A Slice of Life

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19 Apr 16 I don’t want to appear to be a misogynist but…

julia_gillard_cleavage Then Prime Minister Julia Gillard in Parliament wearing a low cut blouse. Quite conservative as low cut blouses go and pretty much standard attire for many women in government and corporate roles, and in general. Despite this, Australian columnist Grace Collier sparked the a controversy after telling a panel on Australia’s ABC Radio National that Gillard should show less skin in the workplace.

“I don’t think it’s appropriate for a Prime Minister to be showing her cleavage in parliament,” Collier said. “It’s not something I want to see. In my opinion as an industrial relations consultant, it is inappropriate to be in parliament, it is disrespectful to yourself and to the Australian community and to the parliament to present yourself in a manner that is unprofessional.”
source: Huffington Post


Collier’s comments frustrated blogger Jennifer Wilson, who suggested that women tweet images of their breasts, along with the hashtag #ConvoyOfCleavage, in the hope that the photos would “stamp out this irrational horror of the female breast” through “immersion therapy.”

This could be dismissed as another instance of conservative misogyny aimed at destabilising Gillard’s leadership, and mostly it should be, but nevertheless, it does raise a valid concern.

Why does female couture have to emphasize female sexuality? Most female fashion statements have sexuality at their core. Sexuality was never a key element of Julia Julia Gillard Women's Weekly CoverGillard’s persona, but she still felt compelled to don makeup and ‘feminine’ fashion statements.

Is it possible that Gillard’s fashion statements and the #ConvoyofCleavage campaign, rather than being empowering and anti mysogynist are actually achieving the precise opposite? Women are constantly being barraged with media which promotes the ideas that their appearance and attractiveness is paramount. Women are told to flaunt their assets, yet these assets are almost always of the physical variety. If a male parliamentarian tuned up for work showing most of their chest, they would be discreetly asked to change into something more appropriate. Men are also encouraged to flaunt their assets, but male assets tend to be qualities like intelligence, determination, vision etc. The male standard of the standard dark suit does exactly that; everyone dresses identically to allow more substantial qualities to come to the fore.

By dressing to emphasize sexuality, women are accepting the status quo. Female fashion generally makes this statement: “My main purpose in life is to be attractive to the opposite sex and this is my main value as a person.” As long as women fall for this ploy, any hope of real equality will remain illusory.

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