Industry at odds with efforts to end men's violence against women
Campaigns Manager Caitlin Roper was asked to comment on the survival of the "skimpies industry" in a post #METOO era during which women have increasingly testified to and called for an end to sexual objectification and harassment.
The inherently misogynistic skimpies industry is built on the practise of dressing female bar attendants and wait staff in bikinis and lingerie to serve as sexual entertainment for male customers.
Caitlin told ABC News:
The industry has largely managed to escape criticism post #MeToo because those with a financial interest in it deliberately obscure the power dynamics involved by framing it as a matter of women’s choices. Industry advocates claim women are ‘empowered’ by it, though in reality, sexual objectification disempowers women.
Some women might even say they feel empowered, but it doesn’t work like that. You don’t get power from being downgraded to the status of sexual object for someone else’s enjoyment and use. Objectification is at odds with actual empowerment. If you ask these women about their experiences a few years later, they often feel very differently.
Framing the issue as being about women’s choice or so-called empowerment is a tactic. It keeps the focus on the women rather than those who are profiting behind the scenes. It means we’re not considering the choices of men who provide the demand, and who choose to objectify women.
The industry is incompatible with gender equality. There’s an inherent power disparity when topless or near-naked women are employed as entertainment for fully clothed men, paid to flirt and boost men’s egos. It’s old school sexism, and fuels a culture of sexual harassment.
Documented harms to women
There is research which documents the psychological toll on women who work in sexual entertainment venues where sexual objectification is endorsed. These women describe sexual harassment, unwanted lewd comments and sexual advances, and report feeling anxious, depressed and degraded. This isn’t empowering, it’s doing damage.
And we know from research that women report increased harassment, violence and abuse in areas in close proximity to sexual entertainment venues, which essentially create “no go” zones for women.
When women’s objectified bodies are treated as entertainment for men, this harms women as a whole, whether or not they choose to participate. We have to consider harm more broadly. These harms don’t magically disappear just because a few women are making money.
We also know that the sexual objectification of women and male sexual entitlement are at the root of men’s violence against women. The skimpy industry is premised on both of these, and undermines wider efforts to address violence against women. There is no justification for this industry.
Read the full article here.
The piece focuses on the prevailing West Australian skimpies industry, which we've long highlighted the harms of and campaigned against.
July 2023 Skimpies promo - The Rec Bar, Fremantle (Source: Facebook)
For example, we campaigned to block a Perth publican's application to have topless "skimpies" waitresses in his northern suburbs pub.
We also asked Diggers and Dealers - an annual mining conference held in the WA town of Kalgoorlie - if they endorsed the use of their name by local pubs for skimpy promos.
In recent years the West Australian mining industry has been rocked by female employees' testimonies of rape and other forms of sexual assault, and sexual harassment by male colleagues on job sites.