “I like your shoes.” I thanked her and scurried out, bag of leftovers in hand.
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