Recently I wrote a post Boys, Babes and Balls: Hooters mascots for U16 boys footy about Hooters restaurant entering a sponsorship deal with a Gold Coast Under 16 boys club. The deal included money and two cheerleaders in tight clothes cheering the boys on. I argued that '...embedding busty mascots in with 15 and 16 year old boys [teaches] them that women are really part of the entertainment and rewards of playing the game. Why can’t boys just get on with the game without the dancing girls? We have seen so many times, evidence of demeaning views about women by too many sportsmen in this country. And too often, abusive behaviour has been made possible through a culture of collusion within male dominated sporting bodies.'
I quoted from terms and conditions in the Hooters Employment Handbook which employees had to agree to, including:
The Hooters concept is based on female sex appeal and the work environment is one in which joking and entertaining conversations are commonplace and I do not find my job duties, uniform requirements, or work environment to be offensive, intimidating, hostile, or unwelcome.
In other words, sexual jokes and possible harassment is really just part of the job, and as a Hooters employee there is no room to complain.
Now the AFL has stepped in and dismantled the arrangement.
According to an article in Gold Coast.com - complete with breast-related nudge nudge wink wink lines such as ‘Hooters support goes bust’, players ‘deflated’, and in accompanying video ‘You’re looking swell girls’ - AFL Queensland, having consulted with AFL Australia and the State Government, recommended the deal be stopped.
AFL Queensland chief executive Richard Griffiths said it had concerns over the 'appropriateness of the respective organisation'.
"Following discussion it was agreed with the club that the nature of the arrangement was not in the best interests of the club and the code at a junior level," he said.
... Bernie Kern, who brokered the deal, believes the organisation felt the restaurant was at odds with AFL's promotion of female equality.
The Miss Australia Hooters contest video linked on Gold Coast.com provides further evidence of the impact of Hooters culture and the attitude to women it perpetuates.
Co-host Mike Goldman urges his fellow host Jaime Wright to “Get em out! Do it! Get em out!”. This behaviour would normally constitute sexual harrassment, but because it’s a Hooters event, that seems to make it OK.
The winner is asked what gave her the winning edge. What are ya? Stupid? “Hooters is a restaurant but at the end of the day everyone thinks of hooters as hooters and that’s what got me over the line”. She then goes on to add, as though an after-thought “and my personality and presence”.
In one fell swoop, she cuts through the company’s “family restaurant” spin.
While the AFL has done the right thing, there’s a hell of a lot more it needs to do to address the behaviour of its players.
My friend and colleague Melinda Liszewski has blogged on the Hooters incident on the Collective Shout website.