And… what about all the actresses and celebrities who were sitting in the audience having to listen to this dreck?
You mean the actresses who are, for the most part, wearing gowns specifically designed to show maximum cleavage of cleavage already maximized by underwires, padding, boob tape, and cosmetic surgery? The actresses whose efforts to maximize cleavage exposure has caused the Grammy Awards this year to issue a dress code banning “bare fleshy under curves of the buttocks and buttock crack,” “bare sides or under curvature of the breasts,” and “sheer see-through clothing that could possibly expose female breast nipples.”
Was that really necessary? I mean, what kind of professional musician would need to be told not to expose her nipples? Um… Lady Gaga, Beyoncé, Janet Jackson, Rihanna, Britney Spears...
Oh, but wait… That was the Grammys, and this is the Oscars. This is about actresses. We all know that musicians are paid to put on a show.
Okay… actresses. Actresses who have exposed their breasts off-duty. Let's see... Emma Watson. Penelope Cruz. Elizabeth Hurley. Keira Knightly. Kirsten Dunst. Salma Hayek. And then there was Anne Hathaway at the premiere of Les Miz… the film for which she would win a Golden Globe, the Screen Actors Guild Award, the BAFTA Award, and the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. Does any celebrity really not know that there will be a fleet of paparazzi hoping to get a crotch shot when a famous actress gets out of a car? Does any celebrity seriously think it’s not going to be an issue to go without underwear while making that maneuver?
And I am hearing it already… Don’t blame the victims! If Anne Hathaway wants to go commando, well, that’s her own damn business! If these celebrities are forced by their publicists and studios to show ever-more-daring décolletage, who can fault them for the inevitable wardrobe malfunctions.
And what about those pioneer women on Oregon Trail crossing hundreds of rivers on makeshift rafts on their way from Kansas to the Pacific? Not even an Olympic swimmer could keep her head above the water with eight yards of fabric wrapping themselves around her legs. And what about those tight-laced corsets… 80 pounds of pressure per square inch causing miscarriages, displacing organs, increasing blood pressure and restricting breathing.
The Clothing Reform Movement was an organized attempt on the part of those First Wave Feminists to reject the traditional garments for women in favor of safety, practicality, and clothing that would actually allow for full range of human movement. Because women are, you know... human.
It was an awesome movement. The women who had the courage to wear the bloomer costume—harem pants over a short skirt—were met with taunts and catcalls, barrages of excrement, and violence. Actually, “bloomer” was a dismissive and insulting term invented by the media. The activists who wore the outfit called it the “American Dress” or “Reform Costume.” They were deeply involved in abolition, temperance (which was a movement confronting domestic violence), and women’s rights. They were a real movement. Yeah, movement.
Lady Gaga recently had to cancel a tour because of a tear in the cartilage around the hip joint. Not too surprising, given how many times she falls down. In Atlanta, in Mexico, in New Zealand, in Houston, in New York, in Montreal. She falls off a piano, she falls off a runway, she falls at the VMA’s, at Heathrow Airport, at a photoshoot with Annie Liebovitz. And why is she falling so much? Take a guess.
What if there was a song about Lady Gaga called, “We Saw You Fall?” Would we be outraged at the callousness? So what if she likes sky-high heels? Isn’t that her business? What kind of feminist would want to suggest that maybe, just maybe, she has made herself a target of ridicule by wearing such obviously dysfunctional foot-hobblers… foot-hobblers that male performers would have more sense and self-esteem than to wear.
If the actresses don’t like a song that says, “We Saw Your Boobs,” then, I say, don’t show them.
Don't even think of telling me they have no choice. They have a choice. It's the same choice I had. Buy into it or opt out. And, yes, that is a real choice. A choice with steep consequences, but also ample compensations. A choice.
Choosing to show major cleavage contributes powerfully to the marginalization of the actresses who don’t have huge breasts, who aren’t willing to undergo surgery to enlarge them, who don't feel comfortable--for any number of reasons-- in dressing like a sex object. And choosing to show major cleavage, choosing to stage coy "nip slips" and oopsy commando photo ops may be great in terms of web hits and viral videos, but they wag the dog in terms of the stories these actors can be hired to tell and the characters they will be considered for portraying.
These are not the career moves that lend themselves to telling stories of women who have survived sexual abuse, who have organized in resistance to the patriarchy, who have recruited and healed other women. These are not stories of liberation. Contrary to the dictates of faux feminism, conflating a woman’s complicity in her own oppression with empowerment is just plain stupid. It’s kind of like applauding the independence and initiative of the strikebreaker who crosses the picket line to work for a substandard wage, undermining and betraying the workers who are holding the line to improve conditions for all.
But a movement... well, a movement moves things. And the Clothing Reform Movement never really died. There have always been women refusing to sexualize themselves, to compromise their health or their safety for a fashion industry dictated by mostly male designers and based on distorting, controlling, and exploiting women. There have always been women willing to disqualify themselves from the jobs that require a dress code intended to pit us against other women and to estrange us from our dignity. There have always been women who wouldn't want a job where they were expected to show more skin than the men (a primal display of submission), where they were expected to wear a mask or hobble their feet.
Movement. But for a movement to happen, you have to be able to move.