I’ve been having the time of my life (you know I love my work) working on a task this week with dozens of incredibly smart people.  It’s been really great, just about perfect, from intellectually engaging discussions during the day to a dip in the warm pool to soothe my body and ease my pains before or after work.  It’s been just the thing I needed to distract me from the recent news and the beginning of the clinical trial.

Until this morning.  When I looked behind me (I’m a front-row kind of gal), I saw something I never expected to see — Hooters t-shirts.

Black. Gray. Red. Back of the room. Presenting up front.  Nine in all, and my heart sank.

WTF? (As Sarah Palin would say.)  As the minutes dragged on and everywhere I looked those circular owl-eyes looked back at me, I tried to hold it together, but it was distracting.  Very distracting from the conversation, which was important.  And then I just got mad, so I left the room to get over it.

On the way out, a colleague shrugged his shoulders, saying, “Those guys.” and I couldn’t help but respond on my way out the door: “It’s not funny.  I had a double mastectomy, and I’m dying of cancer.”

The guys were quick to apologize, sending one out to say quietly and sincerely, “Susan, I’m sorry.”

I forgave him, trying to laugh it off, but the truth is it hurt.  It really hurt.  Because when you wear a Hooters shirt, you’re telling the world how much you love the breasts — not necessarily the women behind them.

How will I go back into that room?

Edited to add: When I gathered my courage and went back in, they had covered up the shirts.  But the room felt … different … than it had first thing that morning.


68 Responses to Hooters

  1. Sunday says:

    Good for you! I’m glad you stood up and spoke out for yourself and all women.
    Those men should be ashamed of themselves.

  2. Amy says:

    I could maybe understand if you worked in the restaurant/bar industry or something, but wearing Hooters shirts to any professional function is shockingly unprofessional in our field. What were they thinking? Were they trying to make a statement of some kind? Because 9 guys wearing Hooters shirts to a (presuming, here) NASA function is a little too weird to just be coincidental.

    I’m so sorry that it hurt you.

  3. Kristen says:

    Oh, Susan. What a bunch of losers. You’ll go back in because you are a professional. You are. It won’t be easy because they’ll get a pass for “just not thinking.” It makes no sense at all because the lack of professionalism is staggering. And their embarrassment for such crass behavior is not punishment enough.

    Strength to you.

  4. What’s done cannot be undone, but I’m glad that they covered the shirts and will think twice before they wear them again. And that you were brave enough to speak up and teach them. You probably saved future patients and women they know the pain of seeing those ass-inine tees.

    Again, you took one for the team of women everywhere. I just wish you weren’t always the one bearing these crosses.

    • JoC says:

      What she said…

      • Beckye Estill says:

        Totally agree! So sorry they hurt your feelings; it was perfectly justified to feel that way. They were quite unprofessional as well as totally jerkish. By God’s grace you can go back in because you did nothing wrong and they are the ones who should feel sheepish, not you! You can extend God’s grace to them, and hopefully they will not only treat you, but all women, with more respect. Sending hugs and love!

  5. *m* says:

    Ick. Unbelievably unprofessional. So sorry you had to deal with that, on top of everything else.

  6. Catherine says:

    Oh, Susan – Even beyond your own circumstances – many women would be offended by their t-shirts in a work setting. Meanwhile, you’re working to encourage women in science… Give ’em hell.
    I think the guys who wore those shirts should DO something useful, to make up for their awful judgment. hmmmm… I’ll have to think about that a bit.
    I wish you hadn’t had to deal with this – what a bummer.

  7. Amber Mc. says:

    Oh Susan. What a crappy way to start the day. 😦

  8. Robin says:

    That they were covered up says they know they did wrong. You made them think about breasts and the person behind it. Hard lesson to teach, but I’m thinking maybe some, if not all will think twice about wearing those tshirts again (at least in a public, professional setting). If they hadn’t learned their lesson, I don’t think they would have been covered up when you came back in.
    Hopefully the room felt different – as it should- becuase they are men with compassion and just learned a big lesson.

