(Note to reader: I sweat sarcasm. If it sounds like sarcasm, it is. Also, check out some of the links here, there are some kick ass articles about the sexualization of young girls and the history of underwear. I had a blast “researching” this rant.)
Lately, I’ve noticed a lot of butts and they all appear to be naked. They’re not, but that’s the point: they’re trying to look naked. Ok, odd enough way to start this, but my brain works that way, and as I’ve said, this is where I talk about how I see the world around me. So, no doubt, I am about to set off all kinds of responses, but I’m up for the challenge; bring it on. That said, I’m just going to say right up front, for the record: I do not think panty lines are such an evil thing, AND, I’m beginning to really question why and whether it’s ok, that things have moved so, well, left of naked.
For most of my life, women/girls would rather be caught picking their nose than have people think they didn’t wear underwear, look naked under their clothes, or have their underwear or bra straps hanging out. Ok, picking your nose is a stretch, but it was once really a major no no to be viewed as that woman who was at best “loose” and at worst “asking for it” by putting your ass out there for everyone to see. For most of my life the idea was: underwear should be pretty, sexy even, comfortable, perhaps controlling, but not absent. Sure you had panty lines sometimes, but no one was trying to hide the fact that there were underwear under that dress, those jeans, whatever you were wearing. That, however, was before the thong. Today, it seems that nearly everyone is parading around with accentuated buttocks, all to avoid (cue drum roll) The Dreaded Panty Line.
To begin with, it really wasn’t that long ago that thongs were a sandal. Thongs were what we now call flip flops. That’s right kiddies, all you young thangs, we would say to our moms “have you seen my thongs?” and it wasn’t embarrassing. Actually, the terms are not entirely set in stone yet, though my kids would argue that “No one calls flip flops thongs!” However, in other places thongs are still shoes, flip flops doesn’t mean much and people aren’t as confused. The jury is still out, on the international scene. Just a few years ago, when the term flip flop was just taking hold and thong was still morphing in to tiny underwear, I was in our local Old Navy and I heard a grandmother call out to her teen grand-daughter, who was a couple of isles away, “Susie (not her name), look at these adorable thongs, they’d go perfect with that dress!” Susie groaned and hid (as did Principessa, who heard it too), while Susie’s mom, chastised grandma and told her that “those were flip flops and that thongs were underwear”, with that ‘you are so lame’ tone that is usually reserved for teens talking to their parents. Poor granny (who wasn’t actually that old) looked mortified and utterly flabbergasted. When she looked my way, I shrugged and told her that I ‘knew exactly what she meant,’ with a roll of my eyes. Principessa and I had a brief debate about the wording and I was sanctimonious in my certainty that this too would pass, and we’d be back to slipping thongs on our feet, with no more flip flopping about names, in no time.
Today, thongs make up 30% of all underwear sales, conservatively, and up to 90% of sales in some stores that sell to women only. They make thongs in sizes for young girls (I have personally seen them sold in size 8, children’s department); many moms, of all ages, are wearing them, and middle age and older women have embraced the trend as well. Bottom line: thongs are worn across age, size, ethnicity and cultural lines. It seems that virtually any woman may be willing to put up with a wedgie, to have that nice, clean, naked bottom look. I know, many of my friends have told me that their Hanky Pankies are so comfortable, but I’m just not feeling it. They may be more comfortable than others, but I still see the goal as trying to look naked.
The way I see it, the entire idea of modesty around this subject, has changed. Let me be clear here, I am pretty far left of prude. I’m pretty comfortable with sexuality and the human body. I can appreciate a beautiful body, male or female, as much as the next left of prude person. I don’t squirm when people are naked in a movie, or in art. Hell, as many of my friends know, I celebrate the first and sometimes last day of school each year, with a naked brunch with friends. In a private place of course, but still, I’m not afraid to sit with friends and bare it all. Still, it still takes me aback each time I see some beautiful woman, and then realize that her butt appears totally nude in her Lululemons, her slacks, or skirt… or someone bends over and the top of their thongs rise above their jeans or clothing. I can’t help it, it feels like catching a glimpse of something private. It just seems weird to see a Dr’s thong line; the waitress’ thong line; a friend’s line, under a thin summer skirt; young girls at school lifting their arms and there’s the thong. I can’t seem to get used to it, it just seems wrong to me.
