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Getting to the bottom of it

The quintessential Kiwi summer features BBQs, beaches, and often bikinis – something which an Australian charity worker is seeking to ban across the ditch.

Gold Coast charity worker Ian Grace penned his plea to the Gold Coast Mayor, calling for a ban on “skimpy” bikinis, and the Gold Coast Bulletin then published his letter.

Grace was even given his own spot on primetime television where his aversion to not only women’s swimming garments was addressed, but he quickly added that “skintight activewear” is also on his hit list.

Despite the night’s topic being women’s clothing, no women were actually interviewed in rebuttal to Grace’s claim that these clothing items are “demeaning and cheapening” to women – Grace’s aversion to bikinis does not apply to speedos, also known as budgie smugglers.

He described an experience where he saw a woman wearing the “tiniest triangle” that was “as close to naked as anyone could be.” His comments went downhill from there – he was clearly of the mind that women dress for the opinions of men.

“I believe women are very much demeaning and cheapening themselves, portraying themselves as sex objects, then decrying it when men see them that way.”

He then compared the exposure of bare bottoms to being as “erotic, if not more so” than women’s bare breasts and used this argument to ‘support’ his plea for a bikini ban.

While opinions on fashion are welcome from people of any gender, Grace’s opinions aren’t formed on the basis of fashion trends or style but instead by a view that women’s body parts are inherently sexual and there to be ‘admired’.

Grace’s comments have sparked backlash across Australia, and Gold Coast Mayor Tom Tate has dismissed the request to ban bikinis.

Tate said it wasn’t smart for men to get involved in women’s fashion – a sentiment that Grace clearly doesn’t share.

“One thing I’ve learnt about fashion over the years is that if you try to ban something, or restrict it, that’s a certain recipe to see it double in popularity,” the mayor said.

A pro-bikini rally was even organised, cheekily termed the ‘Freedom of Peach’ movement.

Dozens of men and women joined the rally at Broadbeach on the Gold Coast, wearing their “skimpiest” bikini bottoms that exposed a whole lot of … well, bottom.

For further context, the modern bikini is dated to July 5, 1946. Almost 80 years ago.

Grace’s problem with women’s clothing isn’t restricted to bikinis and activewear; he also chose to take aim at businesswomen’s blouses, and that’s where the court of public opinion really lost all respect for the man who had once been a finalist for the Local Heroes category of Australian of the Year.

It appears that for Grace, even a glimpse at the top of a woman’s breast is too much and makes him question women’s credibility in business.

Grace was asked if he respected women who chose to wear “revealing” clothing. He said it wasn’t that he has ‘no respect’ but that he has difficulty “taking [them] seriously”.

Whatever the aim of Grace’s comments, he’s reignited a debate which I thought we had settled long ago.

While I won’t be hitting the beaches in my bikini [lest I turn into a walking, talking lobster], I respect those who will be.

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