'What do you think about Hooters?' I asked my daughter, who's 16.
Hooters, in case you've missed the furore over the past few months, is the US restaurant chain that's trying to get established in Britain. It's basically fast food, beer and sport, but the unique selling point is the waitresses. They're dressed up like cheerleaders in tiny shorts, tan tights, white trainers and tight T-shirts. It's a US fantasy, I think - fried chicken wings served with big busts.
'It's just a bit of fun, isn't it?' my daughter says.
Knowing owl mascot aside, Hooters is slang for breasts, so it's as if Nando's had chosen to call itself Knockers, or TGIFriday's had named itself Tits. There's a café in Paignton, Devon, called Big Baps. Ha ha.
Maybe that's the point. Maybe I'm missing the joke.
'You take it more seriously,' says my husband, when I tell him what my daughter has said. 'You had to fight harder. She's grown up in a world where she takes equality for granted.'
And what's wrong with a family restaurant chain cashing in on pretty girls? Fifty per cent of the adult population likes staring at breasts. The Sun knows that. Strip clubs know that. Lap-dancing clubs know that. Women, because of general male excitement about various parts of their anatomy, are in the rather peculiar position of wandering around like unexploded sex bombs even if they've just nipped out to the corner shop to buy a pint of milk. Hooters, you could argue, is just acknowledging the obvious.
Those who protest - and there have been noisy objections from groups in Bristol and Cardiff where Hooters plans to open new restaurants - are accused of being killjoys. That's what generally happens if you're a woman making a fuss about casual sexism. You're either a) humourless or b) jealous. It hasn't really changed that much since the days of Miss World in the 1970s. Look at all those ugly old dykes objecting to a beauty contest! What's wrong with a lovely young girl showing off her body?
If you're the Page 3 model, or the pole-dancer, or the waitress in Hooters, you may feel empowered by showing off your body. You may feel you get leered at so often for free, you might as well get paid for it.
But it still makes me uncomfortable. The kind of equality we've achieved these days hasn't got rid of sexual violence. So I wonder whether playing with the male gaze - look but don't touch - is really that empowering. It's like trying to stare down a ravenous tiger by covering yourself with pepper and salt.
Maybe I'm missing the point. Maybe equality has come so far that Hooters in the UK is just good clean fun - a kind of ironic reference to prejudice that disappeared long ago.
Like having a restaurant with gay waiters dressed up in corsets called Poofters.
OK. Guilty. Completely lost my sense of humour.
By: Marianne Kavanagh
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