- What is your opinion about the betel nut beauties dressing so sexy to attract men?
Ho: First of all, I don’t think they are dressing to attract men; they are dressing to attract customers who would stop to buy betel nuts. That’s their very specific goal. That most customers are male is a cultural specificity not of their design. Secondly, I think it is a beautiful and creative demonstration of female sexuality that takes advantage of its context of a working-class male-dominant culture and works that into the girls’ own benefit. So I am not really interested in why they dress this way or that way; I am more interested in why so many people feel offended by what some girls wear, to the degree that new ordinances are adopted to put a stop to it. What is underneath this outrage against sexual display, expressed as an eagerness to protect “these girls and other children”? That’s something for us to reflect upon.
- Do you think the girls sometimes go too far with their outfits?
Ho: The question is not how far they would go, but how repressed this culture has always been and how competitive this business has become so as to generate ever more provocative ways to get more business. On the other hand, girls’ outfits in recent years are already pushing ever more toward display of sexuality. If you criticize the betel nut girls for their outfits, shouldn’t you also include other “ordinary” girls?
- The Chamber of Commerce recently (Oct. 2002) supported the “Three No’s” policy to make the girls cover up. Do you think the government should have the right to tell these women what to wear to work? Why or why not?
Ho: Of course not. No democratic government has the right to tell anybody what to wear. If the girls’ outfits exceeds what is decreed as obscene by the Criminal Code, let them be handled by that Code, rather than establishing new ordinances just to deal with the betel nut girls. Laws are not supposed to apply only to specific populations.
- In your opinion, are these women being sexually exploited by their bosses who request they wear revealing outfits to sell betel nuts?
Ho: There are of course cases in which the girls were asked to put on outfits they don’t necessarily enjoy wearing. But in most cases, they are wearing quite nicely designed outfits, outfits specifically marking them as betel nut girls and making them quite attractive. In that sense, the outfits are nothing more than uniforms. Compare what they were with the Hooter girls. Any difference?
- Do you think the women dressing provocatively is an invitation for sexual harassment by their customers?
Ho: Women have long been warned about their clothing for fear it may provoke harassment or unwanted sexual advances, and feminists have already defunked such myths, thinking that it is only one more excuse to put women under control. If the logic of the question stands, then women should refrain from a lot more things. Come to think of it, girls should not go to school, go dancing, etc.
- Why do you think betel nut is so popular in Taiwan?
Ho: Betel nuts function as chewing tobacco or coffee. It is just one way to keep the energy level of the hard-working high. Locally produced, low cost, culturally significant.
- If there were no betel nut beauties selling betel nut, do you think it would still be as popular as it is now? Why or why not?
Ho: Betel nut chewing has always been popular in Taiwan, even before the arrival of betel nut girls. The betel nut girls merely liven up the drive-through posts for betel nuts.
- Betel nut is chewed all over Asia but why is Taiwan the only place that has beautiful, sexy women selling betel nut?
Ho: It probably has a lot to do with the burgeoning sexual revolution that has swept across Taiwan in the mid-1990s which opened up social space for female sexuality. The increasing intensity of laboring jobs and the proximity and competition among betel nuts stands then provided the impetus for finding ways to boost energy as well as business.