The UK does not want 'Hooters'. It is a retrograde step for a country dedicated to gender equality

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Dearest Hooters: We saw this and thought of you...

Perhaps the Hooters PR and Marketing people could learn something from this handy pyramid of sexist terms? For starters, calling their staff 'girls" is damn sexist.

Obviously, we knew this already. But it's handy for Hooters to have a cut-out-and-keep guide, perhaps to pin up next to the printer for next time they make their bikini calendars or soft porn DVDs.

Saturday, 23 October 2010

50 Percy the Sexist Pigs descend on Marks and Spencer, Oxford Circus!

50 Percy the Sexist Pigs descended on Marks and Spencer, Oxford Circus today to ask why they are supporting the Hooters breasturant chain.  Around 1200 flyers were handed out inside and outside the store.  The announcement about the activism went out at the Feminist in London Conference today at which 1000 feminists were present. 

The manager was requested but decided not to come and talk to Percy.  Would he/she care to comment on the blog?  We'd love to hear from them. 

Just a very small selection of the places where flyers were left for customers to see! 

Where will Percy strike next?

Friday, 22 October 2010




On Saturday, October 23, Marks & Spencer's flagship store on Oxford Street will be visited by protestors wearing pig masks and distributing leaflets publicising the retail giant's decision to sublet one of its buildings to be used for a Hooters breast-themed family restaurant.

Says Percy: "I am confused. What have Marks & Spencer done wrong? I know we have a Gold Standard ethical policy but we draw the line at sexism and see no place for this to be a concern for us.
“I am an integral part of a Marks & Spencer's Plan A Gold Standard ethical policy, but my calm domain is shattered by the actions of a bunch of crazed activists in pig masks. All because Marks & Spencer have sublet premises in Bristol to this chain of American themed eateries. The only thing wrong with Hooters seems to be that they uphold Neanderthal views and employment practices concerning the role of women in society and in the workplace.”

However, crusading Miss Piggy retorted: "Marks & Spencer should acknowledge their responsibilities, not only in their retail policies, but in the effects of their business decisions. Hooters’ attitudes to women has no place in a modern society. Hooters is a shabby and aggressive example of misogyny, with which I, even as a mere pig, will have no truck. Shame on Marks and Spencer."

Piglet, Babe and The Three Little Pigs are, of course, too young to be allowed on the premises after 9pm, but issued this joint statement: "Percy and his masters at M&S have done us pigs a great disservice.  No pig would wish to be seen dead (whether as pork or otherwise) in Hooters - no pig that is, apart from the sexist pigs who we confidently predict will attend the breastaurant."

Statement from meeting on commerical sexual exploitation

I think it’s worth starting by addressing some of the commonly aired, and worrying, misperceptions about why feminists and gender equality experts feel strongly about SEVs and about the proliferation of establishments and businesses that trade on what is in any case a narrow definition of women as sexually available for a price.

Those misperceptions are: that we are against freedom of expression; that we dislike or are offended by sex; and that we think that men are innately bad, inadequate, violent, or sexist.  Not true, not by a long way.

Bristol Fawcett exists because the society we find ourselves living in is one that is actively sexist, and we campaign for progress to change that. 

Rigid ideas about what boys are like, what girls are like, what men and women are like held sway in our past – to the extent that women were not entitled to vote until just under a hundred years ago.  But those attitudes, which restricted the possibilities for men and women alike to be who they wanted to be and to reach their potential as fully autonomous human beings – are still very much with us today. 

We are all shaped by our experiences, and we build our notions of ourselves from observing the ways that we are treated by others, the ways that people like us are treated by others, and the social sanctions that are or are not applied when we are treated as lesser human beings or less deserving of respect, dignity or indeed the same pay packet as others around us.  The flip side of the coin for men and boys is that if they see around them every day clear messages that women and girls are to be given less attention and airspace than them (except in their role as objects of sexual attention), less recognition for the work that they do, less respect (and I am thinking here of the sign up in Bristol Hooters that says “Caution – blondes thinking!” – the sign is upside down) - then of course that feeds in to a sense of entitlement to treat women and girls as somehow lesser beings than them.  It would be impossible for it not to.  That’s why the legal duties on public authorities – which of course include local councils and their licensing committees, as well as the police – were introduced to require an active promotion of equality and an active position against discrimination and harassment – to tackle the unequal status quo.

