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Appearance Apartheid

By Pearl Bullivant on June 9, 2013 in Other

Photo: Occupy East

Photo: Occupy East

Have you ever had that sinking feeling when you enter an Eastern Suburbs café? That feeling that you don’t belong, that your clothes aren’t trendy enough, your hair not blonde enough, your appearance not beautiful enough, your body not slim enough? That feeling that sooner or later your very presence will be discovered by a tattooed waiter who will turf you out and hand your table over to someone more ‘worthy’ of a café stool that is suited to an exercise toned faux-boho bottom squeezed delicately into size four skinny jeans? And have you experienced that ‘guilty’ feeling you get when you enter a trendy boutique in Woollahra? That feeling that if you dare touch a price tag, let alone an item of actual clothing, your hand will be summarily slapped by the surly-faced diva behind the counter?

If so, welcome to the gentrified world of the Eastern Suburbs where a unique form of apartheid is practised by hip and trendy new businesses eager to keep the daggy from their doors. What could be more disastrous for a hipster store owner, keen to attract only the botoxed and the beautiful, than customers who look like they belong on ‘the other side of Anzac Parade’, people whose very appearance, hair colour, age or demeanour will deter the in-crowd whose existence is based on nothing but looks and the ‘appearance’ of money?

All too often my friends have endured rudeness from business owners who make it obvious that their patronage is not wanted in their shop or café; that no matter how much money my friends may have, their appearance or advanced age renders them ‘undesirable’ for business. From the restaurateur who restricts outdoor seating to beautiful people to the hairdresser who loudly shrieked that a friend’s granddaughter had ‘bacteria/ in her hair (i.e. cradle cap) before turning to remove nits from the hair of a private school girl. From the wannabe model forced to slice bread for pensioners when she’d much rather serve the gorgeous surfer in the queue to the owner of a designer children’s clothing store who suggested to my niece that she would be better off shopping at Target – these people know the clientele they want to attract and keep!

However, I can’t lay all the blame at the feet of the gentrified shopkeeper, whose emergence has unfortunately squeezed out shops like the Bronte Cakey and the Clovelly Butcher. These new shopkeepers are just pandering to the transient whims of the affluent, pretentious and rude young Eastern Suburbs inhabitants, egotistical people who need to feel ‘special and be treated as unique by those who service their exclusive wants and desires. And if that means having no ugly people around to spoil their utopian and myopic view of life, so be it. Business owners are there to make money and it’s tough operating in an area where the latest ‘must have’ becomes redundant in the blink of an eyelash extension.

Part of me enjoys this gentrified apartheid as it means not having to rub shoulders with yuppies and their spoilt kiddies. But I won’t be quarantined in my own suburb and this ‘look-ism’ deserves radical action. Yummy Mummies don’t realise that it is us oldies who ‘invented’ the hippy genre and we are reclaiming it through Occupy East, a sit-in that will involve transporting busloads of pensioners from beyond Parramatta to inundate cafes and boutiques on their motorised scooters, blocking access points and taking up all the best tables, with their bus illegally parked, of course. Kmart clothes and lined faces will abound because, darlings, we will not be moved – reclaim the East!

Pearl xx


  1. please give sit in dates 🙂 I love the movement against “look-ism” to reclaim the East. from recently relocated to west of Anzac Parade eastern suburb hippie generate missing bronte cakey…

    Posted by: Colleen Harvey | June 11, 2013, 12:16 PM |

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