I know, it sounds like I’m just walking around checking out butts all day, or that underwear has become a focus for me when I’m out in the world– that perhaps I’ve fallen in to a prude vortex. Ok, maybe I have a little. But mainly I just find myself wondering when it became the norm to try and look naked under our clothes, and where is all this naked headed? Or, as Pricipessa so passionately stated, when we discussed this post: “When did it become a bad thing to be modest?” Pardon me while I now make a rant of hypotheticals: How far can we push the boundaries? What on earth could any parent be thinking when they buy these underwear for that size 8 girl? Why does any thirteen or fourteen year old girl need to hide her panty lines? Isn’t it hard enough for thirteen and fourteen year old boys to concentrate without being able to see the outlines of 13-14 yr old girls’ buttocks? I think it was bad enough when they were just imagining it. Has it really become ok in our society for even very young girls to be so sexualized and displayed in that manner? What other message is there when we try to so hard to make it clear that our underwear is not there, or, in the case of bras, part of our outfit. Instead of trying to pin back loose bra straps or find the right bra for an outfit, now women choose bright colors, sexy lines, straps that are meant to be shown. More flirtation, more suggestive.
I feel like The Church Lady here! Am I sounding more prudish by the moment? Am I simply becoming a middle aged woman who’s gone from liberal and free about things to old fashioned and prissy? I actually wonder sometimes. I’ve had this conversation with plenty of other women, most my age, but some Principessa’s age (21) and I know there are other possible prudes out there with me, but the widespread media, the fashion and celebrity world all seem to laugh in my face. When Vogue is marketing a cover with a ten year old girl (yes, you read that right: TEN years old, that’s fourth grade folks!) as a very sexy model, in numerous pictures and people are buying it, what does that say to women of all ages? Look naked, be sexy and put it out there baby! Plain and simple. It’s creepy says this priss, plane old creepy. I remember when it was a REALLY big deal that Brooke Shields, then fifteen, posed for Calvin Klein jeans and it was front page “news” everywhere: magazines, news, talk shows . When you look at those adds now and compare them to some of what is out there today, it’s really eye opening. Am I just digging my “you’re getting old” grave deeper here? Should I throw in “and I had to walk ten miles to school in the snow!”
Check it out for yourself. Note: for me, both of these images (above) are concerning. Brooke was still only 15 in this ad (left), but when you compare the two, it seems even more shocking that Thylane (right) is only 10! When you see her in a picture with her mommy, with no make-up, no sexy stilettos, hair or make-up, she is a baby! A baby selling a very sexy image.
I can’t help it; I squirm; I cringe; this bothers me. How can young girls not feel pressure to be sexy and exciting (only a few steps away from actually having to act on that image, I believe) when so many mothers are dressing more like their teen daughters, models and sex symbols are in middle school or younger, and they actually have to worry about whether people might (God forbid!) think that they’re actually wearing underwear. And while I have no problem with women trying to look good at any age, or wearing clothes that flatter their figures, it just seems that we’ve moved so far off what was once “proper” that the lines are completely blurred. Oh, that’s right, there are no lines!
I have to admit, each time I put my Lululemon yoga pants on, these things run through my head. Perhaps not all of them, but more than I’d like. Admittedly, I knew when I bought the Lulus that they gained fame for making any woman’s butt look good. They do. So I bought in to that even before worrying about the underwear. However, it’s a slippery slope. Now, when I put them on, I also think: what does good looking mean, and will my underwear show? Is naked part of the equation? Will all the other yoginis in the class look better in their tights, because they’re wearing thongs? Should I wear mine, so my butt looks good too? Right, these are the very principals of yoga that are most important! Right after each Sun Salutation, my yoga teacher is certain to say: “Be sure to breath and please make sure your underwear are not showing, fix those panty lines ladies.” (sarcasm)
Share your thoughts. Do you think this isn’t really a problem and underwear is underwear? What do you think of the trends in advertising that use young girls to sell sexy images. I’d love to hear what you think. Thanks for reading!
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