First posted on the Feministing Community blog by Minnesota NOW President Shannon Drury:
“Won’t somebody think of the children?” is the familiar refrain of the Simpson’s Helen Lovejoy, the prudish reverend’s wife who hides her bigotry behind the veneer of traditional family values. As a feminist activist with the National Organization for Women (NOW) and mother of two small kids, I “think of the children” often, but not always in the way Helen suggests–in fact, I’m the mom who’s arranging for all fifth-graders at my son’s middle school to watch the film “Bullied,” from Teaching Tolerance. When social arguments are made in the name of protecting children, I’m skeptical, to say the least.
Last week, a fellow state leader in NOW, Patricia Bellasalma, announced that her California chapter lodged a complaint with local police to stop Hooters restaurants from serving children. The suit means to challenge Hooters’ claim that their waitstaff provide “vicarious sexual entertainment,” and are not subject to the same workplace harassment protections as other restaurant workers. If Hooters servers are sex workers, the complaint claims, they can’t serve kids. Think of the children, California NOW says!
And this time, I say: good for them!
Current discussion on the boards of Jezebel.com notes that the amount of skin at Hooters is no worse than on the average beach, an observation with which I agree. But context is everything, as even my ten-year-old son knows when he gapes at the Hooters ladies as we stroll from the parking lot to the movie theaters in the Mall of America. Elliott knows that hot pants on swimmers at the beach mean something different than hot pants on women working for tips in a restaurant. The latter sight makes him blush, though he might still find it difficult to explain precisely why.
This suit isn’t about protecting my boy from embarrassment, though. Exploitative imagery abounds, and I combat it daily. This suit is about the rights of Hooters workers to expect a modicum of protection from harassment and employment discrimination. Hooters uses legalese to protect itself from liability–I applaud California NOW for turning the tables back on them (waitressing pun totally intended). “Won’t somebody think of the rights of the employees?” is definitely not as interesting as “won’t somebody think of the children!”