Sit down, relax and settle in for a story — let’s call it bikini-gate.
Don’t worry, it’s G-rated: no adult supervision required.
A couple of weekends ago, some women from the North Cottesloe Surf Club organised a car wash to raise money for the female boat crew.
The event was organised by the women and involved 11 women (all adults) and 14 men.
They washed cars and ran a sausage sizzle.
Before we go on, full disclosure. I’m a member of North Cott (not a very good one, having been to the club only once since joining) and I’m a member of the Surf Life Saving WA board.
Important context and transparency, but I’d write about this if it were the Kununurra Golf Club.
Or any other club.
Back to the car wash. So what, right? Exactly, save one, shocking word. Bikini.
They called it a bikini car wash. And that’s when the stupid got turned up to 11.
A prominent social media account (which I have decided not to name because the issue is bigger than one person) launched an attack of North Korean proportions against these women and the club, making false accusations of bullying and sexism among other things.
Vulnerable young women were being exploited, it claimed, pressured into taking part.
The story was picked up by a local newspaper, and then by TV news.
When Churchill said that a lie travels half way around the world before the truth has time to put its pants on, he proved himself a prophet.
Rather than allow the truth to be sacrificed on the altar of social media lunacy, let’s correct the record.
Were the women wearing bikinis? Yes.
Most wore club-issue, competition standard sports bathers, the same ones worn when pulling people like you and me from the surf.
Swimwear that’s fine for saving lives but apparently offensive when washing cars.
There were 14 blokes involved, some wearing club-issue budgie smugglers, some in boardies, also washing cars in return for money.
Nobody seemed to care about that, probably because in 2018 it’s only acceptable to slut-shame women.
Rather than (as it claimed to be) defending the cause of women, the social media account that started all of this identified specific women, shamed them and lied about them.
One straight from the modesty culture playbook.
In other countries, women are risking their lives just for the right to show their hair in public but here, snowflakes melt at the word bikini.
Ironic, given that when bikinis were introduced they were considered liberation.
For years we’ve told young girls they can be whatever they want to be, but apparently, they can’t be models, or grid girls, or grow up to be PhD students, educators, mechanical engineers or soldiers who organise a car wash to raise money for their local surf club.
Oh yeah, this is where it gets good.
Far from being vulnerable young women pimped out by nefarious men steeped in a patriarchal, sexist club culture, these independent, accomplished, bikini-clad women were aged between 23 and 46.
They included a mechanical engineer, a school educator, a physio who is undertaking her PhD and a medical doctor who also happened to be a Black Hawk helicopter pilot who served this country in the defence force for 22 years.
And some anonymous keyboard warrior has the hide to tell these women (or any woman, for that matter) what they can and can’t do?
Jodie, or should I say Major Dr Jodie, said this: “I’m the boat captain, the first female boat captain the club has ever had and this ‘bikini car wash’ was tongue-in-cheek.
“Everyone had a great day; the age and gender mix were varied. I’d have loved to have worn my bikini but being 40 and not as fit as I was, I didn’t.”
You could argue that social media is an ass and to a point I get that, but there are bigger issues at play. Social engineering. Truth v lies. Accountability.
If we let it, BS gets peddled unchallenged by people who spend their days lobbing grenades from behind computer screens, most likely still dressed in their underwear and eating cereal straight from the box.
Often these accounts are anonymous. Such courage.
There are many ways that traditional media outlets such as newspapers and television are held accountable.
In social media, it’s like Lord of the Flies meets the Hunger Games.
When was the last time you saw a public correction on your social media platform?
In this case, the person running the account in question didn’t bother to speak to the women it attacked under the guise of standing up for equality.
I did, though.
Megan, an educator, nailed it: “There’s so much hypocrisy and sexism when you compare the backlash we women received in holding a bikini car wash fundraiser versus the support the fireman’s calendar (rightly) receives. It really highlights the unfair judgment that women often place on other women.”
Her fellow boat crew member, physiotherapist and PhD student Tara, hit closer to home.
“I understand why in the current climate some people might have an issue with the name ‘bikini car wash’ but the person criticising? They claim to be an advocate for women,” Tara said.
“So, support women and the choices we make, instead of pulling us down. If this is what advocating for women is, I certainly don’t want anyone advocating for me.”