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Hot pants & slut shaming. Would you like a cardi with that?

Girls on Show

by LUCY ORMONDE

When I went out on Saturday night, I took a cardigan. And a jacket. And if I owned a scarf that matched my outfit, I would have taken that too. I’m sensible like that.

Anyway, I’m walking down the streets of the city and I’d be lying if I told you I didn’t roll my eyes when my girlfriends and I were confronted by girls walking along the street who, unlike us, weren’t dressed for the weather.

Skirts are short, heels are high, boobs are out, it’s winter and THERE ARE NO JACKETS. A lot of them looked totally rad. A lot of them looked….well, cold.

Which brings us to this…

Last week, A Current Affair ran a story called “Girls on Show”. If you’ve been watching Channel 9’s Olympics coverage, chances are you saw the promo. If you didn’t see it, picture close-up shots of teenage and twenty-something women wearing very little clothing and heels so high they could barely walk, on the streets of Sydney/Melbourne/Brisbane/every other place ever. The  story was about the “latest fashion trend” of women hitting the town and “basically leaving their clothes at home”.

The video is now the most viewed and most commented on A Current Affair’s website.

“Aussie girls in their teens and on display. These young women are out on the town, barely old enough to drink, and exposing skin to get access to clubs in a growing trend that will shock parents.”

“It’s just the fashion these days”
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That was the premise of the 5-minute segment which saw the reporter, Alison Piotrowski, take to the streets of Sydney’s Kings Cross to talk to women about what they were wearing and why. (Unfortunately we’re not able to embed the video here on MM but if you’re interested, you can view it here.)

The answers from the girls (whose faces were blurred to protect their privacy) went something like: “People just dress the way they think is going to attract the most attention” and “When you drink, you don’t need coats.”

The overall consensus seemed to be: “It’s just the fashion these days“.

Women dressing in skimpy clothing when they are off to a bar or a club is nothing new. Hell, the mini skirt was invented in the ’60s. And despite the aforementioned eye rolling my behalf, it probably wasn’t long ago that I was getting winter and summer confused and walking out of the house without a jacket and a skirt that was a little bit shorter than it should have been. Whoops.

Media executive and former magazine editor Ita Buttrose and Australia’s Next Top Model judge, Charlotte Dawson were shown footage of the young women and their clothes and A Current Affair asked for their opinions on the look.

Neither were impressed. Ita said:

Ita Buttrose

“When you’re a girl, and a young woman, you have to think about what sort of image you’re presenting. And image is what it’s all about, really. Do you want to look like a hooker? Or do you want to look like a desirable young woman?”

“Men might flirt with the tart, they might have sex with the tart, but it’s often not the tart who they take home to meet their mother.”

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But it was TV personality Charlotte Dawson’s comments that have created the biggest storm:

Charlotte Dawson

 

“These girls are out for a good time.”

“I hate to say it but some of the girls selling themselves on the street are much more tastefully dressed than these young ladies.”

“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.”

Some people were outraged by this, accusing Charlotte of “slut shaming” – which is where women are ‘shamed for enjoying sex’. [note: was someone having sex? did we miss that part?]

In response came this post called “Slutty McSlut Sluts won’t find themselves husbands and then what will they do?” from the blog, The News With Nipples:

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.

The news with nipples.

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.

Dawson then goes into “mothering, nurturing” mode, which the rest of us know as slut-shaming and victim-blaming mode.

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 underage.

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Some people with a similar view have aggressively targeted Charlotte on Twitter, insisting she insinuated a link between sexual assault and the clothes women wear – something she strenuously denies.

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Ouch. And that’s the beginning of it. It gets much, much nastier but we weren’t comfortable publishing much of it.

This, from Mamamia’s publisher Mia Freedman:

“After much discussion about this in the office, it’s been fascinating to see what a difficult issue it is to comment on. We would never support any link between what a woman wears and how she is treated…..but is that naive?

Fact: There is no excuse for sexual assault ever, the end. There aren’t even mitigating factors.

But there’s another issue at play here, far less extreme than assault. The KIND of attention you receive from others can be influenced by how you dress, however  – and I’m talking about the reaction from your own sex as well as the opposite sex.

And to insist it’s not is disengenuous at best.

Just like a guy walking down the street with no shirt on will elicit a different reaction to one wearing a tux, so a girl dressed in a trakky daks and ugg boots will create a different reaction to one wearing a dress that could double as a belt.”

So do you think Charlotte and Ita’s comments were too harsh or was the reaction to them OTT? Are girls wearing less than they used to or has it always been this way?


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