Thursday, February 09, 2006

Why is is that the woman is always naked?

This writer gets it right: there's something wrong with attitudes toward nudity makes it so that only women are supposed to get naked. It's part of the sexualization of nudity, and very much part of "textile" thinking. Naturists should mull that over every time they are tempted to celebrate some example of public or media nudity.

Nudity, schmudity

Betsy Pickle - The Knox News

Ferbruary 8, 2206

I know we're supposed to blame Eve for the fact that we feel compelled to wear clothes, yet frankly, especially around this time of year, I can't help feeling she set the right example. Not only would Adam not be wearing anything, but he probably wouldn't even ask for directions to the mall to buy clothes. His extremities would be blue with, er, cold.

I bring this up because nudity seems to be all around. Last night's episode of "Boston Legal" featured a storyline in which activist Irma Levine (Lisa Vidal), the budding love interest of lawyer Alan Shore (James Spader), marched topless with dozens of other women to protest the redrawing of voting-district boundaries to favor local incumbent politicians.

Then today, I read the "news" that actress Rachel McAdams of "Wedding Crashers" and "The Notebook" dropped out of the photo shoot for the March cover of Vanity Fair because she felt uncomfortable posing nude. Actresses Keira Knightley and Scarlett Johansson went ahead with the shoot, sans attire, and photographer Annie Leibovitz had fashion designer Tom Ford, the guest art director for the issue, fill in for McAdams -- fully clothed.

It's one of my pet peeves that nearly every entertainment magazine I read shows up in my mailbox with the same attributes. If a man is on the cover, he's fully dressed (or at least has pants on). If a woman is on the cover, she's either naked or scantily clad. It doesn't (usually) offend my modesty, but it offends my sense of fair play. It annoys the heck out of me, and I shudder to think what kind of message it sends to girls and young women who are still trying to figure out what it means to be a woman in today's world. I've heard the argument that the nude female is art and the nude male is ungainly, but if you look at the artists and critics who've made that statement, they're mostly men.

I've got no problem with nudity. I've pretty much seen it all, and it can be beautiful, homely and funny. I thought the brouhaha over Janet Jackson's "wardrobe malfunction" at the Super Bowl a couple of years back was silly. Why is it that American families are offended by a woman's nipple but have no problem watching 300-pound guys endanger each other's lives as they knock each other to the ground? I'd like to send Child Services to the homes of parents who won't let their teenagers watch a quality film with "nekkid" women or men in it but will buy them violent videogames that surely are desensitizing them to violence, if not making them more aggressive.

(On a semi-related note, I asked my mom to call me Sunday night so I'd know when to turn on ABC to watch the Rolling Stones' Super Bowl halftime show. It was about as entertaining as it could be for a bunch of 60-year-olds playing archaic songs for exuberant "fans" who didn't even know them, though the sound was a bit spotty, and I wondered whether Mick Jagger had forgotten some of his more suggestive lyrics. Come to find out, the NFL censored the Stones' performance. Talk about deja vu all over again. I've seen the clips of "The Ed Sullivan Show" where Mick had to sing, "Let's spend some time together" instead of "Let's spend the night together." We haven't come a long way, baby!)

The "Boston Legal" episode was amusing because, as I watched my TiVo recording, I didn't even notice that the women weren't wearing tops. I was looking at the placards they were carrying. When Irma was arrested, I had to replay the scene to see what the fuss was about. Even though the situation was fictional, I supported the protesters because they did what they did to get attention, and their less-exposed efforts weren't getting them anywhere. In my opinion, this falls under the category of "By any means necessary."

The Vanity Fair situation is less amusing because it's part of the magazine's annual focus on Hollywood, and every year the cover seems like just another exercise in objectifying women instead of celebrating talent. I don't think it's wrong for people to want to look at pretty women and/or pretty men. I kept last year's "Into the Blue" calendar just to enjoy the photos of Paul Walker's biceps and abs -- oh, and his grin, too.

But I grew up watching classic Hollywood movies that trained me to find mystery more alluring than the obvious. Skin is fine in the right amount, in the right place (and that doesn't include chubby girls who insist on wearing midriff tops that force us to look at their flab rolls, or less than sculpted guys who like to show off their lack of physique with tank tops). My mom drilled into me the concept of "accentuate the positive; disguise the negative."

I don't agree with those who denounce nudity because it's lewd. Nudity is literally as natural as it gets, and if it hadn't been for Eve (and that snake), we might all be walking around in our birthday suits. And we'd be very cold. But when the only nude images we see are female, and we act like it's immoral for them to be exposed in that way, we're doing something very wrong.



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