OPINION: It's a rare event to see a chief executive put his own foot in his mouth and swallow it, but Mark Powell of the Warehouse has managed that remarkable feat.
Asked to comment on sexualised bikini tops for girls as young as 8 being sold in his stores, the only possible option was deplore the mistake and do a mea culpa, preferably hand on heart, promising not to sin again.
Instead he offered a feeble defence.
The bikini tops had padded bust fillers, and there was no getting around the fact that these could be said to sexualise little girls.
Mothers said it, and so did Children's Commissioner Russell Wills, who bluntly said the rigid shaped pads, "Give a breast-like impression on a prepubescent girl, and that's wrong." The Warehouse had by then said it would withdraw the offending garments from sale, and perhaps editing made Mr Powell look less sorry than he really was, but there was no escaping his feeble defence on camera that there had been no complaints hitherto.
Nor was it wise to say on television news that if you're after an example of the sexualisation of young girls, "you can find far better examples than this". Perhaps you can, though next day I visited a branch of a competitor, Farmers, where I didn't find a single padded bikini top among the pink and fluorescent horror show of baby animals, hearts, cupcakes and glitter so beloved of small girls. Besides, a hypothetical horror story of a garment somewhere else wouldn't absolve the Warehouse of its error of judgment – at a time, too, when its parent company is forecasting a fall in profits of up to 13 per cent for the first half of the year.
Yet it was almost nostalgic to see a chief executive who hadn't been groomed into oily slickness and obfuscation by media minders.
There was a time – now distant – when people actually went on the record with what they really thought. Maybe this was one of them.
If little girls have pressure brought to bear on their identity as females, so do much older women, as French President Francois Hollande's love life shows.
I have to assume that this unprepossessing podge has Gallic charm by the container load when you see him in closeup, since he's been involved with a series of attractive and intelligent women. In his latest domestic drama he has not looked good, but bear in mind that the philandering male with a bit on the side is seen in that country as a cultural icon. Not for nothing is the rooster a symbol of France.
Until now we've believed the myth, I think, that French women in their turn are stoic about men straying and remain sophisticatedly indulgent, but that myth has been shattered by Mr Hollande's now former partner Valerie Trierweiler, who had feelings about being dumped, and reportedly smashed antiques when she heard her rival, Julie Gayet, had been carrying on with Mr Hollande for up to two years.
Had it been me I'd have focused on the inelegant way he traveled to his trysts, pillion-style, on a scooter driven by someone else. That's like turning up at a diplomatic reception on a skateboard, with a cap on backwards. It's just embarrassing for a 59-year-old head of state.
Mr Hollande, true to male stereotyping, seems to need progressively younger women as he ages, presumably to affirm his belief that age hasn't dimmed his pulling power.
Segolene Royal had four children with him. She was born in 1952, and her successor, Ms Trierweiler, in 1965, which made her a useful 13 years younger, as in so much less wrinkled and more trophy-like.
But Ms Gayet is seven years younger than Ms Trierweiler, at 41. She's also 18 years younger than the president, and 19 years younger than Ms Royal, who's theoretically old enough to be her mother.
That there's an age issue here just as much as with padded bikini tops for children.
When much younger women agree to be belt notches for vain old men it's in equally bad taste
- The Dominion Post