America’s Greatest Export: Hooters, now in Colombia

By Juliana Jiménez

Hooters Girls
Hooters Girls. Wikimedia Commons.

Hooters, the trashy restaurant America hates to love, at long last, arrived in Colombia. And Florence Thomas, the French feminist active in Colombia, was there to chronicle her experience at Bogotá’s newest American chain-invasion. She published her article in Soho, a Colombian magazine that “excuses” their profiting from naked women with aspirations of “art” and of “doing it with class” (not that you need an excuse).

It’s hard to miss the irony of Thomas writing for a magazine like this — but, if we want to give her the benefit of the doubt, perhaps she was trying not to preach to the choir, perhaps she was infiltrating the place that needs her the most. Or, I don’t know, because she is also benefiting from women stripping in the pages that follow her piece — they are just different women from the ones at Hooters.

So what was the public’s reaction? No surprises here. Immediately, in the comments section, and in other forums, men dismiss Thomas article as a senile old lady’s “tantrum”, among other unpublishable things you wish you could un-read. Well, why exactly is it a “tantrum”? Perhaps her writing could have been better structured and less rambl-y, but it contains some very important criticisms.

Example:

“In this country of sexual violences, of gropings in buses, of everyday raping of girls, teenagers and women, of sad and sordid brothels, of women as spoils or weapons of war and of daily life, Hooters may seem harmless but it is not: it’s the middle and high class version of a sexist and violent country.”

That’s damn powerful. What could be more on point than that?

Other commenters, more focused in the actual subject of her article than on her, don’t think much of the whole thing, and simply speak of the restaurant as “vulgar and superficial entertainment.” Others, do see a problem, but they believe that the sexism Thomas speaks of is “not the real problem.”

Why “the real problem”? I wholeheartedly agree that the cultural neocolonialism in Hooters is one problem out of many, and yes, a very serious one indeed, a symptom of something much larger and global that is nothing short of gag-inducing, but why is the problem of sexism always have to be secondary, eternally secondary, just like the people directly affected by it? And especially, puh-leez, in a place like Hooters, where it’s undeniable that the main attraction are women, their asses and their tits. To deny that is to be blind, to be saturated to the rim of the seminaked women that overpopulate any Colombian channel, any time, day or night.

If you want to talk about cultural colonialism, look no further than McDonald’s, or any variant thereof. But let’s not pretend Hooters is something it’s not.

What is evident, and very frustrating, is that many men only see racism and classism in situations where it is clear that it is women who are being denigrated first and foremost. How convenient that when it’s them who have to give up power or accept culpability by complicity, then it’s not a “real problem,” then they can peace out, then it is a “tantrum.” Or, it’s something cultural, something that happens naturally and organically, because everything’s relative and everything must be respected.

It reminds me of the women in Hola magazine’s photo, the so-called “Valle del Cauca’s most powerful women,” who found nothing racist in the photo where they posed with “the servants” (as they are disgustingly sometimes called in Colombia), black women decorating the background in perfect symmetry. If this is “art”, the supposed “art” Soho proclaims, then thanks but no thanks. What does it matter if they are so ethnocentric and dense that they can’t see the racism in it; the simple fact that the photo exists, that it can be possible, is what bears witness against a neocolonialist plutocracy like Colombia.

In the same way, Daniel Samper Pizano, Soho magazine’s director, can’t see anything sexist or racist about the cover with which he “replied” to the Hola photo (how clever of him). The cover features four black naked women, because clearly, black women in Colombia are only good for cleaning, cooking, fucking and looking hot. And behind them, the “servants”, again, because Colombia can’t imagine its existence without them. They pose as sad human decoration, supposedly being white, where actually, they are of indigenous mixed descent. How blind and how sad and how sordidly forgetful we are as a country. Buenas tardes, país de mierda, país sin memoria.

I agree with some commenters here (these are slightly better, but only slightly): “They would’ve looked better with some clothes on. One race oppressing another.”

What a FAIL, and yet, what a revealing moment, truly a window into Colombian reality. Fortunately, some did not fail to notice this, and Semana magazine published a scathing criticism by professors at the Western Autonomous University in Colombia. Perhaps we’re not entirely shitty.

Hooters’ “vulgar and superficial entertainment,” which some people object to in Colombia, is not new and it is not imported, and neither is selling women or viewing them as objects. Each country does this in its own unique way, like a snowflake, and the way Colombia and Latin America do it is special, more underhanded, more vulgar, more omnipresent.

Really, if you think about it, Colombia was more than ready for a Hooters. In fact, the concept of Hooters (and its execution) have been there for quite some time already.

And nobody there seems to mind.

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