The key to a successful restaurant is dressing girls in degrading clothes. – Michael O’Donoghue
King Hotpants recently wrote us with this somewhat miffed missive:
I guess I shouldn’t be disappointed that a critic in a town famous for its objectification of women has a regular feature that objectifies women. But I am.
Mr. Curtas, I challenge you to rise above this kind of crass sexualization and focus on food.
To which ELV responded somewhat harshly:
Dear King Hotpants,
We constantly get compliments (mostly from men, admittedly) about our Hot Hostess Watch feature. We have also, on occasion, featured Hot Hosts and Hot (male) Bartenders.
Anyone thinks ELV uses HHW to “objectify” women, ought to speak to his ex-wives. Now THEY have some stories to tell.
king hotpants needs to remove whatever sized slab of wood is sticking where the sun don’t shine….and get a sense of humor.
Which prompted this most civilized and thoughtful response:
Compliments on, or praise about, a thing do not make that thing good or worth doing.
John, I’m not saying that you’re a bad person or you have bad intentions. But by presenting women as “eye candy,” you are portraying them as objects to be appreciated by men rather than fully-formed people in their own right.
That pervasive cultural attitude is what allows teenagers in Steubenville to do terrible things without pausing to consider that “she didn’t say no” isn’t the same thing as “she said yes.” She’s not a person anymore. She’s an object, a body. She is there to be used.
It’s an extreme example, to be sure, but every single example of female (and male!) objectification contributes to the culture’s overall nonchalance towards women being treated as second-rate people at best and sex objects at worst.
You have a good thing going here. You have a successful career as a food writer and a lot of fans. This city that we both live in already has more than enough people contributing to a toxic attitude towards women without you contributing to it as well. I’m asking you to do this because I’m a fan, not because I want to see you fail.
As men, we don’t have to worry about getting groped, or getting our drinks spiked, or walking home alone, or wearing the wrong clothes because someone will decide that we’re “asking for it.” Women face disproportionately more sexual violence than men do, and it happens because our culture has decided that portraying women as sex objects is an okay thing to do.
So this isn’t an issue of me being oversensitive or having a stick up my ass or not getting “the joke.” It’s an issue of we can all be better, and well-intentioned criticism should be met with more than a brush-off.
That ELV reacted to with more bemusement than combativeness:
Dear King Hotpants,
What planet are you living on? From where ELV sits, 21st Century women are doing an exceptional job of objectifying themselves far beyond the wildest imaginations of Hugh Hefner, Larry Flynt or yours truly (cf. reality television, Paris Hilton, Britney Spears,* the Internet, every actress on earth and every sorority in Amercia).
And while we’re at it, what species do you belong to? Restaurants place young women at the front of the house (and behind the bar) precisely to attract the gaze of both sexes.
Men have been looking at attractive women since time immemorial, and will continue to “objectify them” as long as we exist, because that’s the way all of us are hardwired. To paraphrase Larry Flynt: If you don’t like the pictures, don’t blame me, blame the Almighty.
John “Hef” Curtas