According to Nightline, a mall in South Auckland has a bar that drops the blackout curtains in the windows on Thursday late nights and staffs itself with topless women. The owner is a woman and she's all for it. The landlord is a man and he's all for it. The local councillor is a woman and she's scandalised and characterises the topless bit as a warm-up act for the hookers up the street. She also cites fears that children might see "breasts on display" while shopping. The topless staff were not interviewed for the story.
I'm not sure what I find worse - the sanctimony, the objectification, the hypocrisy (since when were the strip bars virtually next door to both the viaduct and density housing in central Auckland subject to the same moral outrage?) or a social system which makes all these options popular and easy. Or the telling fact that it's sort of ok to bare one's breasts in the name of commerce but probably not to be publicly identified to be doing so.
This is one aspect of gender politics I remain incredibly ambivalent about. Do we conclude that something is rotten in the state of Denmark (heh) if some women elect to be paid to be looked at partially naked and some men elect to pay for this in some way? What does it mean about the relationship between men and women more broadly? And what exactly does it say about New Zealand as a society that the women who go topless in South Auckland on Thursday nights don't appear to want to go on TV and talk about how it makes them feel to the rest of us?
Which brings me to the Danish boobs video (see commentary at kiwiblogblog - I can't find the original youtube article) - I'm so ambivalent about this piece of media that I've been unable to finish my post on it. But on the surface, I have to say it displays a healthier attitude to the human female form than we seem to be right now, even if it contains a lot of normalising discourse (young, blonde, thin, pert) about what's ok to find attractive. I guess, given that the Danish government is paying the women to remove their clothes it's not the same straight commercial relationship you see in the bar situation, but even so, there are parallels - the women are still being paid to be looked at topless.
I think it might be too late in the evening to unravel exactly what the relationships between sex, shame," the gaze" and the commodification of women's bodies in both situations are, much less where I stand on them. However, this whole mess is indicative of the fact that gender continues to be a heavily contested terrain, even if it's easier to ignore than engage with at times.