This year saw the publication of Natasha Walter’s book, “Living Dolls: the Return of Sexism”.  She captures in her book the experience of many gender equality campaigners of her and my generation, and charts the journey from the point in the 1980s when many of us felt that real change was happening for women and men, in terms of economic justice, in terms of changes in the law (eg it finally became unlawful in the 90s for husbands to rape their wives – and men became entitled to paternity leave) and so on. 

But with the strengthening of legislation that supports the equality of women and men in the home, in the workplace and in public life, we have seen at the same time a backlash in the form of a wholesale cultural push to separate boys and girls, men and women, into two classes of human being.  At the forefront of this ‘newly returned’ sexism is the social pressure to define women by what they look like and to judge women by how well they perform as objects for male sexual gratification. (Before someone jumps in to say, “what about the men? This is happening to men too” I should say that what I am talking about here is the role of sexualisation in the context of wide-ranging and completely undisputed structural inequality that puts women beneath men, and where women are valued beneath men).

The research evidence is clear on these points:

•    Pressure on women and girls to look and behave in certain ways negatively affects their self-esteem and their mental health.
•    Gender inequality is reinforced, and hopes for a level playing field are dashed, when women are valued for their supposed sex appeal at the expense of their other attributes and qualities.
•    After being exposed to images that sexually objectify women, men are significantly more accepting of sexual harassment, interpersonal violence, rape myths, and sex role stereotypes.

In rape and sexual assault cases, when women and girls have been blamed as the architects of their own misfortune for wearing certain clothes, or looking and behaving a certain way, it is NOT feminists who have made those pronouncements.  It IS feminists who have stood up for the rights of women and girls to express themselves, and their own sexuality, on their own terms. 

Women’s control over their own sexuality is undermined, not enhanced, by pervasive messages in the media and in society about what women’s sexuality ‘should be’ and when and how it ‘should be’ expressed. 

The reason Bristol Fawcett is campaigning for a ‘nil’ cap on sex entertainment venues in Bristol is because we believe that sex entertainment venues:
•    Exploit women and put women workers at risk
•    Encourage sexism and harmful sexist attitudes that extend beyond the confines of those venues.

Finally, I’d just like to quote a study from the Journal of Sex Research (2003, 40, 61-75).  Over half the men who were interviewed for this study who frequented lapdancing clubs said that one of their motivations for visiting clubs was to get away from what they saw as the rules for behaviour that constrained them, for example when interacting with female colleagues at work.  One participant said:
“You can go in there and shop for a piece of meat, quote unquote, so to speak.  I mean, you want to see a girl run around naked, have her come over, pay her to do a dance or two or three and walk away and not even ask her name.  Total distancing.”

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

"Sneering, ill-informed, factually incorrect, spitting, ranters." Yup, that's us.

Since the middle of August, the No To Hooters in Bristol campaign has been going strong and refusing to give up, despite a full flowing tide of bile ricocheting our way from the invisible but vocal folk who think that the presence of a breastaurant in which the naïve staff are willingly complicit in their own exploitation is A Good Thing for a city that prides itself on diversity.

Since August 19, a petition to try and prevent Hooters opening has seen around 1,000 people sign up (Say Yes To Hooters has 12 to date)… including one or two people who mistakenly took signing the petition as an opportunity to tell us what a bunch of sad losers we were. The petition is still open if you haven’t added your name yet but would like to.

We’ve been called a heck of a lot of deeply unpleasant names in that time. To hear a list of those names, out of context, you might assume we were paedophiles or murderers. But no, we are women and men who believe women should not be treated as sex objects. If we were campaigning for racial equality, there is no way that we would have received the same torrent of hate from the media.