  9. Becky says:

    Ah, insensitivity. Ah, unprofessionalism. Where did they think they were? Junior High? Perhaps “those guys” should sign up and walk in the next Race for the Cure event?

    • Exactly what I was thinking, Becky – if they’re looking for a way to make amends (and I hope they are!), someone should suggest it to them.
      Susan, you reacted brilliantly and in just the right way. I’m sorry you had to go through that. I’m sure plenty of other people in the room were insulted and offended by their unprofessionalism and didn’t have the courage to say so. Bravo.

      • Becky says:

        Susan, you really did react in the best most professional way. It never ceases to amaze me how a bad idea can seem so right at the time it’s first thought up. Kate, let’s hope “those guys” take a long look and learn the lesson. Let them all show up in pink t-shirts at the next gathering to show their support, not their ignorance.

  10. Lain says:

    Geez, us guys can be stupid. People can be stupid. I’m so sorry that happened, it sucks.

    All right, I’m not very articulate today. But I’m sorry you went that and I hope that blogging about it helped you process it.

    Have been thinking about you, and have shared some of your blog posts with my mom, who had her breast cancer in the early 90s. Keep up the posts!

  11. Delora says:

    How did they all get these tshirts in the first place? Was the restaurant nearby that they all went to for dinner? So bizarre, and totally unprofessional. It’s one thing to dress casual at a conference; it’s another to be plain tacky and disrespectful.

  12. clifford says:

    What Amy said, word for word.

  13. *m* says:

    Returning to say: I hope these guys catch some heat from other women, and some men, in the room. These shirts are truly a slap in the face to all females present, and really should have offended any professional in the room, of any gender.

    Grow the hell up, guys.

    Sorry, but I’m pissed.

  14. Anne says:

    I would love to meet you, Susan! I’m new here on your site; you rock; you totally laid down the smack on those IDIOTS.

    I’m trying to think how I found your site… my two-point-five-year old keeps saying (nightly ritual) “Tell me about the planets…” and it turns out I’d forgotten what little I know. Maybe I found you through some Googling, I don’t know.

    I’m a lawyer (yeah, you won’t hear the kid saying, “Tell me about the Supreme Court decision on blah blah…” although it would certainly put him to sleep) so maybe I was searching for planet “stuff”, I don’t know. Or it could have been a parenting thing (he’s two; he is Satan)…

    His favorite planet is Jupiter.

    We are strangers, you and I, but add me to the list of people, and it’s a long one I am sure, who hope for the very very best outcome for you, health-wise, in your family, and in your profession too.

  15. I had to re-read your post, Susan, because I thought I missed something–it’s so beyond ridiculous that grown men would even consider WEARING Hooters t-shirts to a work meeting, I didn’t believe it at first and thought you went somewhere else–were finished w/ your meeting week.
    I can’t even believe that Hooters still exists today (isn’t it like an 80’s thing?!) or that ANYONE would want to admit going. So strange. . . the whole thing is so strange.
    Hold your head high, put your (sore) shoulders back, and your proud chin up, and be thankful that your meetings are only once or twice a year.
    You’ll be home soon, surrounded by your class-act husband and two boys who will–I’m sure–follow in his footsteps.

  16. AnnetteK says:

    Sheesh. Some men can be really, really stupid. How did it not occur to any of them that this was a very bad idea on so many levels? I’m sorry you had to experience that, and I hope all of them learned to think twice before doing something that hurtful again.

  17. Katie says:

    Ugh. That’s horrible. I’m sorry you had to go through that.

  18. Bill says:

    That really is ridiculous. I can think of no circumstance where a Hooters shirt would be acceptable in a work situation. Obviously you can’t always know if someone has undergone a double mastectomy…but isn’t there sort of a basic rule that says you don’t wear Hooters shirts at work? Or have things changed since I had a “real job?” I simply can’t imagine wearing something like that to work.

    Oh, and great job saying something about it. That can’t be easy.

