When people go to bars, they generally expect that the worst thing that will happen is a next-day hangover and a craving for greasy food. But for many women and LGBT people, it can be hard to have a simple night out without confronting uncomfortable situations and unwanted advances.
Difficult as it may be for bars to recognize the responsibility they have to protect women and other potentially vulnerable groups, they have a moral obligation to do so. And this week, news spread that Hooters—an establishment not typically associated with feminist causes—is trying out a new way to make sure its patrons feel safe.
The bar and grill famous for its scantily clad waitstaff went viral on social media after customers began sharing photographs of bathroom signs, posted predominantly in women’s restrooms, advertising an “Angel Shot.” The Angel Shot is actually a code: ordering it allows customers to discretely communicate with bartenders if they feel uncomfortable or in danger.
The sign, originally photographed at a Hooters in South Africa, reads: “Is your Tinder or Plenty of Fish date not who they said they were on their profile? Do you feel unsafe, or even just a little bit weird? We’re here to help. Just go to the bar and order an angel shot.” It lists three types of shots. If ordered “neat,” the bartender will escort the customer to their vehicle; if ordered “with ice,” the bartender will call an Uber or Lyft; and if ordered “with lime,” the bartender will call the police.
While Hooters has not issued an official statement on the Angel Shot, hundreds of locations posted the sign in their bathrooms as the photograph spread on social media. That said, Hooters isn’t the first bar or restaurant to come up with a code designed to help women signal if they’re in need of bystander intervention. The sign is almost identical to one posted in Iberian Rooster, a restaurant in St. Petersburg, Florida, which was in turn inspired by a sign plastered in restaurants and bars throughout Lincolnshire, England as part of a city campaign to raise awareness about sexual assault.
Clearly, customers approve of these efforts—as is evident from the huge response such signs have received on social media. Women like Sara Benincasa have also praised restaurants and bars that train their staff to spot harassment and intervene on behalf of vulnerable patrons.
Nonetheless, skeptics might point to a few questions raised by Hooters’ “secret” shot. For one thing, can an institution that profits on the objectification of women earnestly advocate for women’s safety? And is the idea of an “Angel Shot” just a Band-Aid solution that will inhibit open, direct communication about sexual harassment?
It’s true that every company—Hooter’s included—could do more to advocate for women’s rights. That said, in light of its sexualized culture, Hooter’s decision to take an active stance on the prevention of harassment and sexual assault may actually carry more weight.
Obviously, the Angel Shot alone won’t stop rape culture. But it is a step in the right direction, demonstrating that a restaurant industry giant recognizes the risks that its environment can pose to customers, and that it has a responsibility to prevent sexual abuse.
This could bode well for future efforts in the hospitality industry to tackle rape culture. Sexual assault policy has become a top priority on American campuses in recent years, and former US vice president Joe Biden’s “It’s on Us” initiative made an official government commitment to addressing campus rape. But sexual assault occurs beyond the ivory tower—so sexual assault prevention must, too.
Every sexual assault prevention strategy inevitably stirs up questions and criticism—all of which is necessary and even helpful when attempting to create change. Still, there are some questions without any good answers, among them: Who goes to Hooters on a first date?