Back in April 2008, Bristol was first threatened with Hooters. Thankfully it never materialised owing to a lack of public interest. At the time, the Bristol Evening Post was quick to insist the city did not want such an establishment, and ran a long article that quoted the council’s then leader, Helen Holland, as saying: "I am absolutely appalled to hear that this sort of establishment still exists in 2008. I hope that the pressure of public opinion will mean that this totally outdated concept is rejected in Bristol. It goes against the image that the city wants to portray."

But it was all change when Bristol went out of remission and Hooters reared its pustular head again and the Evening Post boasted on August 17 that a “saucy restaurant chain” was heading to town. Adding: ‘The opening of the new restaurant is likely to be seen as at odds with the campaign to make the Harbourside more family friendly.” Hmm. The comments on the web forum were so offensive they have all been removed.

Feminists didn’t need to rely on anonymous web posters to insult them, though, because the Bristol Evening Post was gladly doing that all on its own. It started, on August 20, by calling the campaign “fatuous”.

This was followed by an astonishing and vitriolic attack by a columnist, in a piece that didn’t so much state why the female writer liked Hooters, but more indulged her perceived notion that some women were telling her what to think. In the space of 500 words, Bristol’s feminists were called: “the Mary Whitehouse brigade”, “sneering”, “ill-informed”, factually incorrect, “ranters”, “militant objectors”, “offensive”, “spitting”, “rude”, “bulldozers”, “patronising”, “emotional blackmailers” and she accused feminists of “playing dirty”. Blimey! And in such a tiny piece of writing. Sadly, the string of accusations the writer was so determined to get in afforded her little time to construct an argument or make much sense. And again, the web comments were so offensive they were eventually removed.

A whole string of articles (22) were bandied around in the Evening Post before the bloody place even opened – an unprecedented amount of coverage, which presumably (and, of course, this is just my opinion) was paid for by the Hooters PR machine, who have cleverly avoided (so far) taking out any traditional ads in the paper, apparently in favour of buying some exclusively positive coverage of their bar, and which also ridiculed the opposition. That’s what I call playing dirty.

The comments on most of those 22 pieces were removed due to the obscenity hurled at campaigners by anonymous cowards (many of whom post under multiple identities, and some of whom are doubtless employed by Hooters themselves). So let’s turn to another Evening Post columnist, this time an older male writer, who on September 11 wrote a little piece referring to the “hoo-hah” the place had caused among people who suffered “puritanical zealousness”. He presumed smugly that the campaigners were unaware of Bristol’s history of “raunchy clubs” (thank you, just as we are unaware of Bristol’s history as a slave port), and then went off on a bizarre ramble about a yo-yo he’d bought in the 1970s. Quite how that was relevant no one is sure.

All of this led up to a truly offensive piece on October 19 in which the EP’s political editor referred to us as “sour-faced feminists”, in a piece which even the EP had the good sense not to publish online, presumably knowing how childish they were being. If you find a copy of the paper in a cat litter tray near you, though, you’ll see it on page six – unless it’s already wrapped around a feline turd. Some of the insults thrown up at feminists by supporters of sexual exploitation have been documented elsewhere on this blog, so I’ll refer you there for those.

I would like to know what gives anonymous strangers the right to abuse people they have never met. Why should they be allowed to wish us dead, make tired assumptions about our supposed sexual orientation (lesbian), eating habits (lentils) and dress sense (dungarees), and call us joyless because we don’t believe that sitting in a pine-clad bar being served battery-farmed greasy chicken wings by a young woman in scant clothing, with a barrage of screens blaring at us, is entertainment? In the face of such relentless abuse, we have been nothing but polite (and I say ‘we’ because there are a hell of a lot of us, women and men, on this campaign), yet still be are accused of being bullies. How?! With the amount of personal abuse and absolute hatred that we have to hear every single day, how is it that WE are the bullies?

Unlike the anonymous posters on web forums and self-satisfied reporters on a local paper, we are standing up for something that we know to be important. We have thoroughly researched the subject and campaign peacefully. We don’t resort to death threats and playground taunts, we don’t resort to sexual harassment and intimidation. Yet we are expected to accept it when anonymous cowards, hiding behind their computer screens and an alias, wish us dead. How are WE the bullies?

