07 March 2011

Choosing your knickers 101

A couple weekends ago, I was meeting up with an old friend, had some time to kill and found myself perusing the shops of the local mall. Just minding my own business, taking in the spring window displays, I stumbled upon a Victoria’s Secret PINK store. I know I'm not much of a mall shopper, but I've never even heard of these stores. Not that I'm a huge fan of Victoria’s Secret in general (padded neon bras and cupcake-printed thongs aren't really my thing) but hey, I’ve got ten minutes to spare, I’ll go in.

Needless to say as soon as I crossed the threshold, I felt like I entered the world of delta kappa omega..?? (No idea how those names work.) There were strange academic-inspired/coat of arm-like signs littered throughout the store (and not in the vein of palma per ardua- just a shoutout to the old stompin' ground). All the clothes were merchandised to look like they were 'strategically' placed in drawers or strewn across a bed- you know, they were messy enough to look like a cool display, but not so messy that they looked like crap. And then I noticed an alarming amount of writing...on 85% of the clothing...and here's where things took a turn for the worse.

I should warn you that I tried really hard not to take out my phone and snap away in disgust. I don’t know if the employees could notice my shock and awe (I can be VERY indiscrete when I want to be) but I like to think my highschool drama skills covered for me on this occassion. In my own mind, I was flawless.

For your viewing pleasure...

And the worst offenders.....

I’m going to keep this short and simple.

This store is categorically geared at one group and one group only- college girls. And perhaps more specifically (dare I make this assumption?!) college girls that party. Think I’m making a grandiose, uninformed generalization? I'm not. There’s an entire tab on the website dedicated to university-inspired PINK products. Like actual NYU shirts made by PINK. What a weird partnership.

After spending much of this past Sunday reading Jessica Valenti's The Purity Myth, a book exploring the fact that we live in a culture responsible for creating an unnattainable pedestal of virginity/purity for young women, so much so that there exists an assurance that ‘young women’s perceptions of themselves are inextricable from their bodies’. A really awesome read (she even does sarcastic footnotes- my kinda gal). She makes a strong case, arguing that because young women are ‘unable to live up to the ideal of purity that’s forced upon them, many (young women) are choosing the hyper sexualized alternative that’s offered to them everywhere’. In short, it’s the easier and (sadly) more attractive option. And let’s face it, she’s probably right. It is quite easier succumbing to deeply embedded messages of female sexuality which suggest our bodies and our sexuality are what defines us than to challenge something so deeply entrenched in the psyche and operation of (not only) businesses like PINK, but the minds of young women, men, and the general population of any patriarchal culture.

The shittiest thing is the slogans and one-liners on this clothing are all predicated on the idea that female sexuality is lived through the eyes of a male- the ever-present ‘male in the head‘. Nobody would have ’sure thing’ written on the front of their crotch if the underwear in question were for their own benefit...you cannot argue with me on that. These ridiculous excuses for undergarrrments are meant to be worn and seen for the benefit of anyone other than the woman wearing it. I am ALL for the hipster/boycut fit, but I usually opt for the plain green pair, not the pair donned with ideas that only help reinforce some of the worst aspects of our hypersexualized culture... that is to say, that young women live their sexuality through the eyes of an ominous Other, that Other being male.

There's no doubt that we live in a culture where woman-as-gatekeeper is the norm when discussing heterosexual practices...and by this I mean that she has been taught to be passive in relation to sex. She sets boundaries (enter the gatekeeper, but not the creepy one from the always-terrifying Nightmare boardgames) because she's been taught to react to the opposing male sexuality (which is based on being the active partner). What gets my panties in a twist (ha!) is that these types of product only continue to negate her active participation in sex because of the messages which suggest he has to 'get' her. She is in full compliance of her perscribed passiveness by wearing these...and it remains his responsibility to 'act' on the message presented. Coming full circle??

What if someone wearing the 'take it off' thong had been raped, her underwear enclosed as evidence and her case dismissed on account of the many tragic 'she was asking for it‘ excuses. "Her underwear said she wanted it, obviously it’s her fault." What an awesome bit of logic. Oh trust me, it exists.

This may be a slight derail from the original intent of this post, but there's a quote from The Purity Myth on the issue of ‘if you’re wearing something slutty, you’re going to inevitably get raped’ and I thought it appropriate to share:

I was sober; hardly scantily clad. I was wearing sweatpants and an oversized tshirt; I was at home; my sexual history was, literally, nonexistent- I was a virgin; I struggled; I said no. There had been times since when I have been walking home, alone, after a few drinks, wearing something that might have shown a bit of leg or cleavage, and I wasn’t raped. The difference was not in what I was doing. The difference was the presence of a rapist.


Point of the above? You don’t need to wear underwear or sleepwear that reduces you to a non-being, in other words, just a body. Your worth and your sexuality are not interrelated, nor should you be defined- nay, reduced to it. In all honesty, if you shop at these PINK stores maybe have a bit of a re-think. If women don't stop endorsing and supporting these kind of ideals, we're only perpetuating the issue. Hookup culture is damaging enough- we don't need to encourage it with this kind of product.

Girl, Deconstructed