7 February 2024

In 2024, are we still scared of women’s bodies?

| Zoya Patel
Join the conversation
three women on beach with censored tags over their bums

What sort of harm is caused by women wearing clothes that are comfortable to them in public? Photo: Prostick Studio.

I can think of many things to be troubled by in 2024, but women’s bums aren’t one of them.

For one man on the Gold Coast, though, the sight of an almost-bare woman’s bottom is concerning enough to spur him to launch a crusade against women wearing G-string bikini briefs in public, and people are in uproar.

Ian Grace, billed as the ‘founder of a local charity’, wrote to the Gold Coast Mayor expressing his distaste for the clothing choices of young women who had come to not one but TWO of his ‘family events’ in bikini bottoms, exposing too much of their bums for his liking.

Grace’s views are nothing new and seem to be coming from the usual puritanical panic about what he sees as sexualised behaviour.

READ ALSO Steel apologises for $77 million payroll project fiasco, vows government will do better

Speaking to 2GB radio, Grace is quoted as claiming that women’s bottoms, much like their breasts, are inherently erotic, unlike, for example, men in budgie smugglers. Clearly, he hasn’t considered that for some people, almost-naked male bodies are indeed sexual prospects, but that’s what a traditionally heteronormative, misogynistic worldview will do for you.

Grace’s views are ultimately irrelevant (and no bikini ban is forthcoming). But the ferocity of the reaction to his letter – both pro and anti its sentiment – raises the question: why are women’s bodies still subject to social policing in this day and age?

I’ve been wracking my brain trying to understand what sort of harm is caused by women wearing clothes that are comfortable to them in public. My answer remains the same when it comes to G-string bikini briefs as it would be if we were discussing low-cut tops in the workplace or short-shorts at school: any issue with these clothes lies in the eyes and mind of the person taking issue with them, not the wearer.

Grace’s distaste with young women baring their bums is only relevant to him because he is choosing to see them as sexual, and that makes him uncomfortable for reasons that can only be engrained in his personal experience and have nothing to do with the girls in question. No one is forcing him or anyone at his events to stare at anyone’s bodies. The mere existence of women’s bums isn’t going to somehow pollute the minds of the young people present at his charity events. If that’s the concern, he should probably focus his anxiety more on the impact of the internet than a few girls hanging out and enjoying the sunshine.

The fact is, as a society, we code women’s bodies as being sexual objects regardless of what they’re wearing. Whether it’s women on the beach in G-string bikinis, women walking down the street in gym wear, or indeed women wearing clothes deemed to be unfashionable and unflattering – we rank and prioritise women on how sexual (or unattractive), we see them.

READ ALSO Thousands of books make the journey to Lifeline’s first book fair of 2024

I was recently pregnant and, as a result, became the receptacle of everyone’s opinions about pregnant women’s bodies.

One thing I heard a few times was a criticism of pregnant women who wear clothes that expose their belly.

“It’s a bit much,” one person said about another pregnant woman’s penchant for wearing crop tops that stopped well above her seven-month bump. Why was it a bit much? Surely, given how pregnant she was, her body wasn’t too sexual when exposed like that? Was it because she was now not sexual enough to be visibly displaying herself in public? The contradictory nature of the judgment is mind-boggling.

Any woman will tell you there is no neutral state that our bodies can be in where we aren’t likely to cop judgment. We can be too skinny, too fat, too sexy, not sexy enough, too obsessed with our looks, or accused of having ‘let ourselves go’. I’ve seen women cop criticism on the beach for wearing bikinis that are ‘too skimpy’ and then seen Muslim women swimming while wearing burkas criticised for being too covered up. There is simply no way to win.

So to the G-string bikini-wearing young women on the Gold Coast, I say wear your bottoms out with pride if that makes you happy. Unfortunately, you’re likely to shock the Ian Graces of the world, and there is seemingly no way around that – at least you can look and feel good while doing it.

Join the conversation

All Comments
  • All Comments
  • Website Comments

What ever happened to slip, slop, slap? Obviously, exposing as much skin as possible is the new thing to combat skin cancer

John Citizen11:32 pm 08 Feb 24

Nobody is scared of womens bodies. Just don’t complain when you wear next to nothing and people stare. Pretty straight forward.

Again, ZP acts as the mouthpiece of the cultural imperium. Is ZP aware that there’s an Abrahamic religion here in Australia, with large numbers of adherents, who also proscribe such fleshly displays? The Imperium will reflexively call you “phobic” if you say much about them, but are quite happy to show zero respect for their views if they clash with woke bourgeois values. However, it’s complicated — ZP knows she can safely ignore Islamic sensitivities, but absolutely cannot call them cisheteronormative misogynists. She wouldn’t dare write an article lampooning that group’s beliefs. But since an old white shoe brigade duffer from Qld is right at the bottom of the Imperium’s intersectional pecking order, she can let at him without any restraint at all. ZP is all about gauging power: whose views can be ignored out of arrogance, whose views to avoid out of fear, and whose views can be safely ridiculed.

He’s probably got a face like a dropped pie and an attitude to match so can’t get a date and complains.

How embrassingly shallow; thinking that hanging your a** out in public is an achievement to be proud of.

“What did you don’t today, darling?”

“I hung my a** out in public.”

Furthermore, allow me to point out that women are resorting to this brutish behaviour not because of an expression of their overflowing fullness but simply because they’re bored, restless, empty and unfulfilled, on account of not getting what they were promised for doing every other previously stupid thing they’ve done.

And yet instead of reflecting on the lie they were obviously told, and finally getting themselves on the straight and narrow, they stick to the path that’s got them to the point where hanging their a** out in public seems like the elusive answer.

But sadly only those of us who aren’t 18 anymore (or who aren’t Zoya Patel) can see hanging one’s a** out in public for what it is

Balance needed6:13 pm 08 Feb 24

Let’s not kid ourselves that the backlash is all about “misogyny” or “the Ian Grace’s of the world”. For every bloke tut tutting about skimpy outfits there is at least one woman who is also tut tutting for any number of reasons.

Daily Digest

Want the best Canberra news delivered daily? Every day we package the most popular Riotact stories and send them straight to your inbox. Sign-up now for trusted local news that will never be behind a paywall.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.