Automotive culture and scantily clad women seem to go together. We’ve all been in garages where the primary form of decoration is a pinup calendar or an old Playboy centerfold. Even if you have never heard the phrase “mudflap girl” before, you could probably figure it out, even sans context. The commodity the babes on The Price Is Right probably stroke the most often is “A NEW CAR!!!!” (in the voice of Johnny Olson or Rod Roddy). Cars. Ladies. Two great tastes that go great together. And it’s as American as apple pie for a nubile lass to pose in her short-shorts on the hood of a bitchin’ Camaro.
But—well, not only American. Turns out, in China the practice surpasses even our own salacious limits. Apparently automotive conventions there are positively teeming with the so-called “booth babes,” but the central government in Beijing considers the idea vulgar, taking a dim enough view of the practice that it recently banned it outright. To be fair, it was a bit out of control—it wouldn’t occur to Americans to present a car in the following way, where you, ah, can’t even see what the car looks like:
It’s odd because China’s move is actually supposed to be a blow in favor of gender equality, but with a repressive, heavy hand that would never be tolerated in the U.S.
The 2015 Shanghai Motor Show, which is happening right now, is the first major automotive event affected by the ban and the “booth babes” who are now out of a job have decided to use it as the perfect platform for an organized labor protest. They’re out on the streets of Shanghai masquerading as unemployed beggars and getting the word out about the injustices that have befallen them. (I guess you do a “beggar” costume the same there as here—you put a little charcoal on your cheek.)
The large sign reads “The world’s a big place, shouldn’t we be allowed to survive?”
Apparently this year’s Shanghai Motor Show is hardly bereft of beautiful women, they’ve just been re-classified as “sales representatives,” “shopping guides,” “stand attendants,” and “car cleaners,” among other titles. Reuters spoke to one of these newly-renamed woman named Dai Jun: “I’m not called a ‘model’ here because they banned models this year.”