It's the cure, baby! Naughty nursing with Hooters
March 31, 2011 -- The popular restaurant chain Hooters recently declared March 17 "National Hooky Day," in honor of the start of the U.S. men's college basketball tournament. The company's website promotion features photos of naughty nurse "Ashleigh," who wants to send you a "Doctor's Note" so you can take the day off work to recover from "Basketball Fever" and enjoy a free appetizer. "Ashleigh" herself signs the note, but don't get too excited about her expertise; the only professional qualities on display here involve the model's body. By contrast, the little cartoon owl "physician" who appears in the ad is a male who appears full clothed, with a white coat and tie. However, Ashleigh does display an impressive ability to manage this "basketball fever" in the campaign's 30-second television commercial. In that one, the naughty nurse quickly diagnoses and treats basketball fever (with the free appetizer) for broadcasting legend Dick Vitale, who then bellows: "Hooters! It's the cure, baby!" This kind of imagery impedes nurses' efforts to persuade the public that nursing is a modern profession for educated women and men, rather than a sex joke that has been repeated thousands of times. Let's ask Hooters to stop contributing to a work environment that encourages real nurses to play hooky. Thanks, baby!
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The "Hooky Day" promotional material is headlined "Got basketball fever? We've got the cure!" It features a photo of an attractive female model in a short white naughty nurse dress, which opens to reveal some cleavage, as well as a nurse's cap. She even has a stethoscope! We are informed that "Nurse Ashleigh is prescribing a free appetizer at Hooters." The text explains that the tournament kicks off today, and no doubt you have "Basketball Fever," so all you have to do is register and the restaurant will send you a "Doctor's Note" so you can take the day off work and get a free appetizer today or tomorrow. There is also a fairly small graphic of an owl dressed as a male physician, with a white coat over a tie and a stethoscope--for some reason, the owl is dressed in business clothes, rather than a sexual outfit.
When you register, you receive an "Official Doctors Note" that reads like this:
|To Whom It May Concern:
This note confirms that Sandy Summers was recently evaluated by Nurse Ashleigh, and has been diagnosed with Basketball Fever. As this illness is highly contagious, please excuse Sandy Summers from work on Thu, March 17 - Fri, March 18, 2011 while they are being treated in our professional care.
Isn't that cool? Not only did the Truth's executive director get an excuse to miss work on March 17 and 18, but as she pointed out in a quick call from her local Hooters, in this "Note" it seems that "Nurse Ashleigh" is also the "doctor" and that she is capable of "evaluating" and "prescribing" for patients! Or maybe the owl just has trouble writing, since he lacks fingers. Anyway, registrants also receive an appetizer coupon, which contains a "prescription" for free cheese sticks, onion rings, or fried pickles--which are likely to help you stay healthy in the same way as the cuisine at Arizona's Heart Attack Grill does.
Naughty nurse Ashleigh also stars, dressed the same way, in the television commercial. In that one, we first see Vitale in what seems to be an ED exam area, dribbling a basketball and struggling with a couple male caregivers--one is a white-coated physician and the other, in blue scrubs, seems to be a nurse. The physician emerges from the area to tell the waiting Ashleigh that Vitale has "got some sort of fever." She grins at the camera, and assures us, "I got this." She quickly scribbles something on what seems to be a prescription pad on the physician's clipboard, tears the slip off, enters the exam room, and draws the curtain closed. Just as the physician peers in, Vitale emerges with the prescription, exclaims "Awesome, baby!" and walks away. Ashleigh follows, tossing the basketball back to the male nurse who has followed her out of the exam area. The physician and the nurse look, puzzled, in the direction Ashleigh and Vitale went. Then we hear Ashleigh in voiceover:
This spring when you get basketball fever, don't forget to go to Hooters.com and download the 'Doctor's Note' for a free appetizer, and play hooky with us on March 17 and 18. And tell 'em Nurse Ashleigh sent you!
As she is saying this, we see Vitale enjoying a Hooters experience. At the end, he stands surrounded by Hooters women and hangers-on and offers this solution to the health care crisis:
Hooters! It's the cure, baby!
We appreciate the creativity in this promotion--who but Hooters would have thought to make a naughty nurse the centerpiece of a mock health crisis designed to sell a product to men?! We also noticed the fully dressed male nurse, which at least suggests that not all nurses are females, though he does nothing but look baffled and catch the basketball Ashleigh tossed. And the suggestions that it is nurse Ashleigh who writes prescriptions and cures a condition that leaves a physician baffled are just super.
After three weeks of phone calls and voice messages to Hooters executives, we finally connected with Hooters Vice President of Marketing Mike McNeil (right). During our conversation, Mike said the Hooky Day ad was his idea and that he could not withdraw it for this year, since college basketball season was already about over. He also said that while he understood what we were saying, the ad was a "joke" that was unlikely to affect how anyone really thought about nursing. We explained that decades of relentless naughty nurse images did indeed affect real world decisions, including those made about funding for nursing practice, education, research and residencies. Mike said he'd consider a different ad campaign for 2012, but declined to make any promises and actually suggested that he would not be persuaded.
But if Virginia Commonwealth can make the Final Four, we can overcome the naughty nurse stereotype. The Hooters Hooky Day campaign is not the most sexualized nursing imagery we've seen, but it is still exploits the naughty stereotype that undermines real nurses' claims to the resources and respect they need. It's "just a joke," but "jokes" about disempowered groups are one of the most powerful ways bigotry is spread, which is why jokes about protected groups can subject employers to liability. The naughty stereotype, repeated countless times all over the world, reinforces the idea that nursing is all about female sexuality rather than advanced skills. That makes it harder for real nurses to save and improve lives, including the lives of those who may overindulge on occasions like Hooky Day, or St. Patrick's Day, which just happens to be the same day.
Please ask Hooters to try to sell its products without the naughty nurse. And tell them Nurse Sandy sent you!
Please click here to send a letter to Hooters executives to ask them to end their naughty nurse commercials. It'll just take a minute. Thank you!
After you've emailed your letter by clicking on the link above, please take a moment and also snail mail your letter to the address below for a more powerful impact. Thank you!
CEO and President
VP of Marketing
1815 The Exchange Southeast
Atlanta GA 30339