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Sexism alive and well in Australia

By Melinda Tankard Reist - posted Monday, 4 October 2010

Virginia Haussegger is right to lament the status of women in other countries and the brutalities and indignities they suffer daily.

But attitudes towards women in our own so-called liberated western democracy desperately need an overhaul as well.

While I frequently write about the objectification of women and girls, this issue has been unrelenting of late. Sexism is alive and well. Is it really the 21st century?


Lynx sexual performance in Martin Place

Recently, global brand Unilever staged a “Pop-up spadate” in Sydney's Martin Place to promote its “man-cation” travel destination, the Lynx Lodge. Young bikini-clad women splashed about in a hot tub. The amply breasted models had shower gel splattered across their chests (a reference to ejaculation, for those unfamiliar with the porn genre).

Nina Funnell described the scene in The Sydney Morning Herald:

... Martin Place was transformed into something resembling a cheap porn filmset ... The hot tub was placed on a raised platform, blocked off by rails. Male suits pulled out iPhones to take photos through the rails ... Other Lynx models pranced around in tiny French maid outfits. Another had set up a masseuse table and was busy giving a semi-naked man a massage. Unsurprisingly men ogled the women, slapping each other on the back, while making comments like "she's a bit of all right" or "I wouldn't mind a bit of that". I felt like I'd walked into a middle aged man's seedy buck's night. It was 9am on a Thursday morning.

Did Sydney City Council and its female Lord Mayor approve this sexual display in the middle of Sydney city? No qualms about sending men off to work all aroused? No second thoughts about the message to boys that they are entitled to ogle women in public places?

The Lynx Lodge appears to be parent company Unilever's foray into the sex industry, with all the trappings of a brothel without identifying it as such. "Lynx Lodge - Get Laid Back" declares the website:

"The ultimate man-cation destination to get you back to your primal roots"
"Get laid back, as lodge staff pamper you with breakfast in bed and on-the-spot massages"
"Golf range: Grab your wood"
"Pool hall: Scared of being beaten by a girl? Some of our guests quite enjoy it."
"Ball Games: Teamwork is everything, so be sure to focus on your partner's backside to make out her block signals."


Women are advertised as ready to do a man's bidding and to entertain and excite him.

A video ad shows young women lonely and desperate for men to arrive at the lodge. Helpless and passive, they need a man to serve and give them attention. One girl wades naked into the lake waiting for him to arrive.

You can see just how mainstream sexism has become. Woolworths is in bed with Lynx, co-branding in the promotion of borderline prostitution at the Lodge.

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First published on ABC's The Drum on Septmeber 29, 2010.

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About the Author

Melinda Tankard Reist is a Canberra author, speaker, commentator and advocate with a special interest in issues affecting women and girls. Melinda is author of Giving Sorrow Words: Women's Stories of Grief after Abortion (Duffy & Snellgrove, 2000), Defiant Birth: Women Who Resist Medical Eugenics (Spinifex Press, 2006) and editor of Getting Real: Challenging the Sexualisation of Girls (Spinifex Press, 2009). Melinda is a founder of Collective Shout: for a world free of sexploitation ( Melinda blogs at

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