Hooters in Riverside

Hooters restaurant located in Riverside, California. (Jessica Benda / Daily Titan)

In recent weeks, the restaurant Hooters has been serving burgers, fries and controversy.

Frustrated employees spoke out on social media platforms after a mandated uniform change replaced the current shorts with incredibly revealing ones that resembled underwear. 

“Starting Oct. 4, all Hooters girls should wear the new shorts when working once they arrive to stores,” read the Hooters policy notice obtained by The New York Post. “The old shorts should not be worn.” The notice also stated that women who did not wish to wear the shorts could switch to a “non-image position” or resign. 

Hooters Girls, as the restaurant labels them, should not be obligated to wear a scanty uniform that they didn’t sign up to wear when they were hired. Although establishments are free to change their dress codes, a mandate to wear skimpier clothes is unfair to employees who feel apprehensive. This dress code change wasn’t simply altering the logo or shirt color — this was pressuring women to expose more skin or get out.

After employee backlash and subsequent public outcry, the company backtracked and released a statement that insisted the shorts were optional. Despite this, the initial choice outed the company’s eagerness to further sexualize its workers in order to boost profits. One thing is certain — if the cost of more revenue is paid for by workers’ discomfort, the company is ethically lacking.

What’s more concerning than the former mandate is the reaction to it. While many customers were supportive of employees, others criticized the workers’ discomfort, remarking that they shouldn’t be upset considering where they’re employed.

Regardless of opinions on Hooters or its employees, this attitude is dangerous. A woman’s occupation does not mean she waives her right to set boundaries. The assumption that employees should be comfortable wearing anything — or nothing — solely because they work at a raunchy establishment carries the implication that they forfeit autonomy.

Weaponizing women’s jobs or clothing to discredit them is nothing new. Just as customers, managers and the Hooters establishment itself brush off Hooters Girls’ concerns, people are also less likely to believe sexual assault victims if they are wearing skimpier clothes. According to the Odyssey, current research and criminal data shows no correlation between clothing and sexual assault,  yet it is a primary argument used to invalidate women’s experiences.

Overall, using clothing or employment to judge whether women’s concerns deserve to be taken seriously reeks of elitism. Strategically picking and choosing who to respect is indicative of internal biases. Just like all women should be taken seriously regardless of their clothing or appearance, Hooters Girls must be supported when faced with unjustifiable mandates like this — regardless of where they work. 

While it’s true that employees have the right to leave Hooters, quitting a job without first finding another one can be risky. Job-hunting in itself is often time consuming and can leave people financially unstable, especially for those who live paycheck to paycheck. If Hooters is the type of establishment that cares about its employees, as it claims to be, it won’t kick its employees out for refusing to show more skin.

Hooters has been a hotspot for criticism in the past, most of which comes from outcry that the establishment is anti-feminist in its sexualization of its female servers, including the establishment’s name itself. Regardless of what Hooters is or isn’t, one thing is clear — personal stance on the matter does not dictate whether employees are worthy of autonomy. Even if Hooters is not an anti-feminist establishment, refusing to support its employees in tense matters like these would be against the women that feminism is supposed to protect.

Nothing — an occupation, clothes or how someone carries themselves — is criteria for a person to be forced into skimpier outfits. An occupation is not an invitation. A job is not consent. And working anywhere, including at Hooters, doesn’t mean women can be coerced into sketchy clothing — or out of it.

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