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

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 I hope that the pressure of public opinion will mean that this totally outdated concept is rejected in Bristol.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?


  1. well said.
    i have complained to the PCC about the 'sour-faced' comment.

    as a seasoned blogger and web commenter i have been stunned by the bile and hatred that have been directed at us during this campaign.

    i had a quick peek at the Ep yesterday and noticed that we were accused of making defamatory statements against hooters. if only it were true! if only hooters hadn't fired a woman for being a victim of domestic violence. if only hooters hadn't fired women for being overweight, or didn't sell babygrows with 'i'm a boobs man' emblazoned on them. If only they didn't tell women that their entire value was based on their bodies, and encourage them to see their exploitation as empowerment.

    but they do all these things.

    i would think after last time, the EP would have been more wary about writing defamatory statements about me! but no, 'opinions' that i am sour faced and jealous abound on their pages.

    still, we are getting under their skin. we are making them angry. we are having an effect.

    also, the commenters have endlessly accused us of not caring about other issues - such as vawg and the sex industry. well, it is the same women and men who campaigned to get the lap dancing licensing laws changed, and prevented the opening of another lap dancing club on old market. it is the same women and men who raised money for one25 and rape crisis, and who organised reclaim the night. of course, (rtn aside) the EP don't report that.

  2. You raise the issue of cowardness here - yet, the articles on this 'blog' are posted anonymously. Coupled with that, the domain '' is registered under a whois privacy service...

    Pot, kettle, black?

    Lucy Bristol
    Midsomer Norton

  3. Lucy

    Your comment is a bit foolish to be honest. we blog as a collective, so there isn't any need to put our names. i personally don't use my name because i have received hate mail about me and my family from the charmers on the evening post/bristol city web boards. you might not know what that feels like, but i can assure you it is pretty unpleasant.

    but we weren't anonymous when we spoke to the evening post or the national media. we won't be anonymous tonight when we talk at a public debate. we weren't anonymous when we stood at the council meetings and addressed the bristol council and lord mayor.

    i don't know if you are familiar with how blogging works but most people care more about the issues they are writing about than writing their names all over the place.

    however, the people who have been sickeningly rude on the EP site do nothing but spit bile online without having the courage of their convictions to do anything about it. where have they been, other than hiding behind computer screens?

    we have stood up and spoken up and protested against the continuing use of women as disposable sex objects. we haven't sat back and moaned about other people's actions without doing anything about it. we have refused to resort to childish insults to make our points.

    the real cowards are those who hide behind their aliases, calling women bitches or fat or ugly etc etc instead of engaging in debates or doing something constructive about these issues that they apparently care so much about.

  4. Warning - long, part 1 of 2.

    Hello. Dan, South Gloucestershire from the Bristol Evening Post comments here. I hope you will print this given your comment policy above. I'm not here to insult but I am here to challenge your views and question a few things.

    First, just to clarify I didn't accuse you of defaming Hooters, I caveated that with "potentially":

    "As a friendly warning, it's normally a bad idea to buy a domain name that could be interpreted to be connected to a large company and then point it at a blog containing potentially defamatory material about said company."

    I merely suggested that you shouldn't domain-squat and then point the domain to contentious material about that company. You will almost certainly end up on the wrong end of a cease and desist letter or worse.

    OK, so on to the stuff that you probably don't want to hear. The various "No to Hooters" Facebook pages, petitions, etc. have ended up with about 2,000 members/signatures; around 1,000 for the petition and 1,000 for the three Facebook pages. The theory is that these people agree with what you are saying. Assuming that each of the members/signatures are unique and genuine, which is unlikely, and using a rough and ready gauge on responses as is standard in the surveying industry:

    10% of those who have shown an interest by signing up will go a step further and take an active interest by posting support on message boards/forwarding on emails/completing letter templates. Basically they care enough as long as it only takes 10 minutes and isn't too taxing. So that's 200 people.

    10% of those 200 will be the backbone of the campaign. These will be the organisers, press liaison, bloggers, and campaign devisers. So that's 20 people, although more likely ten or less give the same person can join all Facebook groups and sign the petition. Basically you are a very vocal minority who have done well to get balanced coverage in the broadsheets. I congratulate you on that. However in your aim of stopping Hooters from opening it means absolutely nothing. Reading various threads on Facebook, Mumsnet, and other sites, it was clear that the campaign knew what it had to do; it needed local residents and businesses to put in representations to the council objecting based on one or more of:

    1. The prevention of crime and disorder
    2. Public safety
    3. The prevention of public nuisance
    4. The protection of children from harm

    Using Hooters Bristol as an example, if the police had local support on points 1 and 3 then I reckon that there would have been a good case for refusing a licence, but no none was forthcoming. There was no opposition to Hooters Cardiff. So what happened? Is there anything that you can learn from this? What would you do differently next time given that Hooters has plans for many more branches?

    End of part 1.

  5. Part 2.

    You are a vocal minority with some incredibly strong views and principles. This doesn't excuse insults but you have to expect robust challenges. At the same time though, I find the following, taken from the comments on this very blog, pretty damn offensive:

    "Clearly the No to Hooters campaign is causing many males to become 'hysterical' because as we all know it is a male's innate right to view and treat women as dehumanised sexual service stations."

