I’ve been letting the perfect be the enemy of the good: I haven’t posted the “So You Think You Can Dance” nudity parity documentation for the last couple of episodes, since I keep thinking, “Oh, I just have to find video links and the photos to illustrate it,” and I’ve been swamped lately and that task just seems daunting. So I’m just going to get the documentation up, sans video links and photos, and sans clever commentary. Continue reading “So You Think You Can Dance Nudity Parity Watch, Season 11, Episodes 12 and 13”
So the main thing I want to point out about this episode: This is the first episode, of the entire competition this season, in which a man was more naked than the woman in any performance.
There have been six episodes in this competition so far (not counting auditions, for reasons explained in the first post). In the significant majority of the performances, the women have been more naked than the men; there have been a handful of performances in which there has been rough nudity parity, and the women and men showed about the same amount of skin. But this is the first episode in which the man was more naked than the woman, in any performance.
The first one. All season.
I’m just sayin’, is all.
So here’s how it broke down this week. (Note for people who are following this nudity parity watch but are not watching the show itself: The reason you’re suddenly seeing new names and faces among the dancers is that the competitors are now dancing with All-Stars, performers from previous seasons, instead of with one another.)
Women are more naked than men (women have bare arms, bare midriffs, V-neck necklines, three of five have bare thighs with opaque stockings, men have short sleeves).
Man is slightly more naked than woman, FOR THE ONLY TIME SO FAR IN ANY PERFORMANCE THIS SEASON (woman has bare midriff, one bare arm, bare back, long flowy skirt showing shins and sometimes spinning up to show more of legs, man is shirtless).
Woman is more naked than man (woman has bare arms, bare back, mostly bare legs, very deep V-neck neckline, man is completely covered).
Woman is more naked than man (woman has bare arms, bare back, bare midriff, bare sternum, bare sides down over hips — in fact, her entire torso is pretty much exposed except for her breasts and some straps to hold things in place here and there; man has short sleeves).
Woman is more naked than man (woman has bare arms, bare legs, I think a bare back although it might be illusion netting, man has short sleeves). Also, her front torso is largely clad in flesh tone fabric that gives the impression of nudity, including her breasts.
Woman is more naked than man (woman has bare arms, bare legs, bare back, bare midriff, bare sternum, man has bare arms, vest open to bare chest and midriff).
Rough nudity parity (woman has bare arms, bare legs, man is shirtless). However, she has illusion netting giving the impression of nudity on much of her torso and back.
Woman is more naked than man (woman has bare arms, bare legs, deep neckline, slight keyhole under breasts, man has short sleeves).
Woman is more naked than man (woman has bare arms, bare back, deep scoop neckline, long skirt with slit that swirls up to show bare legs, man is completely covered).
Woman is more naked than man (woman has bare legs, bare midriff, bare sternum, bare forearms, man has bare forearms).
Woman is slightly more naked than man (woman has bare arms, long flowy sheer skirt that shows bare legs, bare sternum, largely bare midriff, man is shirtless).
Woman is more naked than man (woman has bare arms, bare back, long flowy sheer skirt that shows bare legs, deep V-neck neckline, he has bare arms, deep scoop neckline).
Sorry this post is so late, btw (this post documents the SYTYCD episode that aired on July 30 — the last couple of weeks have been a little, let’s say, challenging). I don’t have any particular analysis of this episode, except to note that the pattern that’s been consistent throughout this season has been an overwhelming lack of nudity parity between the male and female dancers, and this episode is no exception.
Women are more naked than men (women have bare arms, bare backs, long skirts with deep slits that mostly show bare legs, men have bare arms or short sleeves).
Woman is more naked than man (she has bare arms, bare midriff, low scoop neckline, largely bare back, he is comoletely covered). Also, her outfit is largely skin-tight, his outfit is a regular-fitting suit.
Woman is more naked than man (she has bare arms, bare back, deep V-neck, flowy skirt with a diagonal cut to hip that shows mostly bare legs, he has shirt unbuttoned to show chest and belly).
Woman is more naked than man (she has lace stockings largely showing legs, bare shoulders, largely bare back, lacy sleeves partly showing arms, keyhole neckline, he is completely covered).
Woman is more naked than man (she has bare legs, bare back, bare upper arms, somewhat deep V-neck, he has bare forearms, shirt unbuttons to deep V-neck).