Still, if we don’t like it, I guess we don’t have to go there. No?

Kirsty Davie (Lib Dem)

Liberal Democrat councillor Kirsty Davie says: “As I see it, the issue is not whether women should be permitted to wear gym-shorts, ankle-socks and tight fitting T-shirts.

"Rather it should not be part of their job description that they should do so.

“The argument that women are free to choose whether they work for Hooters does not work when set in its wider context, while on average women continue to earn 30% less than men and suffer disproportionately from ‘labour flexibility’.

“That is part-time and temporary work, in addition to the burden of domestic labour – this so-called ‘free choice’ is not really free.”

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

A question to the councillors who voted this in

Dear members of the licensing sub-committee

We would really like your view - a dialogue if you will - on the following small selection of comments about Hooters (a place that you voted in!):

"I cannot wait for bitches with big tits to seve me food and beer."
Mike1233 who joined Mumsnet to post this 

"I think it's great that girls with nice enowments can serve me a beer.. And when they do, I'll be taking a long hard look at them..
I'm sure they understand the purpose of their role within such an establishment"
Robert, Bristol on the Bristol Evening Post website

"Hooters is a disgrace...
They don't get nearly naked enough. Try 'janglies' in Swindon - awesome clunge and three-for-one drinks on Tuesdays "
A "friend" of a friend on Facebook

"Look at the fun bags on them!"
Paul, Bristol on the Bristol Evening Post website

"I am hoping to get a quick one behind the bins at closing time, yay for hooters."
Dave, Bristol on the Bristol Evening Post website

"Quite simple really - if prudish, dungaree wearing lesbians don't like the idea of being served run-of-the-mill burgers by attractive, mini-skirted young ladies, then they can eat their lentils and humous elsewhere and leave the rest of us to get on with enjoying ourselves."
Paul, Bristol on the Bristol Evening Post website

"I think what the feminist faction of this city fail to see is that this is a theme pun and not aimed to be derogatory to women in any way."
Neutral, Bristol on the Bristol Evening Post website  

"We shall be holding Hyde CID's Christmas bash at this place if the birds that serve the nosh are fit. We don't want to be told what to do or where to go by a bunch of dungaree-wearing, pug-ugly feminists and limp-wristed 'Right on, Man, oooh, I'm sooo down with the wimmin, sisters' ponces."
'DCI Gene Hunt' on the Bristol Evening Post website
By the way, could you also share why you voted unanimously to not grant a late night alcohol licence to a shop in Southmead (not in a cumulative zone and there were no police objections) but you voted unanimously in favour of a "breastaurant" in a cumulative impact zone with strong police objections to the application?

We look forward to hearing from you!

Giving two hoots for Hooters

This blog post has appeared in cyberspace, adding petrol to the fire that Hooters is OK and "just harmless fun". Oh my god! How irresponsible can people be? Does nobody think before they type?

Blog post about Hooters - yawn

It's tiresome reading about how it's just these "sour-faced feminists" (I quote Ian Onions from the Bristol Evening Post) who are campaigning. There are also a lot of residents up in arms. Oh, and the police are none too happy either. But the police are such a minority organisation that no one needs listen to them. The police are just the ones who will be called in to clean up the mess after it all gets out of hand. Wasting their valuable resources and our hard-earned taxes.

Why are people so stubborn and blinkered about seeing the damage of a dump like Hooters? It's far from harmless, it's far from family-friendly, and it's certainly not pro-women.

the 22nd letter and article about hooters in the evening post

Here it is!

Since the campaign launched at the start of September, the Evening Post have published 22 articles and letters relating to Hooters.

I wonder why?

The Evening Post asked BFN and Bristol Fawcett for a statement, which we provided. When we sent them the statement we requested the following:

  • we'd be very happy for you to quote the entire statement
  • If you are going to cut the statement, please quote only from paras 1 and 3 as Para 2 must only be quoted in the context of Paras 1 and 3.

