It's official. The papers report Hooters will be opening up restaurants in the Czech Republic. The brief paragraph in E15, a business daily today described Hooters as a restaurant with a "relaxed beach kind of atmosphere." How about telling it like it is to those who don't yet know: scantily dressed Barbies bouncing their big boobies and "bootielicious" butts in boozers' faces. One of Hooters' jingles is "add a little spice to your life." How about "add a little sauce to your entree of breasts?"
If I told you that Hooters' mission is:
to provide a family of hospitality and services that achieves excellence and enhances lifestyles of all who come in contact with the Hooters brand
Would you believe me? It's true. But here is the juicier part of their mission statement:
We are committed to providing an environment of employee growth and development so that we can provide every guest a unique, entertaining dining experience in a fun and casual atmosphere delivered by attractive, vivacious Hooters Girls while making positive contributions to the communities in which we live.
Employee growth, I can imagine! Not to mention patron growth, if you know what I mean. Wow wow weewah! My mouth waters at reading the bit about positive contributions to the communities by the attractive, vivacious Hooters Girls just being who they are. Fabulous! Truly.
Where I lived in the U.S. prior to moving back to the Czech Republic, Hooters billboards were vandalized to point out the sexism and objectification of women inherent in the advertising and profit-making of Hooters.
Hooters, by the way, is a privately held company which sells franchises and doesn't disclose information about its earnings. Its profits last year were supposedly just short of one billion dollars. The company with the exclusive franchise rights to run Hooters restaurants in the Czech Republic is Na Zdravi Ventures, "the brainchild of six U.S. and two Czech partners" -- predictably all men -- with background in finance, investment, construction and manufacturing. And now a new venture in pimping, thinly disguised as gastronomy. "Na zdraví!" or "To health!" as the Czechs would say, clinking their glasses of bubbly together to seal a new deal.
When Hooters was about to open a restaurant in the U.K. last spring, feminists protested, arguing that the brand "normalises the sexual exploitation and harassment of young women," as the Guardian reported last year. An additional argument put forth by the protesters was that the restaurant would encourage the spread of the sex industry in the surrounding area, which had already happened in Nottingham, the first, and so far the only, site in Great Britain.
The Guardian article continues:
Hooters girls in the US have to sign a contract that reads: "I hereby acknowledge and affirm that the Hooters concept is based on female sex appeal and that the work environment is one in which joking and innuendo based on female sex appeal is commonplace." It continues: "I also expressly acknowledge and affirm I do not find my job duties, uniform requirements or work environment to be intimidating, hostile or unwelcome." Quite how it is possible to affirm this before you've started your job is anyone's guess. As Carol J Adams, an American academic who has written extensively about Hooters, says, "What this document is making clear is that the women at Hooters should expect to be sexually harassed, and put up and shut up." A Hooters spokesperson denies this, saying that the company has a "model programme" for reporting harassment. "All signing the document means is that we have taken the time to give [the waitress] the full picture of the Hooters concept," he says.
Not surprisingly, a number of sexual harassment lawsuits have been filed over the years by former Hooters girls, following a notorious case against the company in Florida in which the plaintiff alleged that she had been subjected to "an endless torrent of sexually inappropriate remarks, demands for sex and uninvited touching that created a situation in which no reasonable woman would have continued to work".
Will the Czech feminists react? And to what effect? Oh, I almost forgot. In the Czech Republic, feminism is still a bad word and being called a feminist is about as harsh as being cussed out by any other awful nasty name. That's how much work needs to be done.
I have noticed that in the past fifteen years, the Czech Republic has toned down its in-your-face sex-for-sale displays quite a bit. I remember still in the nineties, the Prague city bus drivers' dashboards plastered with stickers of naked and topless women posing like there's no tomorrow. Porn magazines were everywhere and prostitutes roamed the streets completely inconspicuously. All that has definitely tampered down. Though, sometimes just walking down the street on a warm day, Prague seems like one big Hooters with perfectly manicured, mostly naked, fake-tanned blonds, going about their everyday business while "incidentally" advertising their assets.
So, Hooters will probably be a hit with the hetero men here. One Czech paper summarized Hooters' marketing goal as targeting the male parts of society. Male parts is right. From the Hooters own website:
Sex appeal is legal and it sells. Newspapers, magazines, daytime talk shows, and local television affiliates consistently emphasize a variety of sexual topics to boost sales. Hooters marketing, emphasizing the Hooters Girl and her sex appeal, along with its commitment to quality operations continues to build and contributes to the chain's success. Hooters' business motto sums it up, "You can sell the sizzle, but you have to deliver the steak.”
Sex appeal sells even during recession, which the Czech Republic has entered for sure. And with unemployment numbers rising fast, especially among the freshly-out-of-school crowd, Czech girls will probably be lining up at the door, especially in areas outside the capital, where the unemployment rate is the lowest. What a relief. Even the Czechs will get to experience the sizzling end-result of an American "growth leader's" vision: a playful combination of boobs and meat, golden-fried, or better yet smeared with a generous serving of Barbie Q. sauce.