Woman is more naked than man (she has bare arms, flowy slit skirt that mostly shows bare legs, bare upper back, largely bare sternum, he has short sleeves, slightly scooped neckline).
Woman is more naked than man (she has bare arms, bare back, bare sides, partly bare midriff, deep V-neck, he is completely covered).
Rough nudity parity (both dancers are pretty much completely covered, she has a slight scoop neckline). However, her legs are covered with skin-tight tights, her arms are covered with skin-tight flesh-toned sleeves, he’s wearing regular-fitting trousers and shirt.
Note: The mini-group routines, solo routines, and guest routine can’t be used in a strict gender parity comparison. The mini-group routines weren’t like the couples routines where one man and one woman are put into the same performance by the same choreographer and presumably costumed by the same costume designer; I assume that the guest performers picked their own costumes; and as far as I know, the dancers pick their own costumes for the solo routines. But for the sake of completism, I’m documenting them anyway.
Bare backs, bare arms, long flowy slit skirt mostly showing bare legs, mostly deep V-necks or deep scoop necklines (all have some bareness of sternum/chest), some bare midriffs.
Bare chests and backs
Note: There was some interesting gender non-normativity in this routine, both in the dance style and in the costumes, which featured flowy skirt-like things, similar to skirts often worn by women in the contemporary routines. However, rather than having their legs bare underneath, their legs are covered.
GUEST ROUTINE: ACADEMY OF VILLAINS
All dancers literally entirely covered, including masks.
(Sorry, I couldn’t find still images of the solo performances, but the video links should work)
Serge solo, Latin ballroom
Carly solo, contemporary
Bare legs, bare arms, bare back, largely bare midriff, deep scoop neckline
Casey solo, contemporary
Bare arms, very deep scoop neckline
Bare legs, lacy back and sleeves that are partly see-through
Bare arms, mostly bare legs, bare upper back, bare sternum
Before I get into this particular episode, though, I want to address a question that’s been asked a couple of times about this project — namely, whether a lack of nudity parity, even a consistent lack of nudity parity, necessarily implies sexism.
No, the fact that, in any given situation, women are showing more skin than men does not automatically imply that women are expected to show more skin than men — either in general, or in that particular situation. This trope isn’t even universally true: in Islamist theocracies, for instance, women’s subjugation and objectification is marked by the expectation that they cover up, not the expectation that they show skin. And of course, none of this implies that showing skin is bad or wrong.
But when you see a consistent and repeated pattern of women showing more skin than men, it makes you wonder if this isn’t just random chance or a random cultural quirk. That’s even more true given that there are places and situations where this pressure or expectation is made explicit (fashion magazines, dress codes, mothers — other examples welcome in the comments). It’s even more true given all the other evidence we have of the ways that women are routinely expected to be ornamental and to fit conventional standards of attractiveness, and are primarily or largely valued for our value as ornaments and sex objects. And it’s even more true in a situation like SYTYCD, where the dancers’ costume choices are being made for them and are the product of the producers’ and costumers’ conscious choice (influenced by unconscious cultural stuff, of course).
There’s an interesting Catch-22 about talking about sexism, racism, classism, homophobia, etc. If you talk about the phenomenon in general, and talk about broad trends and tropes, people will say, “Give me examples! I don’t see what you’re talking about!” But if you point to specific examples, people will say, “That’s just one example! One example doesn’t prove that there’s a pattern! Besides, that example is special, it’s an exception because (reasons)!”
So no. The fact that on SYTYCD, week after week, the female dancers consistently have more skin shown than the male dancers, with very few instances of nudity parity and virtually no examples (none at all so far this season) of male dancers showing more skin than the women — this does not, by itself, prove that women’s bodies are treated as display objects by our culture.
It’s just one small example of it.
So now, to this week’s data.
Women are more naked than men (women have bare legs, bare arms, bare midriffs, mostly bare backs, men have either bare arms or short sleeves, some have scoop necklines).
Woman is more naked than man (woman has bare arms, bare shins, bare midriff, mostly bare back, V-neck, man is completely covered).
