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Bikinis and restaurants? Degrading for both women and men

At right, Shona Barnthouse has her hair colored and cut by Juli Memmot (left) at Bikini Cuts in Sandy, Utah, November 11, 2003.
At right, Shona Barnthouse has her hair colored and cut by Juli Memmot (left) at Bikini Cuts in Sandy, Utah, November 11, 2003.
Ravell Call,

A few years ago I had the opportunity to compete on NBC’s “Fear Factor” (a most terrifying experience). In our contract that we had to sign before appearing on the show, there was a “bikini clause” in which we had to agree to wear a “two piece bathing suit — NO EXCEPTIONS!”

I was able to convince the producers to make an exception for me.

I’ll never forget the look on everyone’s face when I walked out that first day on set, clad in my “two piece” suit: a thick, zip-up swim shirt that covered my entire torso, and long shorts that reached my knees. (I also wore a one-piece with shorts for my next stunt, thus still staying true to the contract.)

After the initial dead silence and then quiet snickering, one of the girls pulled me aside.

“How in the world did you get out of wearing a skimpy suit?” she asked. “I feel SO uncomfortable.”

I thought about this experience when I heard about a Texas-based chain restaurant. I’ve never thought bikinis to be appropriate dinner wear. But at Bikinis Sports Bar and Grill, that’s all the uniform there is for the waitresses.

They arrive at the table scantily clad in swimwear and short shorts, ready to serve food and flirt.

How classy. The restaurant has even taken the tacky step of trademarking the term "breastaurant."

Yes, society is still allowing women to be viewed as mere objects, and women are still complying.

At first thought I wonder, “How in the world can these women feel comfortable being on such degrading display?” On second thought, “Why are the male customers OK with being treated like animals who can’t control their cravings?”

I remember when a little barbershop called Bikini Cuts wanted to set up shop in Utah County. It was while I was a student at BYU. Some of my guy friends decided to go to a Bikini Cuts location, thinking it’d be a funny story to tell. One of them even came home with a signed T-shirt with a less-than-appropriate message.

I think of women who work at places such as Bikini Sports Bar and Grill and Hooters, and I don’t believe for a second that these women are proud of what they do. I don’t believe they go home at the end of the day and feel good about their work. How can they, when the whole point of their job is to encourage people to look anywhere but their eyes?

Unfortunately, sex is always a cheap sell.

“The recent tough economic times has restaurant owners getting creative to make their place the go-to spot for cash-strapped customers,” writes Kathryn Tuggle for Fox News.

“A growing number of restaurants nationwide are looking to increase profits by decreasing the amount of clothing worn by an all-female waitstaff.”

And people are willing to pay more to see less.

“Restaurants are seeing how much more they and their waitresses can make, and the whole concept is becoming hugely popular,” Tuggle writes.

I have always tried to live by the trite-but-true meme that “modest is hottest.” Growing up, my sisters and I weren’t allowed to wear bikinis. My parents wanted us to respect and protect our virtue, and that meant keeping our bodies covered.

I am convinced that most women want love and attention — just not the cheap kind that comes from “showing off” their beautiful, sacred bodies. The girls who fill out applications for places such as Hooters or Bikini Sports Bar (I keep wanting to write "Bra" for some reason) and Grill are not getting the fact that the type of googly-eyed attention is cheapening their worth.

And I believe every woman is worth more than a plate of hot wings.

Carmen Rasmusen Herbert is a former "American Idol" contestant who writes about entertainment and family for the Deseret News.