'Skimpies' night: the Western Australia pub tradition that refuses to die

By Calla Wahlquist for The Guardian

A failed application to allow topless waitresses at a suburban pub in Perth has reignited debate over Western Australia’s culture of “skimpy” barmaids.

Skimpy barmaids, or just “skimpies,” refers to female bar staff who wear a bikini or lingerie.

But the practice has faced a challenge in recent weeks when grassroots campaigners Collective Shout, which campaigns broadly against using the objectification and sexualisation of women and girls to sell products, likened it to prostitution and linked the treatment of women as a form of entertainment to increased sexual violence and violence against women.

A spokeswoman for Collective Shout WA, Caitlin Roper, said stripclubs or topless bars and bars that had skimpies relied on the sexual objectification of women, and both could be seen as fostering gender inequality.

Curtin University’s Prof Donna Chung says her concern is not with skimpies themselves but the “highly sexist” culture they represent.

“Pubs have traditionally been quite male-dominated places anyway where women have been quite ostracised,” she says. “Even if women attended these places as a customer, they feel objectified by virtue of being in that sort of place where women in their swimsuits are wandering around serving drinks.”

Chung says skimpies bars adhere to outdated rhetoric around mining or working towns which assumes that men, either single or away from their families, need some form of sexual entertainment. That doesn’t really stack up in an age of internet porn and Netflix, she says, indicating there is a broader underlying culture built up around objectifying women.

Read the full article on The Guardian website here

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