Undermining look for women
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.
Susie O’Brien 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
UNDER FIRE: Lingerie label Honey Birdette.