Beating The Chest
Nelson Mail 12/03/2005 News Page 13
For those who find the female form appealing, it must have been an unusually titillating few days.
The week in which the world celebrated International Women's Day has seen plenty for the nation's schoolboys to snigger about bustling its way into the news columns.
From Golden Bay's naked cyclists vowing to defy a police ban next year and top-less protesters in Wellington juggling with Prince Charles for the media's attention, to strippers taking to the streets of Palmerston North yesterday to promote the opening of an Erotica Expo, the D cup has runneth over.
Images that once would never have been seen in family newspapers or on early-evening television have suddenly become commonplace.
Whether this is symptomatic of a disturbing moral decline or an increasing and healthy maturity is moot.
Such publicity stunts though, interesting as some may find them, do tend to draw attention away from the real issues of the day - like peak oil, climate change, the Middle East (ironic that the United States should stridently lay down the law on Syria's "invasion" of Lebanon when it has so many troops itself on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan), the ramifications of the woeful performance of the US economy and so on.
And then, of course, there are the issues that International Women's Day itself attempts to give voice to.
Never mind that New Zealand women outlive men by five years, that most of the top jobs in this country are held by women and that the weakening Y chromosome is a genetic time bomb for the male half of the species ... the fact that the world dedicates a special day each year to ponder women's plight suggests there is much to be done before true gender equilibrium is reached.
The biggest meeting of women ever was held in Beijing a decade ago.
There, following a series of platitudes and supportive speeches by world leaders, international agreement was reached along the lines that women are people too, and due the basic human rights that are taken for granted in countries like ours.
Among other things, the summit agreed that domestic violence is a problem in all countries and that governments should intervene to prevent it - something that has been receiving welcome attention recently from the New Zealand police.
However, it is in some of the world's developing nations that women's rights remain stuck in the stone age.
So-called honour killings, genital mutilation, slavery and enforced prostitution, gender genocide and whole villages where only women are "allowed" to work in order to feed their starving families but none can vote suggest that, for many, the reality has changed little in the decade since Beijing.
Even in countries which have tried to outlaw the worst excesses, cultural, religious or traditional habits are proving difficult to beat.
This may all seem rather a stretch from life in New Zealand, where in 1893 women were first in the world to get the vote.
And of course it is. However, that the antics of a few breast-baring protesters gains more news prominence than the worthy-but-dull messages of International Women's Day does not alter the fact that some "women's issues" remain in this country, particularly domestic violence and some pay structures.
And it is worth considering too, that, irrespective of the anatomical differences that have gained prominence this week, we - men and women - share equally the responsibility to right wrongs, that women's rights are really human rights, and that a vital step on the road-map to world peace is to raise the standing of women. That will take much breast-beating yet to achieve.