    Two wrongs don't make a right and puts you in danger of coming across as extreme and alienating people.

    Expect to be able to back up statements with facts, e.g. if you say that Hooters leads to an increase in domestic abuse then give us the stats and the case studies to support that.

    As for the Bristol Evening Post, they've been stringing you along for quite a while now. It's a shitty little rag written by talentless staff where the majority of "news" is actually press releases and police bulletins. The paper edition makes no money so they look to internet advertising. Running a sensationalist story brings in comments, leads to high page hit count, equals the ability to charge more for advertising. Before the General Election this year, they ran BNP-related stories. Have a search on the their website to see the aftermath. The staff also post on the comments as characters in order to get a reaction. DCI Gene Hunt to upset the feminists, Mike Ford for the BNP and for general insults, Pedro Mendes/Roger/George to wind up motorists, and so it goes on.

    Before I finish, I'm not pro-Hooters, I don't really care. What is important to me is the creation of jobs and filling the Harbourside retail units. Hooters does both of those. You state that "Bristol doesn't want a Hooters". I disagree. You don't speak for me and the vast majority of Bristol who don't care one way or the other. You also wrote:

    "...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?"

    So who are you to take that choice away from those who do? This is why I write.

    All the best,

  6. hi dan

    in response.
    the police objected to the licensing of hooters due to its impact on crime and disorder etc. residents of bristol waterfront attended the licensing committee meeting to object for the same reasons etc. unfortunately due to the fact that hooters applied for the licence as gallus we were not able to object officially, as the police did. the council chose to ignore the police objections.

    so, in short, when you say that no support was forthcoming, this is inaccurate. the police objected, with support from residents. the fire service and trading standards also thought of objecting, but chose not to after talking to hooters managers.

    secondly, you have surmised numbers regarding support of the campaign. as someone who has been actively involved in the campaign, i can confirm the numbers you quote of active members is incorrect.

    yes the evening post is ridiculous. this is why most members of the campaign have stopped reading or responding to comments.

    finally, you say you don't care about hooters. yet you have found this blog via articles about hooters on the ep, and have commented on ep articles (that i have read - about 5 of the 22). i do care, and i know plenty of men and women in the city that do care. we have a right, a choice to care. i care about the links between violence against women and girls, and the increased sexualisation of women. i care about the links between young women's mental health issues and the increased sexualisation of women. i care about the rise in sexual bullying in schools and how this links between sexualisation of women.

    that is why i choose to say no to hooters.

  7. ps. the women's forum of bristol city council also offered a statement expressing their concerns about hooters at the full council meeting, as did members of bfn and bristol fawcett, to a crowd that cheered.

    in terms of jobs - it is now illegal to advertise jobs in lap dancing clubs in the job centre. this is because it was decided that people shouldn't have to do a job that exploits them, just because they should have a job. you say hooters provides jobs, but at what cost? women should not be expected to take jobs that expose them to sexual exploitation, that exposes them to sexual harassment. no one should have to choose between being unemployed and being treated like an object for sexual consumption. a woman working in hooters quoted in the ep said she would feel embarrassed if a customer was looking at her breasts. yet, in order to work there, she has to put that embarrassment aside. in my job, if someone sexually harasses me i can complain. i can't be fired for putting on weight or for being a victim of domestic violence. it is wrong that a company has not abided by those laws in the past.

    remember, every time you defend hooters, you defend a company that fired a woman who was a victim of domestic violence, because her bruises were off brand.

    i'm going to repeat that.

    remember, every time you defend hooters, you defend a company that fired a woman who was a victim of domestic violence, because her bruises were off brand.

  8. From another of the blog administrators:
    Thank you for your comments, Dan. Quite why you choose to argue this subject on every single newspaper article when you say you don't care one way of the other, I don't know. The questions that you raise have been answered repeatedly in the press. I doubt there is a question that you have asked that you do not know the answer to.

    In answer to your assumptions about the amount of support there is out there, you are wrong. I know you're not really interested so I won't waste my time telling you how and why you're wrong, but you are.

    Thank you for adding to the near 6000 blog hits that this blog has received. Its reach extends as far as Australia, the US and even Japan. The site alone had around 300 hits in a matter of hours on Tuesday. Not bad for a little blog with only 5 followers, wouldn't you say?

    That was a rhetorical question, by the way. I don't think we'll be posting any more of your comments but thank you for your contributions so far on here and on every single newspaper article about Hooters that's appeared in the Evening Post in the last few weeks.

  9. I'm sadly not shocked at the vitriol directed towards those campaigning against Hooters. The Post and it's handful of commentators have an ideology that harks back to the 1950s when women knew their place. So any suggestion of women using their democratic rights to protest, needs to be stamped on.

    All the other flim-flam directed at the campaign is also just noise that ultimately also leads to the same conclusion - misogyny thinly disguised as debate.

    I support this campaign and will be happy when hooters closes, or morphs into a normal restaurant where the people serving the food are just that - people serving you food. (Check the C4 Documentary when the Boss of the US one realises that chain houses a creepy, dark side


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