Here’s what happened.
Derisive laughter would be a typical reaction to the suggestion that men should be able to work as servers at Hooters restaurants. But when several men in the USA filed suit to do exactly that, Hooters of America, Inc., the Atlanta-based company that owned the chain, wasn’t laughing.
The matter even drew the attention of the U.S. Department of Justice. DOJ eventually discontinued its investigations. HOA settled with the plaintiffs on September 30, 1997.
Here’s why it mattered then.
Women have worked as beverage handlers and servers at European drinking establishments since before the colonial era. The image of an attractive maiden carrying a tray of drinks and proudly displaying her décolletage reached iconic status in the Bavarian beer gardens of the 19th century.
In 1983, six entrepreneurs from Clearwater, Florida combined those classic themes with a distinctly USA phenomenon: the sports bar. Robert H. Brooks led a group of Atlanta investors who purchased worldwide franchising rights from the Hooters founders in 1984. The cartoon image of an owl and its connection to a vulgar USA double-entendre has always been the dominant logo.
Here’s why it matters now.
After the snickering and jokes of questionable taste subside, two complex questions remain. The first question is, can U.S. women expect protection against discrimination and at the same time defend business practices that deliberately exclude men? While the operators of female-only fitness clubs vigorously agree, promoters of “Ladies Night” events might be more tentative.
The second is, should sexuality be a leading qualification for employment? Any session of television or Internet viewing can provide insights. But HOA asserts, “The element of female sex appeal is prevalent in the restaurants, and the company believes the Hooters Girl is as socially acceptable as a Dallas Cowboy cheerleader, Sports Illustrated swimsuit model, or a Radio City Rockette.” Indeed, some women have filed suits against Hooters for employment or workplace discrimination, claiming they were told they didn’t meet the company’s stringent er, physical requirements.
Here’s the latest update . . .
Women (and only women) work as servers at Hooters establishments throughout the world, wearing the company’s widely recognized uniform: a low-cut top with orange or black shorts. By the time Robert Brooks died in 2006, the Hooters brand identified an airline, casino, calendars, souvenirs, and sporting events. In 2010, Chanticleer Holdings LLC bought the company from the Brooks family heirs.
The beer garden server lives on as an international product trademark, glamour icon, and suggestive advertising slogan.
. . . And here’s an interesting fact!
Labor shortages during World War II facilitated the emergence of “Rosie the Riveter.” By the time one of the war’s biggest heroes served as president, women were again concentrated in domestic, hospitality, and low-level office occupations. One historic exception involved an advertising campaign that cast the pitch character into a role that was stereotypically male. Atlanta native Jane Withers, who began her career as a local radio star, was Josephine the Plumber in print and television commercials.