We hope that this will be acceptable to you and to the EP, please let us know if for any reason it would be a problem.'

We did not receive any reply saying that this would be a problem. However, surprise surprise, the Evening Post decided to do the exact opposite of what we requested, quoting from para 3 without the context of the rest of the information.

'Bristol Feminist Network and Bristol Fawcett Society issued a joint statement criticising the chain and the council for giving Hooters licensing approval.
It said: "The presence of a Hooters in Bristol is a negative step for the city, and it damages the reputation of the Harbourside and the city as a whole.
"It peddles a thoroughly out-of-date concept of relationships between men and women.
"A brand that promotes ogling at women as an activity alongside paying to be served food or drink actively blurs the boundaries between private relationships and the public standing of women."

What is their agenda? Why are they so determined to paint feminists in a bad light, feminists who have held the council (the EP's bete noir) to account when over and over again the EP have failed to do so. Feminists who are working to make this city a better and safer place for women and men. Mike Norton, editor of the EP tells us he loves this city. Yet he refuses to show that one of the reasons this city is so great is because of its diversity and its communities.

The EP see women as a minority group, with women's issues as minority issues. I don't know whether it is because they are still angry with us over the embarrassment we caused them over Dita Von Teese, but their insistence on 'having a go' at women and men who want to make Bristol a better place is selfish, juvenile and, to coin his own phrase, 'bad for Bristol.'

For your reference, here's the rest of the statement:


1. Bristol Fawcett and Bristol Feminist Network are disappointed that a license to operate a 'Hooters' restaurant was granted to Gallus Management by a subcommittee of Bristol City Council. The lack of transparency in the license application resulted in a wholly undemocratic process in awarding the license. Furthermore, we do not believe that the reason given by the Chair of the Licensing Committee, that Hooters offers "something different" to Bristol, was sufficient justification for granting a license in a Police and Council designated Cumulative Impact Zone. Quite aside from further concerns, we are clear that a new 'Hooters' restaurant on the Harbourside will categorically have negative impact upon the four Licensing Objectives as set out in the Licensing Act, and will quite obviously contribute to Cumulative Impact.

2. The presence of a 'Hooters' in Bristol is a negative step for the city, and it damages the reputation of the harbourside and the city as a whole. It peddles a thoroughly out-of-date concept of relationships between men and women. A brand that promotes ogling at women as an activity alongside paying to be served food or drink actively blurs the boundaries between private relationships and the public standing of women. This blurring of boundaries is bad news for women and men alike.

3. We are also very disappointed that Marks and Spencer has chosen to align itself with the Hooters brand. M&S has a clear ethical policy (known as 'Plan A') and has signed up to the Mumsnet 'Let Girls Be Girls' campaign. We do not believe that their ethical stance is compatible with their decision to do business with an exploitative restaurant chain.

Friday, 15 October 2010

The Trouble with Hooters

The trouble with Hooters

Degrades men.
Objectifies women.
Sexualises babies.*

We are living in a society that increasingly treats women as only and always sex objects. Passive, to be looked at, and consumed, by a (male) audience. The result of this increasing view of women as disposable sex objects (disposable in that once they stop being ‘sexy’ the are rendered useless and invisible) is:

·       A rise in violence in teen and adult relationships (NSPCC, Bristol University)
·       A rise in low self esteem and mental health issues in young women (APA)

Hooters is part of a spectrum that sees women as objects designed to serve and entertain a predominantly male audience. They proudly claim that the Hooters concept is based on female sex appeal, however the sexuality they are referring to is a narrow and confined definition decided by Hooters’ bosses. It has nothing to do with celebrating women and female sexuality, and everything to do with commercialisation that degrades men and objectifies women. 

Hooters encourages the view of women as sex objects, rather than as whole citizens of the world. This feeds in to a fantasy of the world before feminism. Where women are always and only sexually available. Where they laugh at the jokes that degrade them, and accept sexual harassment. Where women are subservient to men, where women wave goodbye to their rights and independence.

