That was the question on many minds over the weekend after the official Facebook page for the Georgia-based restaurant chain posted a disgustingly offensive rape joke in the form of a surreal meme. The photo, which showed up on the page Saturday, featured a young woman in a sexually-suggestive pose, along with the caption: "Exhibit A: The proof that she was asking for it, your Honour."
The post was the topic of much debate on the restaurant's Facebook page, with opinions ranging from the completely outraged to the ridiculously frustrated.
"Some have suggested that they wouldn't be visiting Hooters' again while others took some time to educate the chain on what it would be like if someone who had experienced rape were to happen onto the picture," Jezebel's Mark Shrayber notes. "Among the top comments only one wasn't critical and it simply read 'lOve Hooters.'"
As word of the post spread, many others took to social media to give voice to their frustrations.
Chickfila gets national coverage for comments about gay marriage. Hooters posts a disgusting rape joke against women and nothing yet...— Cristy (@StillCristy) May 19, 2014
But now Hooters is claiming that the joke wasn't theirs after all. In the face of the public relations crisis, Hooters posted statements on both Facebook and Twitter saying their profile had been compromised.
Hi all. Our apologies. Our @facebook page has been compromised. Please be patient while we work to resolve this issue & regain access.— Hooters (@Hooters) May 17, 2014
So what's really going on here? Under close examination, the original post, which linked to an outside site, did seem over-the-top, even for a chain that has become synonomous with sleaze — and fairly tasty hot wings. And why is "your Honour" spelled with the uncessary Oxford English 'u'? While this isn't the first time a company has cried "hack" after an embarassing social media disaster, it's certainly possible the chain really was the victim of an offensive spam attack.
Not surprisingly, some people remain unconvinced by the company's explanation.
@Hooters "Compromised"? Is that what the kids are calling "making a rape joke" these days? :::MASSIVE EYEROLL:::— Annie Sisk (@AnnieSisk) May 18, 2014
Hey companies (Hooters, I am looking at you). "Our page was hacked" is the "dog ate my homework" of the digital... http://t.co/7UwCmvfCJQ— Barry T. Smith (@InkTankStudios) May 19, 2014
The broader takeaway from this whole debacle, however, may be the way the Internet rallied to the cause. While the question of whether rape jokes can ever be funny is the subject of seemingly never-ending debate among comedians, this kind of overtly offensive humor is not only decidedly unfunny, it also contributes to the dual cultural phenomenons of rape culture and slut-shaming. The all-out social media blitz that occurred in the wake of the Hooters post is proof that even among the boobs-and-wings crowd, this type of misogeny and sexism is recognized as crossing a very clear line in the proverbial sand.
Here's the real Exhibit A, folks: Rape is not funny. Pass it on.