  19. Susan says:

    Good for you for calling them out–and wtf where they thinking?

  20. stardustdawn says:

    First time commenter here, and I just wanted to say that that was horrible, and you handled yourself with such grace and strength. Wish I could give you a {{HUG}} in person.

  21. Ellen says:

    What kind of function was it? It doesn’t matter of course, unless you were actually at a Hooters. Which I doubt was the case. Good for you for calling out that stupid behavior. No woman in any sort of a professional setting should have to deal with that.

    9 of them? WTF? Did someone lose a bet?

  22. Mary says:

    Wow, hard to believe any work setting where Hooters shirts are acceptable and odd that so many folks were wearing them. Good for you for calling them on it — they will likely never wear them again and think hard about why they thought it was a good idea in the first place. It could have a ripple effect of common sense in their lives and perhaps the lives of their friends.

  23. Eve says:

    I think you did exactly the right thing. Thanks to you for speaking out! I’ve always felt a shuddering “yuck” feeling about that restaurant. And to wear shirts like that to work! It’s like putting up a centerfold next to your work station. Bleah, and kudos to you for having the courage to speak up!!! Very inspiring.

  24. Jenny says:

    Hugs to you my friend – none of us can take away the feeling you had when you saw those shirts and even those the guys apologised and will hopefully think twice about wearing them in future I cant believe they wore them in the first place
    Even if it was a conference, not work, that is not acceptable. Totally unprofessional, onsensitive, idiotic

    • Jenny says:

      It just shows how annoyed I was that I didn’t punctuate or spellcheck that comment. Just told hubby (who’s an engineer in a very male dominated environment – Steel works) and even he couldn’t believe the unprofessionalism and inappropriateness of their attire

  25. Nor says:

    Seriously, that’s ridiculous.

  26. J.J. says:

    I’m glad you spoke up and I’m glad they (sheepishly) reacted. Imagine if you got up to spoke with one of those Peckers t-shirts on? Seriously?!

    I’m sorry for the pain it caused you. I suspect you have brought a new kind of “awareness” into their lives.

  27. Stimey says:

    Susan, good for you. It is hard to stand up and make a statement, even if it is so important. Beyond the fact that those shirts would be unprofessional at ANY work event, those men should know that their actions have consequences. I would guess that you made them think. If they are good men, you made them think. I hope that is the case.

  28. Susan, you taught all those people a very, very important lesson today. Here’s hoping they will trade in those t-shirts for ones in SUPPORT of women, to help raise cancer awareness (“Save the ta-tas” is one of my favourite slogans…)

    You are such a valiant, classy example of a Warrior Princess who is LIVING with cancer.

    And I couldn’t be more proud to call you friend.

    xo CGF

  29. planetnomad says:

    I HATE Hooters. I really really really do. I find them so tacky and offensive. I’m glad those guys covered up their shirts. Why were they wearing them in the first place? And I usually have a sense of humour about things.

    • PinkKitchen says:

      I was thinking the same thing. I hate Hooters in the first place. What a way to make women into meaningless objects. (And sadly, Hooters is not alone….they’re just the most well-known restaurant that does this.) But throw in there the cancer thing, and it’s REALLY annoying.

  30. justenjoyhim says:

    UGH — disgusting. You, my friend, handled it with poise. Bravo to you!

  31. Donna W says:

    Hey, I don’t even have cancer. I just had a breast reduction. But I totally relate to this.

  32. Good for you, for speaking up, Susan! Well done.

  33. Amy says:

    Okay, call me baffled…but I don’t even understand why they were wearing those t-shirts in the first place?! And they were speaking…? The only shame here besides their poor judgment (but again, I’m totally not understanding WHY?!) is that no one else spoke up as you did, breast cancer or not! How about, “It’s not funny. It’s sexist and harassment.” Keep up the good works, Susan!

  34. marty says:

    I’m so fucking angry I can’t possibly be articulate.

