By Arsalan Ismail, Xavier University
It seems like nothing gets a man’s attention more than scrumptious hot wings and scantily-clad women. Put those two together and some men may think that they walked into heaven. This heaven-on-earth can also be referred to as Hooters Restaurant. For many men, this place can be a haven for a guy to “be a guy”. Hooters is also a place where a working girl can be forgotten as a person and be transformed into an object. The performance of male gender can largely affect how the gender of women is viewed.It is very typical for a group of guys to want to gather on a Saturday night and go do something. Among the many activities men can do, two things usually stand out: eating and looking at women. Stereotypically, that is what many men usually love to do. I recently visited Hooters restaurant on a Saturday night and attempted to observe gender. Upon my visit, I concentrated strictly on men performing gender. I was astounded at how the “average” guy treats the knockout combination of wings and women. I noticed two different types of groups of men. One group was a group of six middle age men in business-type suits. The other was a group of five college students. The first group of six arrived shortly after I had been seated. At first glance, they seemed very mature, very proper, and very well-mannered gentlemen. But their facial expressions once they had entered said otherwise. Their smiles were as wide as an ocean once a very young, beautiful girl grabbed menus and took them to their seats. Ironically enough, every one of those gentlemen stared at their hostess’s backside. Once they were seated, the first action all of them made was the loosening of their ties. All six men were jolly and high spirited at their surroundings. They were very shortly greeted by petite blonde who leaned over on their table and asked for what they were ordering. Every other moment, someone’s eyes were trying to get a glance at her bosoms. It seemed evident that she was trying to do what any waitress would do, be nice and courteous so that she would receive a good tip. Once she had conversed and departed from the table, it was clear that the men were talking about how their waitress looked. The biggest indication of this was the fact that four of them had watched her as she was walking away. Their waitress’s beauty did not stop them, however, from glancing around like a child does when he goes to Toys-R-Us for the first time. I then moved my attention to another group of men who were already present when I had arrived. This group consisted of five youngsters who looked as if they were in college. These men were waiting for their food. Even though it seemed like they were discussing something outside of the restaurant, their eyes and heads could not help but look and turn at the scantily-clad girls. One of the guys went as far as stopping a waitress to try and talk to her. His facial expression showed that a flirtatious conversation was taking place. His expression then changed to disappointment when she was rushed to the back by a colleague of hers. Again, heads turned to get an extra glance at something other than her face. My attention switched back to the table of middle-aged gentlemen, whose food had just been served. Once their wings were set on the table, one of the gentlemen put his hand in and grabbed a handful of hot wings. Others grabbed a piece and proceeded to feast like a pack of hyenas on the carcass of a gazelle. Their coats were set on their laps but it was evident that their main concern was what was on the table. Along with their food, their waitress came back with two large pitchers of alcohol, which was evenly distributed among the six men. The same behavior was exhibited among the five college students. They too were eating relentlessly. Two of them seemed as if they had more sauce on their faces then did the piece of chicken they had just each consumed. While the younger of the two groups was still eating, the older group had finished up. Their faces showed signs of great satisfaction. Their waitress came to their table and presented them with their check. She giggled and acted in a very flirtatious way. Their facial expressions transformed from the satisfaction of food to the satisfaction of mind. They all presented her with credit cards. Once their tickets had come back, they paid and quickly got up to dress how they were initially before entering the restaurant. They greeted all of the women on their way with big smiles and seductive looks. They left the restaurant very gracefully. My attention headed back to the younger group, who were about to pay. Their waitress approached them almost exactly how the other waitress approached her respective table. The younger group reacted exactly the same way the other group did, and exited exactly as well. It was obvious after analyzing that these men did not look upon their waitress or any other girl at Hooters with respect. They looked upon them as objects of lust that walked around just for entertainment. The gender that was expressed by the men could easily dictate the type of reaction and attention they desired.
In an attempt to better understand the female perspective of Hooters, I interviewed a female employee. Meghan Elizabeth has been an employee for the past six months and has seen many types of personalities come through. When asking her about how she must act in a certain way, she replied: “My job requires me to fit a certain category of ‘girl’. I have to walk, talk, and act as if I’m like a Barbie doll whose sole purpose is enjoyment. You won’t believe how rarely I get looked at as an intelligent, dignified individual who is only trying to work a job that pays much better than other. If I’m anything less, I can kiss away all that income.” From her opinion, one can easily assess that her duties oblige her to act according to her customers’ behaviors. She must shelve her true self in order to become an object of lust rather an opinionated woman. Her opinion is easily reflected in the article “Night to his Day”, in which the author states: “…the social order constructs and holds individuals to strongly gendered norms and expectations. Individuals may vary on many of the components of gender and may shift genders temporarily or permanently, but they must fit into the limited number of gender statuses their society recognizes” (Lorber 5). Thus, because of the gender expressed by her men, she is bound to what “her society” expects from her. Also in Miss Elizabeth’s interview, I asked about how her “other society”, her peers, act towards the workplace and her opinion. She replied, “…and with the girls, holy shit they are like vultures, I’m going make them look bad if I’m anything less than a two bit skank like them. Unfortunately, I can’t do anything about that. I’m imprisoned to having to please those bitches in order for me not to be public enemy there.” This opinion strongly reflects the view of Susan Jane Gillman in “Gender through the Prism of Difference”, when she mentions how women must act a certain way in order to be accepted (Gilman 504). Susan Gillman’s argument can be assessed to Meghan Elizabeth’s argument in the sense that Miss Elizabeth must follow what her society (Hooters) requires of her, or else she will struggle to be accepted. In order to follow up this question, I asked Miss Meghan Elizabeth if the status of the girls, meaning their seniority on the job, had any contribution to how a young girl like herself approached the job and the mentality. She replied “The older girls definitely know the ropes. They know how to balance life on and off the job. You definitely have to establish yourself. It is however unfortunate that if you can’t seem to learn from them, you’re considered a rebel and you are frowned upon by everyone. It sucks, you know, like girl on girl crime.” This answer strongly reflects the viewpoint of Betsy Lucal. In another article in “Gender through the Prism of Difference”, she says “A person who fails to establish a gendered appearance that corresponds to the person’s gender faces challenges to her or his identity and status.” (Lucal 3). Basically, if Meghan can not live up to what her job entails, and does not establish her identity among her fellow peers, she will be looked at as a rebel and her status will be affected greatly. This interview really helped reflect the feminine viewpoint of gender.
It is evident that in a restaurant like Hooters, which is mostly for men, gender is performed by both men and women. The younger and older groups of men reacted very similarly in all aspects of their experience, and they did it as if that was their natural environment. The men performed gender by loving the two things men stereotypically love, food and women. The women’s gender was obviously dictated by the men’s gender. The waitresses act very girly and do what they needed to in order to get what they wanted, a good tip. These observations show that gender is performed everywhere, just one must open their eyes in order to notice it.
Elizabeth, Meghan. Personal Interview. 26 April 2008.
Gilman, Susan Jane. “Klaus Barbie, and other dolls I’d like to see.” Gender through the Prism of Difference 1998: 504-505.
Lorber, Judith. “Night to his day: The Social Construction of Gender.” Paradoxes of Gender 1994: 5-6.
Lucal, Betsy. “What It Means to Be a Gendered Me.” Gender through the Prism of Difference 1998: 3-4.