Monday, 13 October 2008

Post #88 Hire a Hall / Everything (The Extortionist's "Thong"*)

To clear this up for the American readers; this is what Australians call a "thong". The undergarment is known in Australia as a "G-string" or "V-string". You can peruse examples here.

The prompt for this post was my hearing a female opinionator on a radio programme talking about "corporate paedophilia" and the "sexualisation of young girls". I didn't find anything to quarrel with in her denunciation of the practice of cataloguing sexy underwear for the under-sixteen market. I did become exasperated with the way that the interview was led along the usual path in attacking the manufacturers and the retailers for producing and proffering the stuff.

Pleasing as the attacks are to my (apparently) socially conservative ears, I thought, as I do every time this yarn is rehashed, that every bastard is missing the most obvious point. Nobody seems to get past saying that it's wrong. The motives of the purveyors of this stuff are never examined in detail.

The garment industry (AKA "rag trade") is well-known to be a brutally cold-blooded business. At the production end it's about nothing but money and at the retail end it's about more money. Some designers may be indulging their aesthetic inclinations but the mass-produced material that makes it from drawing board to sales rack in real life is purely a product of commercial mathematics. So, is it really plausible that the money-grubbers are trying to "sexualise" anybody by way of their product? The real reason is egregiously obvious if you simply look at the prices charged for the products. Sexuality may be a lure to the purchaser but it's simply a vehicle for the real purpose: persuading people to pay disproportionate amounts for very small quantities of materials and labour.

I've had enough to do with tailoring to know that the cutting table is where the profitability of a garment business is decided. If a customer can be persuaded to pay x price for a piece of fabric and a certain amount of machinist's time which is half or one quarter of what might be required to make a larger garment sold for the same price, where's the smart money? The "string" garments and skimpy tops and short shorts aren't being cranked out to advance the rebuilding of Sodom and Gomorrah; they're just a logical commercial decision. Take a look at the ratios of prices in any supermarket catalogue. The skimpy stuff is sold for a price which approximates 80% of the price of full-form garments. If the retailer is in a particularly gouging mood you can find "string briefs", "medium briefs" and "full briefs" all at the same price per pack of however many. And it's not just women's/girls' clothing that's on this trend. Manufacturers have been offering samples of "G-strings for men" to the retailer's buyers for twenty years. Praise the gods, it hasn't caught on, at least not to the same degree.

I saw an episode of The Simpsons in which Homer takes the family to "Itchy and Scratchy World" and is offered a a chance to buy "Itchy and Scratchy Money". When he asks what it's about, the girl at the counter says "It's fun!!" and giggles. Homer responds "Give me a thousand bucks' worth!" He assumes, naturally, that's it's for use in the fun park; for making purchases. Inside he finds every shop with adamant signs stating "We don't take Itchy and Scratchy Money!" He's been had; his non-refundable play-money isn't worth a brass razoo. Substitute the skimpy gear for the play money and the words "It's sexy" for "It's fun" and you see the picture.

Should "the government do something"? Not this time. Let's just make a simple agreement to not be idiots. Don't buy that crap for your kids or let them spend money on it that you've gifted them. If they do and then wear it to make it non-returnable before you find out; send it to the tip in shreds. Best to explain this all before you set out upon this path, of course. Start by educating them as to what a rip-off is. And buy a DVD copy of the documentary "China Blue". They can see how a teenage Chinese girl works thirty hours straight to make garments for a pittance and thereby learn about the other end of the rip-off process. Oh yes...and don't buy it for yourself or any other adult person.

Sex may be the bait, but the hook is just exploitation of all concerned.

(*The title's meant to be a pun on "The Executioner's Song". If you had to read the asterisk...I guess it didn't work.)

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