    These JACKHOLES work for NASA. They are supposed to be SMART.

    Breast cancer aside, the shirts in that setting were inappropriate. Completely inappropriate.

    If they want to be stupid dickheads on their own time, so be it. But they were on the clock, and I’m not even the slightest bit kidding when I say that they need to be sent to sensitivity training.

    I’m so fuming, I’m trying to figure out who I’m supposed to call and bitch at.

    SO FUMING for you, and any other women (which, likely, there weren’t any) who were working with these shit-for-brains.

    Stinking fuming.

    Delete me if needed. I know I just potty mouthed all over your blog.

    • marty says:

      Okay, so here is my slightly less foul mouthed and more articulate comment.

      The positions you have held as a woman, mark it – a young woman – in planetary science are significant. The fact that you are a young woman in an old man’s field is hugely significant.

      For those men to think that it was appropriate to make a joke like that just shows how far NASA has to go to recognize the worth of the women in the field of planetary science.

  35. Bravo for you but I am maddened by the insensitivity of those old school jerks who, like Marty says, have a long way to go to recognize the worth of women in the field of planetary science.

    No woman should ever be subjected to that by anyone she works with. Ever!

  36. What a lousy, tone-deaf, a##holish thing these men did. Brave of you to confront them. Sorry they were ignorant enough to do this. SO unprofessional.

    It strikes me that this is indeed a byproduct of such a male-dominated field. I work in a female-majority field, and while there are always individual jerks from time to time, I think what the baseline expectation is among employees is at a different level because of it.

  37. elesha says:

    Im glad you made those men think of those things they sometimes call “Fun bags” for what they are. Tools to feed our babies that sometimes turn on women and make them very ill. How isensitive.
    This is why you are so great you speak up!

  38. JoC says:

    While I am very glad that you spoke up because they did need to hear something. Even the some what sympathetic colleague who ‘shrugged his shoulders, saying, “Those guys.” and I couldn’t help but respond on my way out the door: “It’s not funny. I had a double mastectomy, and I’m dying of cancer.” I HATE that the last part of what you said might be true.
    A mood change was necessary, and it was more likely due to their own shame rather than the C word.

    • JoC says:

      oops… meant to say
      – While I am very glad that you spoke up, I HATE that the last part of what you said might be true.
      – They all needed to hear something. Even that somewhat sympathetic colleague [who ‘shrugged his shoulders, saying, “Those guys.”] needed to hear your reply “It’s not funny. I had a double mastectomy, and I’m dying of cancer.”
      – BTW: A mood change was necessary, and it was more likely due to the reality check and their own shame rather than the C word.

  39. Jane Gassner says:

    This comment isn’t about the Hooters shirts but about the posts that went before it. I saw you last at BlogHer’09, and I was blissfully oblivious that your cancer had returned. I’ve just put the Lego Princess on MidLifeBloggers.com–and I will not allow myself to fall out of touch with you again.

  40. sutari says:

    Wow Susan, I am surprised.

    Because I assume I know where you were….. these are nice guys, decent guys (engineers yes, but engineers with lives), who clearly just didn’t think. They must have gone out for dinner together (during a break in the 15 hour days you have been working) and got these shirts. Did they look new?

    Because they would never want to hurt you. They would never want to offend you. They wore the shirts because they have been working hard, really, really hard, and the dinner out was a bonding experience they wanted to keep going the next day. The room felt different because they were, rightly, embarrassed and ashamed.

    Don’t get me wrong. I HATE Hooters. I hate the name, I hate the “uniforms” they make their poor waitresses wear, I hate the objectification that is implied by the whole thing. But I can get how these guys didn’t even think about what these shirts might mean to you. But just as women didn’t think about how that bra mem might hurt, these men didn’t think about how a stupid tshirt might hurt. If they have been lucky enough to not have been touched personally by cancer, to know someone who has battled even a third of what you have battled, they just don’t get it.

    But they do now.

  41. It turns out it was a joke. A joke aimed at one of the senior members of the group, who wears his Hooters shirt every time this group meets, on the last day.

