A brief guide to manly work and equality

Updated: 2012-06-26 10:10

By Dinah Chong Watkins (China Daily)

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Men, imagine a normal workday: While showering, you notice a patch of salt and pepper chest hairs. No time to change the blade in your razor, you ignore them and towel off. A quick slap of deodorant and you pull on your briefs. Looking into the mirror, you think to yourself, "not too shabby" - no six-pack, for sure, but a couple of fleshy handlebar rolls are par for your age.

Shoes, socks and you're out of the door, briefcase in hand. You hop on the bus, dressed in just footwear and itsy-bitsy skin-tight briefs. The bus lurches forward, coffee from the passenger beside you spills on your chest. You wince at the heat but wave away her apology - she's a fan after all and will be watching you tonight on national TV.

Envision Charles Gibson, Bill O'Reilly or Yang Rui reporting the latest updates on the eurozone crisis from behind the news desk in a monokini a la Borat. The amount of authoritative gravitas they could muster up would fit neatly into their G-strings.

A brief guide to manly work and equality

Yet, for the Euro 2012, Guangdong TV offered up the nightly weather report with bikini-wearing hostesses. In defense of the meteorological industry, these women were not trained professionals but local beauty contestants, which may say even less about weather forecasters, if they're easily substituted by girls in halter tops with soccer balls and platform shoes.

The outcry over the "innovative" programming was immediate with viewers complaining that it was unsuitable for children, was in bad taste and that they should have chosen better-looking girls. The TV station producers shot back that they were only trying to promote the idea of being healthy and blamed viewers for their dirty minds.

The thought of being perfectly competent in your job but having to dress semi-naked is one few people are faced with - and for men, almost non-existent. Guys, breathe a sigh of relief that no one in particular wants to see hairy moobs; so go ahead and wolf down that third helping of white rice. The bikini stunt on Guangdong TV, on the other hand, has revealed just how seriously women are taken in the workplace in China.

Guangdong TV relented afterward and traded the bikinis for a midriff baring top and a miniskirt. But one official commented: "I think some people made too much fuss about the issue. In this modern age, many young girls appear on websites wearing only bikinis or even less".

First of all, I wonder if his wife knows what sites he's surfing, and second, how will this country progress socially if we hold men and women to different standards? What message are we sending when we choose to objectify half the population, rendering them all body and no brains?

Prior to 1950, women in China were treated as chattel, forced into arranged marriages and had little if any legal rights. Today, although we take it for granted, women have the freedom to marry, divorce and have the right to vote.

Should we follow the path of former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi? He created a culture of scantily clad, large-breasted women in the media, propagating his view of women as mere scenery, props and sex providers. To Italy's shame, his government discredited the value of all women, their significance and contributions.

Let's not fool ourselves. It's time to make a fuss. Just how dignified would you feel if you had to balance the company books, write code, diagnose a tumor or install steel-backed curtain walls clothed only in a Lycra swimsuit?

An equal society, where all people are accorded dignity and value, is a successful one. Shouldn't we hold each other to the same standards - not more, not less?

Contact the writer at dinahchinadaily@gmail.com.