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Boobs, booze and Muslim feminists

  • 03 November 2009

We all know this image: A young, orange-tinted woman, dressed in a pale satin ribbon, teeters drunkenly in soaring heels. She is eating chips, smearing the sauce on her knuckles, and is occasionally yelling obscenities at her boyfriend. We laugh at her, but forgive her, because, well, it's been a long day of drinking at the races. Her boyfriend is just as drunk, and is urinating at a tram stop. But for some reason we don't really notice him.

Although her behaviour indicates she'd rather be wearing thongs and jeans, she feels compelled to dress like a sexual Christmas tree for the Spring Carnival. This compulsion probably has a number of roots, one being an earnest desire to be desired. Another more cynical reason is that her desire to be desired on the terms of the depth of her cleavage is nominated by the designs of the men in her society, and upheld by the women.

Weeks ago, some friends were coming to pick me up to take me to the Muslim festival of Eid in Broadmeadows. One called to remind me to wear something loose and modest. I rifled through my wardrobe, and realised how difficult it is for me to dress modestly, actually modestly, without looking like a loaf of bread. I settled on a long floral dress from the late '60s, which once belonged to my Aunty, and waited in my living room.

To its credit, the Spring Carnival is an excuse for everyone to dress and behave like a celebrity (regardless of what indiscretions this might entail). Everyone gets dressed up, then they get drunk and fall over. This in itself isn't wrong. There are always a few amazing outfits, and a good many awful ones. And some that inspire disgust.

For me, the disgust is not that of a woman's body dressed in a tasteless outfit. What's disgusting is that even in this day, a woman's success, and in many cases her only public interest, is determined by the vulgarity of her outfit, and the social position of her male partner.

Even other women who are not dressed quite so tastelessly are essentially present to facilitate their men; to consolidate their success not only in business and wealth, but also in acquiring attractive female possessions.

In this context, women are not celebrated, but objectified. Australian sporting events are celebrations of boobs and booze. They overlook