A Current Affair had a moral panic last night. Young women! Dressing like sluts! They won’t get husbands! Oh noes!
The segment is called “Girls on show”:
Aussie girls in their teens and on display. Young women exposing skin to get access to clubs and the growing trend that will shock parents.
(Note: there is no mention in the story of young women getting into clubs. The whole thing is “look at these sluts, they won’t find husbands dressed like that, but here’s close-up after close-up of their body parts for your perving pleasure”. And the reporter, Alison Piotrowski, mentions the “campaign to cover up” twice, without giving any info whatsoever about an actual campaign.)
You can see it on the ACA website. Be warned: it’s difficult to watch. Not because it’s shocking, but because it is so completely and utterly stupid.
The most disappointing part of the segment is Ita Buttrose. Oh Ita, when did you become June Dally-Watkins?:
Piotrowski: Ita says if young women are dressing like this to find a husband, then it just won’t work.
Buttrose: They might flirt with the tart, they might try have sex with the tart, but it’s often not the tart that they take home to meet their mother.
The faces of the young women are blurred, and the intro suggests they’re getting into clubs by showing some skin, so they’re underaged. How many 15, 16 and 17 year-olds do you reckon are looking for husbands? And I hardly think young women wear hotpants to meet the parents. Sure, as we get older we mock young people for many things – like their hair – but I’m pretty sure they understand situation-appropriate clothing.
But my favourite part of the segment is Charlotte Dawson unwittingly providing an excellent example of hypocrisy:
I hate to say it, but the girls actually selling themselves on the street are much more tastefully dressed than some of these young ladies.
Firstly, Ms Dawson, sex workers are not “selling themselves”. They sell a service, in the same way an osteopath sells a service, and a physiotherapist sells a service. Sex work is just one of the many professions in which you use your body for work. Much like an athlete. Or modelling, which is what Dawson did before hosting reality tv shows. If you actually bought someone when you bought sex, you’d get to keep them.
And secondly, young ladies? Oh, that’s right, because in 2012 a young woman’s only purpose is to act like a lady in order to trick a man into marrying her. Presumably, that man will be one of the many young men from the 1950s wandering around out there.
Oh, and thirdly, how are the outfits worn by the women in ACA’s moral panic any different to this dress you wore to the Logies last year, where – wardrobe malfunction my arse – you held your dress open to show your legs, while bending over to show your cleavage:
Or this boobs-out promo photo? Or this promo photo in pants so tight you can’t sit down? Or when you went on national tv wearing only body paint and some feathers? People in glass houses shouldn’t get undressed with the lights on. Please note, I am not criticising Dawson for what’s she’s wearing. The photos are clearly a bit of fun, and I love a boobs-out photo as much as the next person. What I am criticising is the hypocrisy of her putting young women down for wearing the same clothes she wears.
Now, what other people do with their bodies is their business, and you know I don’t usually comment on this. But when you lecture young women about how the desire for fame makes them do silly things, and the only movement your face can do is blink, your message loses credibility. Do as I say, not as I do, right? [Update: I got into an argument on twitter with Dawson yesterday. Although 'argument' is the wrong word - she just repeatedly plugged her book and refused to address any of the criticism. But she did say that my comment about her face was easy and bitchy. And she's right. It is those things. Her face is none of my business. But I think my point is still valid: if you're going to lecture people about not doing silly things for fame, it's more credible if you're not doing silly things for fame.]
The thing is, their only “evidence” of Slutty McSlut Sluts is just a few groups of women, on what doesn’t even look like a cold night. The reporter, Alison Piotrowski – who, by the way, wears just a bowtie in a photo that makes her look topless for her work twitter account, so there’s some hypocrisy going on there, too – is in a light jacket. The other people on the street in the background are in light jackets. A lot of the “slutty” young women are in long sleeves or tights. It doesn’t look like a particularly cold night. And for all we know, the two girls in hotpants may have been on their way to a Lady Gaga-themed night. Hell, I went out the other night dressed as a vanity unit, and even if I wanted one, I certainly wouldn’t find a husband dressed like that.
Dawson then goes into “mothering, nurturing” mode, which the rest of us know as slut-shaming and victim-blaming mode:
You’d hope that the parents educate their daughters as to what the consequences of dressing up like this could be… Girls, have a great time, you know, dress how you want. Just be really really careful and know the risks you may take.
Is she talking about sexual assault? Because we’ve had that discussion many times: outfits don’t cause rape, rapists cause rape. Or is it still about husbands? Because, young women, you must remember that every single moment you are in public, every single outfit you wear, must be geared towards getting a husband. Even if you’re underaged.