This refusal to see women as human, this insistence to see women as only and always objects, leads to violence, sexual confusion, mental disorder and low self-esteem. The Hooters concept is part of a culture that degrades men and damages women. This is our objection to their brand. This is our objection to a culture that degrades men and women. We are asking for it to end. We have had enough. 


Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Commercial Sexualisation and Hooters

Hi all

The Bristol anti Hooters campaign has been very busy. Unfortunately the restaurant is set to open on Monday but we aren't going to go away and we will be keeping an eye on things.

We are having an event at Bristol University to discuss the issues around Hooters and commercial sexualisation. We will be discussing Hooters, the dangers and effects of increased commercial sexualisation and the issues around licensing of sexual entertainment venues. All the speakers are experts in their fields (and me!) and it promises to be a lively and exciting discussion.

Places are limted, so please RSVP as per below.

Commercial Exploitation:
Bristol, Licensing Decisions and
Sexual Entertainment Venues (SEVs)

         Panel debate followed by questions and discussion with:

Bristol City Councillor – tbc
Bristol City Licensing Committee member - tbc
Gendered Violence Expert - Chair
Bristol Fawcett
Bristol Feminist Network

This is a free public event but numbers are limited. 
Priority will be given to specialists or those who work as officers or elected
representatives in relevant fields. 

Saturday, 9 October 2010

Council's decision sheet has now been published

Finally, after weeks after waiting, the Council has finally published its decision sheet for the Hooters licence.

A link is below.  The last 2 pages are most interesting.

In particular, the licensing sub-commmittee chair felt that:
"...the application did offer something different to that already in the area in that it was a predominantly food-led American themed restaurant with modest hours of operation and not a vertical drinking establishment."

"It was envisaged that the premises would be more likely to attract customers wanting a table meal and to watch sporting events, rather than those wanting to binge drink. The premises would provide competition to premises that catered more for high volume vertical drinking."

Really?  Are we talking about the same place?!

Hooters application decision sheet

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Liz Jones Goes To Hooters... But Doesn't Like It!

Much as I personally loathe and detest the Daily Heil, sorry, Mail, they did run a story yesterday in their condescending FeMail section whereby columnist and woman Liz Jones was dispatched to Nottingham to spend some time being outraged by what she saw in the Hooters there.

Disappointingly, it seems she chose to go in the daytime, and mid-week, rather than on a Friday or Saturday night when the nightmares really kick in. But still, great to see such a large and daming piece of writing in one of the nationals. Trouble is - the people who read the Heil, probably were unlikely to visit Hooters in the first place. But at least there is further support that it is definitely Not A Good Thing.

Quote of the week surely goes to Julian Mills, the manager in Nottingham, who says:'We use the same criteria as if you were going for the job of a Calvin Klein model. You have to look the part, but it is about personality and charisma, too.'

I see. I look forward to hearing the dulcet Bristolian tones of the Bristol beauties if/when the Bristol Hooters opens the gates to hell. While the cheerleader may have *some* tiny appeal in America, the home of the cheerleader, I just can't see it translating so well to a corner of the UK where the accent is already much mocked. Perhaps they'll be tipped if they keep their mouths shut?

Oh, and as if to further undermine its content, the Heil, Fail, Mail added an online poll down the side of Liz's feature (a feature criticising a bar for treating women as objects, and only employing young waifs - one girl even declares herself "officially old" at 25) asking what would make you happier: being thinner, or having a nice boyfriend? Because, of course, those are the only two things that could possibly make you happier.

Am off for a shower now after my run-in with the world's most offensive paper.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

We're No 16 in the Blog Charts!

Now the blog's been up and running for a few weeks, we took a look behind the scenes and studied the 'stats' option... and we're beyond thrilled that over 3,500 people have visited our blog, from all over the world (though mostly the UK and US). And it's interesting to see where people come to us from. It turns out one of the top sources of traffic here is from a website called Socialist Unity, who had the kindness to rank as an No 16 (out of 80) in their list of feminist blogs.

See also:

for the (of course) blog post that geneerated said list.