God, Breasts, and College: An Intersection of Contradictions

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If you have never heard of the Hooters restaurant chain, it is where sub-par food and overt sexual exploitation come together for “family-friendly fun.” The waitresses wear revealing clothing and serve wings and other chain restaurant Americana food. While this “breastaurant” has always been associated with controversy, it came to the forefront of the news when Abilene Christian University sent a message to students discouraging them from applying to a Hooters that is opening in their town.

While not actively banning students from applying, the private university affiliated with the Churches of Christ has a code of conduct saying students are supposed to follow the “boundaries of Christian behavior.” The city of Abilene has three Christian universities. ACU is the only institution to make a formal statement about the restaurant.

But what is the defining line for Christian behavior? Can students go to the beach and take a selfie for Instagram in bathing suits? This seems to be connected to the idea of a public display of the female form. Also, does this affect the dress code for students outside of the university? The rules of modesty put in the Bible already seem violated constantly. The Bible defines modesty to exclude the wearing of pearls, yet many women can be seen wearing them to church. The Bible also seems to say that the clothes should not interpret how you view someone, that you should see everyone as God’s children and the clothes they wear does not deter or change that.

What if the argument is about the commodification of the female form? But Jesus did not care if a woman made money through her form. This is not to equivocate prostitution or immoral behavior to working as a waitress in Hooters. But it is to say that if Jesus had no problem with what would be considered an extreme form of immoral behavior, why does serving food become the spiritual version of crossing the Rubicon? It costs over $45,000 to attend ACU. It would make more sense to help students get jobs and then provide spiritual counseling or advice to those that feel conflicted. Or to offer advice is someone was conflicted about applying.

The argument that makes the most sense is the respect of women. “Treat older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity.” But ACU has not done enough to use the focus of respecting God’s creations as the fundamental reason to not support their students working at Hooters. This is not to say that Hooters is some champion of rights. But it does raise the issue of using Christianity as a theological basis for Women’s Rights. The knee-jerk reaction to using modesty reproduces the dangerous notion of women as objects, rather than actors. They don’t need just to be protected from exploitation but empowered.

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