Another sexist image sent to us by a WAAC member from again, you guessed it, Westfield Belconnen. As we’ve noted before, our chief problem is not with the right of a retailer to advertise their product; taste; offence; the personal history or consciousness of the model; the empty concept of ‘empowerment’ as it is used in relation to women’s ‘choices’; or any of the other distortions of the argument that gets thrown women’s way when we identify and complain about images that objectify women. Our problem is that these images (sure, which suck) are displayed in full view of all and sundry down the mall.
So, here is some amplification of the notes made on the picture, above.
- Yes, Honey Birdette is a sex shop, and yes, it is endorsed by Westfield because HB is an appropriate leaseholder in the Belconnen mall — and everywhere else Westfield. Westfield keeps telling us so. Westfield and Honey Birdette sell dildos, vibrators, harnesses, handcuffs, whips and other bondage gear, as well as the convoluted get-up we see here, which will set you back $270. Yes, $270. How do you even put it on, we ask? Meh, who cares — you’ve got better things to do, we’re sure, such as fly a helicopter. And a vibrator will cost you up to $200. In case your hand is no longer up to the task.
- Where is she? She’s on a rooftop. In her undies. How do we know? We went and watched their video. It’s hilarious. Seriously, go and watch it. It will make you lol. There’s two women porning around a helicopter (in their undies), porning around on a red Ferrari (how cliched, and in their undies), porning around on a pool-bed-thing (surely, you go in the pool in your undies ONLY IF YOU FORGOT YOUR BATHERS, right, and no-one’s looking? And let’s face it, we’ve all been there … but only in our UNDIES), porning their boobs into each other (in their undies), and holding hands (in their undies) cos men like girl-on-girl action (cos it’s all about men, see, and providing heteronormative satisfaction to said men). Seems like we’re missing all the porno fun, sisters, on account of being fat and old and hairy and ugly. Or something.
- Rings. Now we get into the proper bondage analysis instead of just being witty, funny, and ironic. Rings are used in sado-masochism (trendily called ‘BDSM’ these days, but we prefer the more old-fashioned and honest ‘sado-masochism’) to hook handcuffs into. How do we know this? We know because the kind and knowledgeable shop-help at Honey Birdette at Westfield Belconnen explained to us how it all works in relation to the harnesses they sell (and that she was wearing over her lovely white shirt — which just seemed weird). OK, so maybe some of that was ironic. Quite ironic, indeed.
- Suspenders. Suspenders are a marker of ‘femininity’, an idea created to endorse a gender hierarchy that is used to brand women into the sex class ‘female’ and in which women are at the bottom. Other culturally imposed markers of femininity include make-up, dresses, long hair, you get the sexist picture. But branding someone as ‘feminine’ also encompasses her personal qualities, which are meant include passivity, attractiveness, surrender, sensuality, mystery, vulnerability, flirtatiousness. Women who fall outside of this stereotyped version of womanhood are punished. Suspenders, therefore, are not just suspenders — they encode an abundance of tropes, motifs, themes, and ideas about women that are culturally endorsed and that keep women from being seen as whole human persons. And, as a general rule, women no longer wear suspenders, in case no-one’s noticed. At least, not in the following situations: at work, in the coffee shop, at a sporting event, when shopping or doing chores, when down the pub, when riding a bicycle, and not even, mostly, when about to get it on with someone. We also doubt that women would typically wear suspenders when on helicopter operations (goodness, think about the updraft!), when driving a motor car, when going for a dip in the pool, or when hanging about on a hotel rooftop. Just sayin’.
- Straps. More proper sado-masochism analysis, so hold on. Straps, ropes, belts, leashes, cords, whatever, are used to bind and therefore control someone in bondage; sexually, of course, in this instance, and in just about all instances the someone is a woman. Hey, express yourself sexually and all in the privacy of your own bedroom — as opposed to the public environment of the mall — but at least be intellectually honest and admit that this communicates a symbolic meaning that this woman (and by extension all women: the personal is political, remember, sisters?) should be bound and controlled … literally as well as metaphorically.
- Satin and lace. Nothing inherently wrong with a type of fabric or a style of weaving, but when you put it all together with straps, rings, and suspenders, we are looking at some general fetish gear in the mall-facing shop windows at Westfield Belconnen. Other fetish materials include leather and latex. You can find them inside Honey Birdette 🙂
- Where are her pubes? Gosh, so much is being written nowadays about the deforested islands that have become women’s Venus mounds. Heather Brunskell-Evans does a nice job of explaining how porn has permeated almost every aspect of our lives today, including the removal of body hair and how the act of doing so infantalises women and can be connected to child porn. So this is not an insignificant, meaningless phenomenon. But as for pubes, well, each to their own, but why not reclaim our womanhood/adulthood, and “BE HAIR, NOW!” as Caitlan Moran suggests?
- And btw, this image has soooo been photoshopped. If you watch the hilarious, heteronormative video that accompanies this range of … whatever you call it … you can see that, in comparison to the live video, this woman’s amazing waistline is a little … ‘engineered’ … on the poster. That is not a criticism of the woman, btw — it is a criticism of what patricarchal, capitalist systems do to women to make women ‘acceptable’.
Thank you for recognising that this is a FEM-IN-IST analysis.
Westfield Belconnen and Honey Birdette, you’ve been WAAC’d.