    They hadn’t been out there all together this week. They brought the shirts from home – and the shirts were from different locations. They planned this.

    I can’t decide if that makes it better or worse.

    • Jackie says:

      They weren’t trying to offend, bit they did. Just because their intent wasn’t to hurt you, or any other (if any) womenin the room, they still did.

      It was offensive, and was hurtfull, you did the right thing by standing up, and they did what they could to show you remorse, the apology and cover-up. Doesn’t make the hurt go away. And will certainly think twice before being so insensitive again.

    • Catherine says:

      Planned or not, this was a monumentally bad idea. They could have showed up at the guy’s room at the hotel – surprise! That would have been a joke, involving only “the guys.” But to wear them to a work meeting? No.

      That the senior guy has been wearing his shirt for years doesn’t excuse anything. He should have learned better at some point–or somebody should have told him to stop. They can’t have it both ways–include women as colleagues but also have their crude “jokes.” It creates a hostile work environment for women. We needed LAWS to get this behavior changed in workplaces, and obviously there is still work to do.

      Hopefully they’ve all learned something, even the ones who didn’t wear the shirts but had heard about this and didn’t make any moves to stop it before it happened. That’s what consciousness-raising is all about.

      But I don’t think that just “hoping” they learned something is going to be enough. I think you deserve to know that you’ve been “heard” on this and that there is deeper understanding and a commitment to change behavior. There’s much evidence of the effectiveness of such dialogue when an offense has been committed (for both the person offended and the person/people who committed the offense). The company/organization that called the meeting might have a mediation program available, or a human resources specialist trained in such encounters.

      I volunteer to help you find resources/ideas if you’d like. I could make some phone calls without giving your name or other identifying info, just to collect information about possible avenues of action.

      • Becky says:

        Some joke. So there’s a senior member of the group who routinely objectifies and demeans women. Lovely. And this was PLANNED. That’s worse. Sensitivity training is probably called for, along with a strict dress code and a zero tolerance policy. If that isn’t harrassment – creating a hostile work environment – I don’t know what is. Time for “those guys”, who all have mothers, who probably have wives, daughters, and/or sisters, to “man up” and treat women as people.

  42. Humor is tough – it requires such balance. And what’s funny changes based on circumstances and perspective.

    There is a Hooters a block away from the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance where I get my treatment for breast cancer. We’ve gone there to eat on treatment days, as a joke. I have a t-shirt where I crossed out the S in hooters because I’m now have one boob. Its a way for me to deal with my situation.

    BUT these things with hooters were MY choice, they weren’t pushed on me and it certainly had nothing to do with my work. To walk in to a work environment where the men are wearing hooters shirts… That’s bordering on sexual harassment for any woman, breast cancer or not. For a woman with breast cancer, it’s especially disturbing. It must have been quite a shock and I’m so sorry that happened to you.

  43. ella says:

    Susan, I couldn’t believe it when I saw your tweet yesterday, it’s so incredibly unprofessional of them anyway and shockingly hurtful to someone having to deal with breast cancer. All credit to you for standing up and saying something to them, I’m so sorry that you were put in that situation though.

  44. Nicole says:

    Gross. Gross, gross, gross. Hooters – no matter what kind of “joke”, no matter what kind of “ironic joke” – is gross. Ick. Shame on them.

  45. MDTaz says:

    So many mixed thoughts.

    How many times have I been with colleagues, all girls or mixed, and gotten caught up in a joke that was hurtful without even meaning it? Not that many times, but a couple of times. Yes. I’m guilty.

    And how many times have I been harassed or insulted, for something that had to do with my gender, my body or my otherness. All those jokes are uncomfortable ways of dealing with prejudice or discomfort.

    It’s not the fall, it’s the recovery. A family phrase, initially related to my own ‘dropping of the ball’ when I lost my place in an orchestra concert and my father asked me about it. When I admitted this, he asked, “did you find your place, after all?” Well yes, I did. “It’s not the fall,” he said, “it’s the recovery that counts.”