Technically, they have rough nudity parity (woman has bare legs, man has bare forearms and open-necked shirt). However, her upper body is covered by a skin-tight, mostly flesh-toned leotard/ bodysuit thing that’s intended to look like she’s largely nude, with non-flesh-tone just on her skirt and bosom.
Woman is more naked than man (woman has bare back, sheer netting on sides down to sides of calves, midriff, sternum, man is completely covered). Also, her outfit is skin-tight, while his is a regular-fitting suit, maybe somewhat more snug than usual.
Woman is more naked than man (woman has bare back, bare sides, arms covered on top and bare on bottom, long skirt that twirls up to show legs, man is completely covered).
Woman is more naked than man (woman has bare legs, bare arms, deep scoop neckline, man has bare forearms (wrists, really) and slightly dipped neckline).
Woman is more naked than man (woman has bare legs, bare arms, bare midriff, bare sternum, largely bare back, man has bare forearms, shirt open to deep V-neck).
Woman is more naked than man (woman has mostly bare legs decorated with stockings and garters, bare arms, deep scoop neckline, bare back, man has bare arms, V-neck).
Woman is more naked than man, but not much (woman has bare arms, slightly bare midriff, slightly open neckline (more open than his), man has bare arms). However, she has skin-tight leggings, while he has skin-tight leggings covered by loose long shorts.
Women are more naked than men (women have bare legs, bare arms, men have bare arms).
Women are slightly more naked than men (women have wide, deep scoop necklines, men have somewhat deep V-necklines). However, women have skin-tight leggings, while men have looser dance slacks.
Just as was the case last week, in all routines but one, the women are more naked than the men. In most cases, that difference is significant. And even in the cases of rough nudity parity or the cases where nudity imbalance is not dramatic, the woman’s body is revealed more than the man’s, with more skin-tight outfits.
I don’t have much analysis of this episode, except to point this out: There was literally just one routine tonight in which there was nudity parity. Every other routine had women more naked than men. And in all but one of those routines, the nudity imbalance was dramatic, with the women very noticeably more naked than the men.
All but one.
I’m just sayin’, is all.
(Also, apologies for the lateness — I was traveling, and only just saw the episode Sunday night.)
Women are more naked than men, although not dramatically (some women have low necklines and backs, some women are completely covered, all men are completely covered).
Woman is more naked than man (she has bare legs and short sleeves, he has bare forearms).
Woman is more naked than man (she has bare legs, bare arms, deep scoop neckline, he has bare arms, deep scoop neckline).
Woman is more naked than man (she has bare legs, bare arms, scoop neckline, deep scoop back, he has bare arms, open back).
Woman is more naked than man (she has mostly bare legs, bare arms, somewhat low neckline, mostly bare back, he has bare forearms).
Woman is more naked than man (she has bare legs, short sleeves, deep scoop neckline, deep scoop back, he has short sleeves).
Woman is more naked than man (she has mostly bare legs, bare arms, low neckline, low back, he has bare forearms, shirt open at neck).
Woman is more naked than man (she has bare arms, low neckline slightly covered with flowers, low back, long skirt that covers legs but swirls up in twirls to reveal bare legs, he is completely covered).
Complete nudity parity (both dancers wearing essentially identical skeleton costumes, both completely covered).
Woman is more naked than man (she has mostly bare legs, bare arms, low neckline, he is completely covered).
See above. In all routines but one, the women are more naked than the men, and in almost all of those routines, that difference was significant.
All but one.
I’m just sayin’.
I was recently re-watching ““Becoming, Parts 1 and 2,” those Buffy the Vampire Slayer episodes where geeky witch Willow does a spell to give the vampire Angel his soul back. And suddenly I had a burning ethical question.
Why don’t they just keep doing the re-ensoulment spell — on all vampires? Or at least, on all the vampires that they can?
Yes, it’s a somewhat difficult spell — although given that Willow could do it when she was a fairly inexperienced witch, it clearly can’t be that difficult. And yes, it’s very likely (although I’m not sure they specify this) that the spell can only be done one vampire at a time, and that you need to know which particular vampire you’re re-ensouling. But given what a scourge vampires are on humanity, wouldn’t it be worth doing, as much as possible? At least from a harm-reduction perspective, even if they could only re-ensoul a couple/few vampires a week, wouldn’t that be worth it?
