In the article Kloie Picot, a Canadian photojournalist comments on the exhibition.
They are not pornographic because they do not “cross the line,” according to Kloie Picot, a Canadian photojournalist and videographer. “These girls offer the illusion of sex.”
There was one picture, however, which she objected to. It was of a young woman dressed in a practically non-existent bikini, taking a picture of herself with a mobile phone. “She's crossed the line, she's feeding herself to the guys and making it so the other girls have to keep up [by wearing less],” Picot said.
You can see the photograph she is referring to at flickr. I must say I disagree with Picot's opinion about the photograph. The article includes a number of of other interesting comments and thoughts from photographer Tobie Openshaw and some betel nut girls.
photos from the Liberty Times (自由時報) 28 February 2008
An article in the Liberty Times (自由時報) on the topic of betel nut beauties yesterday provides quite a contrast. The article carries the headline 西施黑森林 網路爆熱潮, meaning "beauty's black forest unleashes internet tidal wave". Black forest is a euphemism, you can guess what it means if you look at the pixelated part of one of the photos accompanying the article (see above).
A brief summary of the article is as follows. I won't attempt a full translation because there are a few colloquial or idiomatic phrases that I am not really sure about. You can view the full text by clicking on the thumbnail next to this paragraph.
Someone posted a short video of a betelnut girl in Taoyuan wearing transparent clothing on the internet. This prompted discussion on the internet about how far the betel nut girls would go. [The content of the video is described in detail. The main point being the girl's clothing is very revealing and goes beyond what is normally considered good taste.] There has been much discussion of the article on the internet. People asked where in Taoyuan it was. A local said it was probably not in Nankan, Taoyuan County (桃園縣的南崁).
I really can't figure out the point of the article. I doesn't provide any real analysis or opinion. It just seems like a filler to accompany a picture which is bound to grab people's attention. The only context is an article above it entitled 情色簡訊 包你不孤單 (sexy message makes you feel not lonely). The article is about the use of text messages to attract customers to the sex industry.
Articles like this simply reinforce stereotypes that betel nut girls are the same as sex workers or are an excuse to publish sexy pictures to sell more newspapers. Betel nut girls are certainly an interesting topic that attracts many people's attention, but it is a pity so few look beyond the clothes (or lack of) that the betel nut girls are wearing.
It is worthwhile considering that other job opportunities available to many of these women would have much lower pay and worse conditions. In the Taipei Times article photographer Tobie Openshaw notes that singers like Jolin Tsai (蔡依林) are idolised for wearing revealing outfits. However, betel nut girls attract scorn for doing the same thing. Unlike the Liberty Times article, the Taipei Times informs the reader about a lot more than the betel nut girls' underwear.
There are even more important issues related to the product the girls are selling. Betel nuts are a cause of high rates of oral cancer in Taiwan. The clearing of land for betel nut plantations contributes to landslides and flooding and leads to a loss of biodiversity. Betel nuts are still untaxed and unregulated by the Taiwanese government.
If the people of Taiwan want to get outraged about something then they should start thinking about some of these issues instead of focusing on what betel nut girls are wearing. But I guess that doesn't sell newspapers.