No, underwear is not the same as swimwear

enero 23, 2012 at 2:38 pm (Uncategorized) (, , )

[Content note/Trigger Warning: Rape culture, assumptions about consent]

So a Facebook friend of mine posted this earlier today, thinking it was funny.

(The Spanish-language bit, by the way, says: “FEMALE LOGIC: Incomprehensible to all men”)

My first instinct was to defriend the guy on the spot: we’re not that close, and I doubt he’d notice. A second thought was to blast the entire ideas expressed in the picture for the bunch of sexist crap it is.  The idea that eventually won out, though, was to post this (in Spanish, which I’ve translated here):

Nothing complicated or illogical about it: just like I have no problems being naked in front of my (theoretical) girlfriend, but would have problems being naked in front of a classroom, there are women who have moments where they like showing skin, and others when they don’t.”

While possibly more diplomatic than they deserved (yeah, “they” the post quickly received multiple comments about how “true” the sentiment expressed in the picture was), and probably less forceful than is necessary, it’s what I was willing to say out loud–I’m not good with confrontations.  If nothing else, I hope that some of them at least get the point that this is not just an idiosyncrasy only women indulge in, or senseless.  Still, it only scratches the surface of the Brobdingnagian amount of fail expressed in the picture.  Hence, this post.

I’ll grant this to the poster: there are people–not all of them women–who do, in fact, feel this way.   I can not speak as to the reasons why, except to say that culture has a lot to do with it.  We’re taught that different contexts require different responses, and what’s okay in the beach (displaying a lot of skin) isn’t okay in the funeral parlor, and this is a natural extension of that.  Saying that this is something that only women do is, at best, unobservant and at worst, dishonest.

This picture also carries with it the underlying idea that if a woman is open to dressing or acting sexily in one place, then she must be okay with being that same way everywhere else, which no: I reject the premise in its entirety.  Just because a woman (person, really) consents to being ogled, or kissed, or whatever in one place does not mean that she must consent in every other context.  She’s free to give or withdraw that consent, no ifs, ands, or buts–that’s what the word MEANS.  And there’s nothing wrong with that.  If a woman I’m with feels embarrassed when I accidentally catch her changing, even after we’ve spent the day at the pool, well then that’s quite alright–I feel  the same way, lots of times.  She’s allowed to have her own opinion: it is her right as a person.  And if I happened to believe that what she wants is secondary, and don’t apologize for disrupting her privacy, then congratulations, me: I’m a huge asshole.

Second is the implication that women are inherently senseless (“Female logic”), which includes the corollary that men are logical, and that never the twain shall meet–individuality or personhood need not apply. It’s this type of thinking that forms a major part of the rape culture feedback loop.  After all, if women aren’t logical like men, then they are less than men–less than people.  And if they’re less than people, you don’t need to feel empathy for them, and it’s okay to grope them and harass them and embarrass them, and to make proposals in elevators and to drug their drinks.  After all, they’re just women, right?

And women aren’t the only ones being insulted here–men are, too, since the poster implies no men can understand  women, which personally offends me.  I’ve worked very hard to try to understand people, so implying that I can’t understand half the world’s population belittles my efforts and my intelligence.  If you can’t that’s fine (no it’s not), but don’t go I think the same way you do just because we happen to share a Y gene.


5 comentarios

  1. chris the cynic said,

    It also carries with it that any woman who doesn’t feel this way unnaturally masculine, and any man who does effeminate.

    I note that the woman in the bikini has chosen to go outside where she will be seen, where the woman in her underwear has clearly been surprised and was thus not expecting to be seen. It’s not just a question of setting, it’s also a question of preparedness. Even fully clothed there’s a giant difference between meeting someone in public and having someone unexpectedly burst in on you.

    I have no data to back this up, but I would guess that most men default to covering up when someone unexpectedly shows up while they’re in naught but their underwear even if they happen to be comfortable swimming in public.

    • icecoldblank said,

      “…it’s the question of preparedness…”

      This. So much This.

      I’m so sure that even porn stars and Playboy models would feel quite put out by someone unexpectedly barging in on them while they were in a state of less-than-dressed. I know that I* am generally comfortable in my own skin, but that certainly doesn’t mean that I’m good with random Stranger X or Acquaintance Y trying to get a peep of the goods without my knowledge or consent.

      In fact, I’d be inclined to guess that even the most natural-born nudist would feel at least a little weird/uncomfortable/violated by being put on display outside of a certain context.

      *not a Playboy model or porn star

  2. Ian said,

    I’d guess the same thing. I know that’d certainly be the same way with me. Thing is, nobody would question it, or think it odd or irrational–hence, the sexism–it’d be normal and unremarkable–it certainly wouldn’t elicit comments on my ability to logic.

    Also, good point; about the gender role interplay–that hadn’t occurred to me.

  3. Samantha C said,

    bleh…also, not all women are totally fine in a bikini. For god’s sake, I WISH I could find a swimming top that covers as much as my sports bra does. I can’t help wondering where one-piece suits and tankinis fit into this “women’s logic”.

    Because even when women want to cover up to swim and still be comfy, they just don’t make the clothes.

  4. Jennifer said,

    I agree with Samantha C. I’m way more comfortable in my bra that actually supports me than I am in any off-the-rack swimwear. If I want a swimsuit that is actually going to support me and keep everything in place, I have to special order one in my size with an underwire, and do you realize how hard it is to find an underwire swimsuit for anything larger than a D-cup?

    I also loved your article about how anyone is able to be an individual and change their mind and think how they want. I believe that men get classified just as bad as women do, though, in the act first/think later category. Women may often be said to be more complicated, hard to understand, etc. But I also hear people say all the time that men only think about sex, only want one thing, etc. I feel that’s just an excuse or something to scare women into being more chaste.


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