    These guys were insensitive and unthinking. They made a bad call, probably thinking about making their colleague laugh and forgetting it might offend you or someone else. It doesn’t make it okay.

    But to me this is the key question: will they (individually or collectively) recover with grace and style? Then everyone grows and learns something. Do you think perhaps you helped them to get this? Then you made a difference.

    Not that your suffering is okay, but at least it would had achieved something.

    The hardest, saddest part is if they don’t even understand the nuances of what happened there in that room with their silly T-shirts. Don’t let them get away with that. I hope you’ll find a way to ask them. If you’re up for that.

    I’m sorry you had to endure this. Given everything you’ve been through the last weeks, the last years, you don’t need it. But this is one of the reasons that I have grown to admire you from afar. You are an amazing woman, an amazing person. Bon courage.

  46. Colleen says:

    Oh my gosh. I am speechless. Every time I drive by the Hooters on “the Pike” I wonder how it stays open. Who goes there? My husband went once, because he was dragged there by a guy who picked him up at the airport in NY and drove him back to Scranton (it was this “friend’s” price for the travel, that T. would go there with him). He still talks about how awful it was. I’m so sorry that you had to deal with that — in any situation. That it was a WORK situation makes it more bizarre but it’s not like it would be okay in any context. I love that you didn’t just just melt away and simmer like I probably would have done. And now, maybe those boys will think a bit about the “jokes” they tell, to themselves and to others.

  47. Monica says:

    How is this not the textbook definition of sexual harassment?

    Talk about an “old boys club” mentality. Disgusting.

  48. Elaine says:

    Thank you, for standing up – for me and my daughter! I’ve just never been able to find this sort of joke funny. Maybe a shortcoming of my own, but I just don’t like this kind of humor.

  49. NYFriend says:

    GRRRRRRRR! I am so mad about these guys! I can not possibly understand why they thought this disgusting joke was OKAY in any way, shape or form.

    I know you won’t disclose their names, but boy I wish you would tell me and I would call them and give them a piece of my mind!!

    It was so rude and disrespectful toward any woman, regardless of her history. It’s quite obvious why it would be several orders of magnitude more insulting for you.

    I’m so proud of you for saying something, and actions speak louder than words sometimes – it sounds like that worked, although I know you left because you were mad, not to *make a statement*.

    Unbelievable, freakin’ unbelievable.

  50. Deb says:

    Men still see women as objects, especially our breasts, as thought they were placed there for the sole purpose of their entertainment and not for the feeding our of our babies. Good for you for saying something. We all need to say something, to stand up and remind men that women are people too, not just a set of breasts.

  51. sutari says:

    There is a reason that big corporations (and small) and government organizations have “sensitivity training”. Because sometimes, you just don’t get it. And then, when someone points it out to you, you say, “OMG, I never thought about it THAT way, I never meant to offend/disgust/hurt, I just thought it was a stupid joke”.

    You just gave these men a crash course Susan.

    • Beckye Estill says:

      Exactly. I still think they (and their senior member) need to go to sensitivity training and sexual harassment training. Completely unprofessional and insensitive. The fact that the senior member wore one every time on the last day says it’s been acceptable and looked over for far too long.

  52. ilinap says:

    This hits it right on. “Because when you wear a Hooters shirt, you’re telling the world how much you love the breasts — not necessarily the women behind them.” Shuddering here. I know someone who starting taking his son to Hooters when he was four years old. Now he’s 11 and has no regard for women whatsoever. It’s shameful on so many levels.

  53. Lahdeedah says:

    AARRGGHH! Now, I wonder what would happen if a bunch of us girls went into that same room wearing pants with little woodland-creature illustrations of nuts? Don’t think we would leave that room with our reputations and/or careers intact.

  54. […] flowers?  They came from “those guys” I wrote about last week.  They apologized, and I believe they meant it.  Not because of […]

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