KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Women who choose to work at “breastaurants” may help provide a fun dinner experience for their guests, but a new study finds that the job raises a woman’s risk of suffering from anxiety and other mental health issues.
Researchers at the University of Tennessee surveyed 252 female servers, aged 18 to 66, some of whom worked at restaurants at which the employee dress code for women entailed being scantily-clad (e.g., Hooters and Twin Peaks).
The survey revealed toxic outcomes for workers at the so-called “breastaurants,” including female employees feeling less power and control in their working capacity. Consequently they may experience greater anxiety and higher levels of disordered eating.
While previous research had shown that many servers experience an abundance of negative emotions, including anxiety, sadness, degradation, anger, insecurity, guilt, and confusion, little research had been specifically done on the effects of objectification on staff.
“Our study extends current research by investigating how [these restaurants] may be associated with mental health outcomes beyond depression,” explains lead author Dawn Symanski, a professor of psychology, in a university news release.
While seemingly innocuous, objectification can adversely affect a server’s health in that she may take drastic measures to maintain an attractive appearance.
Objectification of women occurs in other sectors as well, but Symanski decided to look at restaurants because they are among the fastest-growing industries in the U.S.
As far as clinical solutions are concerned, the first step is identifying the problem.
“Psychologists might help their clients explore ways they might alter their work situation, change the internalized effects of working in that type of environment, and gain more power and control through strategies such as setting boundaries and creating psychological and physical distance to resist objectification,” the study’s authors state.
If they still must work at their current establishment, breastaurant workers can combat objectification by participating in movements that promote empowerment— e.g., women’s and workers’ rights organizations — the authors argue.
The study’s findings were published in the journal Psychology of Women Quarterly.