No, one of these things is not like the other

For the benefit of the obtuse Andrew Bolt (He Who Shall Not Be Linked)

Incident 1: Sam Newman, as part of The Footy Show on broadcast TV, staple-guns the photo of a woman sports reporter onto the head of a shop dummy wearing a bikini, which he then proceeds to grope in the guise of trying on different outfits.

Incident 2: a burlesque artist at retired politician Bob Hawke’s not-broadcast-on-TV 80th birthday party performs a satirical striptease while wearing a mask of retired politician John Howard, springing from an oversized ballot box to the strains of God Save The Queen, dancing to the accompaniment of Sorry Seems to Be The Hardest Word, that ends by unwrapping herself from the Australian flag to reveal a Stars and Stripes bikini. Nobody else’s hand touches her body.

Bolt engages in a disingenuous display of Deliberately Not Getting It in the guise of outrage at sexism and double standards:

Hur, hur, hur. That’ll cut Howard down to size, turning him into just a girl. Into just a bimbo.

Because that was the joke, right: Howard was demeaned, because being a woman is demeaning. Even better, Howard’s Labor haters – or at least the men – could at last now really do him over, at least in their fervid minds.

Wotta maroon. Firstly, the outrage at Newman’s “skit” was not about Caroline Wilson being demeaned by being shown simply as a woman in a bikini, as “just a bimbo” (does that apply to all women in bikinis, Bolta?). It was about being represented by a plastic shop dummy (why not a mask on a real woman?), the violent imagery of having her photo staple-gunned to the plastic shop dummy (I guess that’s why no real woman then) and then Newman having his hands touching the breasts and crotch of the plastic shop dummy while trying the outfits on it (again, I guess that’s why they didn’t put a mask on a real woman). It was about a textbook example of objectification, literally treating Caroline Wilson as a thing rather than as a person. Even the rationale for the skit, that apparently her fashion sense was lacking, is a demeaning objectification – as if whether Sam Newman finds the way she decorates her body sexually appealing is the most important thing about a woman doing a sports report.

Secondly, the joke in Gypsy Woods’ burlesque performance (which she has been doing as part of her regular cabaret shows for several years now) is not that Howard is secretly a bikini bimbo, the joke is about Howard having the Stars and Stripes closer to his heart than the Australian flag, with a lot more layers to the representation as well.

The burlesque artist previously performed a similar show in Sydney two years ago, the night before Mr Howard’s election loss, in which a fellow stripper posing as former US president George Bush also featured. (Source The Age)

The George Bush performer was wearing a camouflage-material bikini in that routine, for those interested in the subtext.

Just because it’s mockery in both cases doesn’t make them identical. Mockery is part of the job description for politicians putting their policies before the public. Sports reporters simply reporting the day’s sports news are in a very different position, and pretending otherwise is typical Bolta obfuscation.

There couldn’t be a less objectifying rationale for what Gypsy Woods is doing than these very political aspects of John Howard’s character – it’s all about his actual personality and political record, where Howard’s obsequious kowtowing to Blair in Britain and Bush in the USA alongside his penchant for an array of patriotic tracksuits that would put Imelda Marcos’ shoe collection to shame in his daily morning photo-ops walks makes a costume using patriotic symbols a relevant satirical critique of Howard’s regularly documented behaviour.

each picture below is linked to the source document

John Howard in a Socceroos tracksuit

John Howard in a Wallabies tracksuit

Two radio hosts satirise John Howard's patriotic tracksuits by turning up to one of his walks wearing green and gold tracksuits as well

John Howard in a patriotic tracksuit being confronted by The Chaser

Another day, another patriotic tracksuit

Howard shakes hands with a Big Brother contestant while wearing another patriotic tracksuit

Even his birthday suit is a patriotic tracksuit

Gypsy Woods (in a John Howard mask) opens her wraparound Australian flag to reveal a Stars and Stripes bikini

But Bolta wants to play smoke and mirrors and pretend it’s all just about double standards regarding representations of two bodies topped with other people’s heads while wearing bikinis. Don’t fall for it. Sam Newman didn’t get in trouble just because of a bikini – there’s nothing wrong with women wearing bikinis, even when they’re impersonating politicians. There’s a whole pile of very wrong with representing a person as a nearly naked plastic dummy that can be suggestively groped with impunity because she can’t move and she can’t speak.

Categories: gender & feminism, media, Politics

Tags: , ,

6 replies

  1. Andrew. Vomit. Only response I can muster.

  2. What I keep coming back to is this line:

    Even better, Howard’s Labor haters – or at least the men – could at last now really do him over, at least in their fervid minds.

    Is there any more obvious an illustration of sexual penetration as an expression of domination and scorn than the phrase “do him/her over”, and isn’t it disturbing how that’s the first interpretation that Bolt leaps to when he sees a woman’s body in a bikini?

  3. Yes…that leapt out at me too tigtog: that a woman in a bikini was, in his mind, considered to be *by the very fact of being female and in a bikini* a sexual object to ‘do over’. Consent/participation is made completely irrelevant: woman in bikini/stripper: men can do what they want to ‘it’. Ugh.

  4. I love football.
    Real football, not the kind played in the east.
    Yeah I know its an aggressive male dominated sport etc, dammit.
    I claim socialisation as a mitigating cause, please be merciful.
    So it annoys me intensely that so many of the footy shows on teev are, to put it mildly, crap.
    I would like to watch “The Footy Show” but most of it disgusts me. The possible exception is when they name the team lists, thats inoffensive.
    I’ve tried watching for the reasonable bits and zapping with the remote to elsewhere when anything offensive comes on, eg Sam, Eddy, most commentators and players most of the time, even the audience is suss.
    But that left about 2-3 minutes of viewing, mostly the team lists..
    So I haven’t bothered for several years.

  5. I prefer the Dolly Downer drag act in ‘Keating! The Opera!’

  6. Considering the Keating Opera also came from lefty Keating supporters, and played to a similar audience, maybe it’s time for Playboy to do some exclusive pics on Liberal pollies. They’ve clearly got an eager audience that’d be willing to pay for it.

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