Un­der­min­ing look for women

The Cairns Post - - VIEWS - Susie O’Brien is a Her­ald Sun colum­nist

WHAT are “plea­sure par­lours” packed with raunchy lin­gerie, sex toys and bondage items such as whips, pad­dles, bri­dles and har­nesses do­ing in the mid­dle of main­stream shop­ping cen­tres?

I don’t blame one Mel­bourne fa­ther for ob­ject­ing this week to the Honey Bird­ette store in his lo­cal Westfield Shop­ping­town.

His change.org pe­ti­tion at­tack­ing their large porno­graphic ad­ver­tis­ing im­ages has now been signed by 43,000 peo­ple.

Such stores are staffed by re­tail work­ers called “Honeys” who are dolled up to look like sex work­ers.

Many have their bras hang­ing out of their tops and they’re told they must wear high heels and have per­fectly pouty red lips.

Fun­nily enough, CEO and founder Eloise Mon­aghan didn’t choose that form of at­tire for a re­cent cor­po­rate video, or for the ma­jor­ity of her of­fi­cial ap­pear­ances.

I am not sure how be­ing “ready to take over the world one li­bido at a time” is a le­git­i­mate job de­scrip­tion and yet it’s on the com­pany’s web­site.

“With ruby red lips and high heels, it is their plea­sure to de­liver the Honey Bird­ette ex­pe­ri­ence to you,” the web­site reads.

Why should girls have to “rock a red pout” and wear stilet­tos in or­der to sell lin­gerie?

At a time when Hol­ly­wood is un­der a cloud be­cause of sex­ual abusers and preda­tors, it seems very wrong to make sex­u­al­ity and the im­pres­sion of sex­ual avail­abil­ity a job re­quire­ment.

The com­pany says it has a “zero tol­er­ance to­wards sex­ual ha­rass­ment in the work­place”.

And yet a cor­po­rate-man­dated sex­ual ha­rass­ment mes­sage comes through loud and clear in a re­cent video, which shows women in their lin­gerie danc­ing with men fully dressed in suits. The clip, put up two weeks ago, is called “Of­fice Party”. If my of­fice had a party like that, we’d all be sacked.

The Lit­tle Black Book, which un­til re­cently was ru­moured to be given to new staff, says work­ers should chan­nel the fol­low­ing words: “sul­try, saucy, sen­sual, play­ful”.

It also tells work­ers to meet cus­tomers with a “pout”.

When I spoke to her on Sun­day, Mon­aghan de­nied the con­tro­ver­sial Lit­tle Black Book ex­isted at all.

And yet it was talked about on the web­site in a piece signed by Mon­aghan her­self.

Mon­aghan also in­sisted the com­pany met all work­place safety and hu­man re­sources guide­lines, but there does seem to be a large num­ber of for­mer work­ers in­sist­ing other­wise.

Late last year, a num­ber of for­mer em­ploy­ees claimed they were en­cour­aged to see sex­ual ha­rass­ment as part of the job and a le­git­i­mate way to en­cour­age sales.

One worker says she was whipped by a cus­tomer with a rid­ing crop and was en­cour­aged to hand out her phone num­ber.

Mon­aghan said the for­mer staff com­plain­ing about con­di­tions were merely “ven­omous trolls”.

It’s time she dragged this com­pany, which is ped­dling out­dated and dan­ger­ous im­ages of women, into this cen­tury.

Not only is it putting cur­rent work­ers at risk, it sends a mes­sage to teens that to be sex­ual is to adopt tawdry stereo­typ­i­cal porno­graphic im­ages, stances, out­fits and props.

Sex­ual ha­rass­ment is a se­ri­ous work­place safety is­sue, not a flirty sell­ing point. Young women should not have to put up with such be­hav­iour in or­der to make a sale.

Mon­aghan seems to ac­cuse all ob­jec­tors of dis­em­pow­er­ing women, say­ing her com­pany is all about “em­pow­er­ment”. I can­not see how.

What’s em­pow­er­ing about stand­ing around all day on stilet­tos? Hav­ing your bra pok­ing out? Wear­ing huge amounts of ex­pen­sive make-up? Laugh­ing at sex­ist jokes from cus­tomers?

I have no prob­lem with such stores be­ing lo­cated in places where adults can visit them.

How­ever, kids don’t need to be walk­ing past shops that bill them­selves as the “plea­sure par­lour” of­fer­ing a “trea­sury of amuse­ments to send you bliss­fully to the brink and be­yond”.

And the peo­ple who work in them shouldn’t have to be “like Hol­ly­wood star­lets, only naugh­tier”, “sweet sirens” and “rock ’n’ roll vix­ens” in or­der to do their job.


Pic­ture: PENNY LANE

UN­DER FIRE: Lin­gerie la­bel Honey Bird­ette.

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