Study Finds Working at 'Breastaurants' Hurts Women's Mental HealthBY
JULY 10, 2017 9:00 AM
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We already knew that Hooters wasn't a feminist paradise. But in addition contributing to the objectification of women as a group, "breastaurants" can harm the mental health of the servers who work at them, according to a new study in Psychology of Women Quarterly.
The researchers interviewed 252 U.S. breastaurant servers ages 18-66. They determined how much objectification these women experienced by having them rate their agreement with statements like "In the restaurant I work, male customers stare at female servers/waitresses" and "In the restaurant I work, female servers/waitresses are encouraged to wear sexually revealing clothing."
The more objectifying an environment these women were in, the more prone they were to disordered eating and anxiety. This appeared to be because women in highly objectifying workplaces experienced less personal autonomy and were afforded less status compared to men at work. 80 percent of female restaurant workers have been targets of workplace sexual harassment, according to a 2014 Restaurant Opportunities Centers United report, and this problem could be even worse in establishments geared toward straight men's sexual gratification. Brestaurants' employees "are immersed in subcultures and settings where treating women as sex objects is not only promoted but culturally sanctioned," study author Dawn M. Szymanski told PsyPost.
These concerns have gone largely unaddressed as business at these restaurants has skyrocketed over the past few years. Joe Hummel, CEO of the breastaurant Twin Peaks—which saw a 63 percent increase in sales from 2013 to 2015—told Nation’s Restaurant News that the key to his chain's success was to "make sure we have managers on the floor, touching the tables. Our girls’ hospitality is second to none."
Szymanski and her co-author Chandra Feltman wrote an article in Good Foodproviding background on this issue. The legality of breastaurants almost exclusively hiring women has been questioned, they explained, but in a 1997 settlement, Hooters argued that they could deny men jobs because their business was built on giving customers the opportunity to look at women. Szymanski and Feltman found that some of these restaurants put pressure on employees to maintain certain weights and participate in events like calendar photoshoots and wet t-shirt contests. "Places like breastaurants emphasize women’s bodies while suppressing their humanity and individuality, encouraging the 'male gaze' by putting women’s bodies and sexuality on display," they wrote.
Another study involving interviews with 11 employees found that women often choose to work at breastaurants because they offer more pay and flexibility than other restaurants. While that's certainly an understandable decision for women who need to support themselves or families, it makes it all the more important that these establishments protect their employees' rights.