Sunday, July 24, 2005

Austrian Silliness Claim - Nipples OK, Navels dubious at best

I flew to Austria last month, arriving on June 25. For a number of reasons, I usually fly there via Heathrow, and one nice thing about that is that on London-Vienna flights you can get copies of the main Austrian newspapers, and become educated in what is exercising the populace, well, more precisely, the Austrian media, before you arrive.
The paper I usually like to focus on is der Standard, one of the two reasonably intellectual ones in the country. What caught my attention on the front page was a photograph labelled with the headline "Bauchfrei-Falle" (roughly, "Bare midriff trap"). The picture is above. It is of Eva Glawischnig, an important Green Party politician in Austria, and it was taken at her civil wedding (there was a later church wedding with more modest attire).
Now I need to establish some context. Every second television ad (maybe a slight exaggeration) in Austria features a naked woman. The weekly newsmagazines feature health articles, apparently largely for the purpose of including pictures of naked women. Go back to a previous post on globalization and read about the Mazda ad that played multiple times each evening on Austrian and German TV. A North American would need at least a day to adjust to that cultural difference in a first exposure (though cable television is changing this gap somewhat).
To my astonishment, page 2 of the newspaper was completely filled with long purportedly serious discussions of the appropriateness of this attire - a good part of that discussion is here. I read this page in full detail, and I remain baffled at the intensity of the discussion. It appears that a female politician should not expose her midriff, as this makes her seriousness suspect. This viewpoint defeats me.
The articles included references to an apparently embarrassing picture of the finance minister - if someone sees this and can elucidate this reference for me it would be lovely.
It may be I am missing some irony, though devoting a full page, and especially page 2, to this issue still strikes me as odd.
Is there an Austrian who can explain to me why this is not silly?
OK maybe the Globe and Mail would devote a whole page to it if Belinda Stronach bared her midriff for a civil wedding, but I just do not see it at the moment.


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