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Context: OnMorals

(ReadWith) MemeticEcosystem

Quora Answer : Is Hooters degrading to women?

Dec 3, 2017

I've never been anywhere near one. But it seems like Laura Hancock gives a good description.

And from that I'd say it's horrible for women and men.

Not on the individual level that Laura is describing. But precisely because the whole concept is giving a kind of performance of patriarchy.

You wouldn't forgive a theme park that hired black people to play at being slaves for white people's amusement, even if the black people were ultimately well paid professionals, and the blood was all tomato ketchup.

I'm not sure why a theme park where women play at being objectified by men in order to show what a jolly lark this whole patriarchy thing is, is any better.

Actually, I can give a concrete parallel. I hang out with a lot of artists, including performance artists. I'm pretty open to whatever they get up to, but a couple of months ago I walked out of a performance which basically consisted of a white guy auctioning the right to whip a naked black guy with a leather belt.

Obviously the black guy was an artist, it was his work, he had the agency to decide to do that piece, he had his own motivations, and his own things to say with it. But I decided that being part of an (almost entirely white) crowd watching (and being invited to laugh and participate in) a black guy getting lashed, was unhealthy, both for me and everyone else. So I left.

There is a thing, whether you want to call it "culture" or "the public sphere" or "the noosphere" or "our memetic ecology" or "zeitgeist" or "world 2" (and I'm sure there are dozens of other names). It emerges out of our individual ideas and beliefs and desires and decisions, but is greater than them. It has "emergent" properties and dynamics. It has power to affect people who come into contact with it long before they've acquired any power of their own to counter it. And it certainly feeds back and affects the attitudes and behaviours of all of us who have to live within it.

I believe we have responsibilities to keep that thing, the cultural space / memetic ecology, "healthy", and not let it become bad for us or for others. There is more to morality than making a personal, atomized economic decision of "do the cost/benefits of doing this work out for me?" All our choices have externalities that effect people far away from, and long after, our immediate acts.

Sure, you may need to work in Hooters. It might be the best job available. It might be fine (and fun to work there) for you. All of that can be true. But none of that somehow negates that fact that this is performing being an objectified woman, which, in the culture we're in, contributes to a wider sense that women are there to be objectified and that their qualms can always be bought off with enough money.

Now sure, we live in a capitalist society. Capitalism is so powerful because money is so fungible and flexible. And one of the hallmarks of capitalism is precisely this sense that all other values (personal, moral, aesthetic etc.) are for sale in the market too. They can always be traded against money.

Hooters is a bill-board, glorifying that ideal. "Look at us!" it screams. "Money and patriarchy is everything in this world. Watch how we thumb our nose at those silly concerns about women's dignity and men's responsibility. Women's dignity can be had for a few dollars. And men, you can ignore your responsibilities, and indulge your gaze without guilt. Ha ha! What fun!"

And remember that Hooters is a chain. A global brand. It's not an anonymous brothel hiding away in a backstreet. It has a visibility and a legitimacy that other, far more healthy kinds of prostitution don't have. And that's how it uses its visibility and legitimacy : to boast that "women are a commodity, who will play at being objectified for your entertainment, and we have them on tap".

That sounds pretty degrading to me.

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