Conference paper
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The Surfers Paradise Meter Maid wears a gold bikini to promote the region of Surfer’s Paradise on the east coast of Australia. The “celebrity” Meter Maid first appeared in 1964 and can be mapped to coincide with a range of conflations during that time where women were groomed to perceive beauty and women’s power and prestige as inextricably linked. The nostalgia associated with the Meter Maid has kept her buoyant, even through feminist campaigns against women’s objectification. Zoom forward to 2016 and the Meter Maid and Surfer’s Paradise are still present, but charged with new responsibilities firmly located in a hypersexualised world. Newspaper articles make regular reference to the original Meter Maids seeking to recognise their iconic entity as “historic landmark” entrenched in what the Gold Coast “represents” as a liberal and freedom-seeking holiday destination.

This paper explores the precinct of the Meter Maid as “live” and mobile advertising, employed as a “brand” and able to imbue a hypersexualised aesthetic into the urban space of the Gold Coast. The gold lamé bikini is the “institutional skin” that identifies her specific function yet also defines the behaviours of others. In the same territory as six Surfer’s Paradise strip clubs her female body is idealised, responsive, spontaneous and flexible and able to represent a range of promotional requirements that extend the presence of the sex industry. Her mobility means that she is not subject to the same kinds of regulation as built forms of urban media. As street encounters with the “iconic” Meter Maid accumulate and are reiterated, they normalise sexy and sexist behaviour constructing social interaction in specific ways that fail to contribute to women’s equity and equality.

Publication Details
Source title:
Proceedings of the 13th Australasian Urban History Planning History Conference 2016


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