In fantastic PR for swimwear brands everywhere, an Australian businessman has this week gone viral after penning an impassioned plea to Gold Coast mayor Tom Tate, urging him to consider banning G-string bikinis.
“At a local event where our musicians were playing, one young lady in particular was walking on the footpath on the main road and had the tiniest triangle in front and was as close to naked as anyone could be,” wrote Gold Coast local Ian Grace.
“You could see she was looking almost defiantly at people as they approached, almost daring them to say something. There’s something very wrong here.
“While any man would enjoy ‘the view’, I believe women are very much demeaning and cheapening themselves, portraying themselves as sex objects, then decrying it when men see them that way.”
Yikes. If it walks like “she’s asking for it” and talks like “she’s asking for it” …
But wait. There’s more.
Mr Grace, who was named the 2022 Gold Coast Volunteer of the Year, went on to explain how he’d been fiendishly tricked by the revelation that those same women who were wearing bikinis on the beach were also allowed to exist in other places – and this might be upsetting to some readers – the workplace.
“Innocently I admired a shapely bare bum on the beach, and was taken aback and felt uncomfortable when that same young lady was later serving me coffee,” he penned.
“It also goes far from the beach and bikinis, when you look at the ‘crevice filler’ outfits women wear, whether exercising or just out and about. When walking behind women with these skin-tight outfits, you can see every single movement of each buttock – a pleasant view, but is this not the wrong message?”
Setting aside for a moment the remarkable ability of Mr Grace (and his vocal online supporters) to read coded messages woven into Lycra, the issue has predictably blown up, with public opinion divided on the latest “debate” about women’s right to exist in public spaces.
And while the rambling views of ageing men shouldn’t, in my opinion, be given more airtime than they already are in this country, it’s important to investigate the very real danger lurking within debates like this.
The policing of women’s bodies is nothing new. And while I can already hear the predictable accusations of “woke over-reaction” that will be thrown at me for saying this, it bears highlighting: the string connecting violence against women to questions of whether what they wear is “respectable” enough for men’s standards is one woven from decades of grim evidence.
Between 1935 and the early 1960s, the media-coined “bikini wars” played out across beaches in NSW, with several women arrested for flouting the Local Government Ordinance No. 52 (1935), which stipulated strict rules about how much of a body need be covered up.
More recently, in 2019, an Australian teacher was investigated for appearing to tell her pupils a rape victim’s choice of clothing is partly responsible for assault.
Students claimed the teacher at Swansea High School in New South Wales told a class: “All men have to fight their urges every day not to sexually assault or abuse (women).”
Elsewhere, the consequences of policing women’s bodies and clothing are much more extreme.
In July 2021, a teenage girl in India was reportedly killed by her next of kin for wearing a pair of jeans. Neha Paswan, from the Savreji Kharg village of Deoria district in UP, was reportedly beaten to death by her grandfather and uncles because of her choice of western attire for a traditional ritual at her home.
In September 2022, an Iranian woman died from injuries sustained during her arrest in Tehran by the regime’s “morality police” after allegedly not complying with hijab regulations.
Ironically, many of the conservative voices online here in Australia opposing the wearing of G-string bikinis are the same types likely to decry other cultures’ stringent dress rules for women.
It’s not a stretch to hypothesise that the Venn diagram of people outraged by skimpy swimwear and those who also feel “uncomfortable” about burkinis is pretty close to a circle.
Because it’s not about the G-string or the burqua. It’s about the belief that women’s innate worth is something that can only be bestowed upon them by men, who are powerless to resist the animal urges that overcome them when presented with bare flesh.
This last point is also incredibly demeaning to men, while also absolving them of any accountability over their actions, something several commenters have pointed out online.
Others have agreed with Mr Grace’s comments, including radio host and The Project outrage-bait Steve Price, who said Monday he also sometimes felt “uncomfortable” seeing young girls on the beach in revealing swimwear, though called Mr Grace’s opinions about activewear and revealing work attire “a bit weird”.
Online, opposition to skimpy swimwear has ranged from prudish to outright bizarre, with one commentator suggesting it’s dangerous for children to be exposed to the sight of women’s bums.
“I understand why women feel they have the right to wear what they want to because we do,” wrote one commenter. “However, as a mother of three girls I think there is a fine line between revealing too much and being tasteful when it comes to fashion.
“Our children see this and what are they to think? Especially young children who may have not even been exposed to any form of nudity in their own home. Parents/ Families have the right to raise their children & protect them without exposing them to nudity. Ask Child Protection Services what they think of this.”
Sorry – what?
Child Services – while not having publicly commented on the issue – is, I am sure, fairly tied up dealing with the unrelenting stream of family violence cases that plague our nation.
Cases overwhelmingly perpetrated, incidentally, by men who – you guessed it – believe they have a right to dictate what women do, wear and say.
Bek Day is a freelance writer.