Thus begins my new piece for io9, On The Ethics of Vampire Slaying in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. To read more about this burning issue of the day (well, this burning issue of 2003), read the rest of the piece. Enjoy!
Are female bodies displayed and objectified in pop culture more than male bodies? If so, how much?
But there’s a trend I’ve been noticing on the show that bugs me, and I’ve decided to start documenting it — partly just to see if I’m really right or if this is just confirmation bias, and partly because if I am right, I think it’s worth documenting. The trend is this: In choreographed performances, there’s significantly more female skin shown than male skin. Whether the dancers are partnered in male-female couples (as they typically are), or are dancing in group routines, the men and women either show roughly the same amount of skin, or the women show more skin than the men. It is very, very rare for the women to be more covered up than the men.
Here’s why this matters. A big part of sexist culture is the sexual objectification of female bodies. Insert standard rant: Women are routinely expected to be ornamental and to fit conventional standards of attractiveness: we’re often valued only when we fit these standards, and are dismissed when we don’t (while at the same time, in a no-win game, we get slut-shamed and trivialized when we do). Beauty and attractiveness isn’t just more important for women than it is for men — the standards are far more stringent. Women’s bodies are put on display in popular culture more than men’s, and this display is often objectifying, with the bodies being dehumanized (e.g., shown without faces), treated as interchangeable, treated as things to be owned or acquired, treated as tools of other people’s purposes without regard to our own agency, etc. And all of this often shows up in sexual ways: women’s sexuality in particular is often treated as more important than anything else we might have to offer, while at the same time is dehumanized, treated as interchangeable, treated as something to be owned or acquired, treated with disregard to our agency, more carefully watched and judged than men’s, more stringently controlled than men’s, etc. Standard rant over.
Which is why I’m focusing here, not on whether women’s bodies are being displayed or even sexualized, but on whether women’s bodies are being displayed and/or sexualized more than men’s. If everyone’s bodies are displayed in much the same way, then I’m wrong, and in this instance my observation is just confirmation bias. But if women’s bodies are displayed and/or sexualized more than men’s, then I have a point.
And yes, I realize SYTYDC is just one small part of both the dance world and the pop culture world: this analysis isn’t intended, by itself, to be proof of the sexual objectification of women. This phenomenon has been amply and thoroughly documented elsewhere. This is just the example of it I happen to be looking at right now. (I also realize that this analysis is very much based on a gender binary: the show itself is super-gender-binary oriented, so that’s unfortunately inevitable, and that’s actually part of what I’m documenting here as well.)
So, with all that being said: Here is my data on nudity parity and the lack thereof in So You Think You Can Dance, Season 11 (the current season). I’m starting with Episode 6, since this is the first episode with most of the choreography and costuming chosen by the Fox network and its employees. (Until now, we’ve just had auditions, with costumes self-selected by the dancers: there are interesting nudity parity issues to be observed there as well, but with self-selection, the issue of whose perspective is being expressed is more complicated, as is the sex-positive feminist question of women choosing to display our own bodies and our own sexuality in a sexist and objectifying world. With routines choreographed and costumed by the network, I think we can fairly see the patterns as reflecting the viewpoint of the corporation, to the degree that a corporation can have a viewpoint.) And I’m doing this several days after this episode first aired because I was away for much of last week visiting family. I’ll try to be more prompt in the future, but I make no promises. Continue reading “So You Think You Can Dance, Nudity Parity Watch: Season 11, Episode 6”
“At last, something beautiful you can truly own.”
And it’s gotten me thinking: What does beauty mean?
So the idea behind this tagline, and the ad campaign, and indeed this entire episode, is that the Jaguar XKE is like a mistress: beautiful, sexy, desirable, impractical, temperamental, unpredictable. And the tagline is, “At last, something beautiful you can truly own.” The implication being that you can’t really own beautiful women, and that many men feel this is a sad sad thing (one of the major themes of this episode) — but you can own a Jaguar XKE. You can get that sense of deep satisfaction from it — and you can keep it, and own it, and have that experience of beauty whenever you like.
But the thing is, as Michael Ginsberg himself says (the copywriter who comes up with the campaign and the tagline): It isn’t just people who you can’t own and keep. It isn’t just people who are elusive and changeable. Possessions are like that, too. Or at least, the experiences of pleasure we get from possession are like that. As Michael says when he’s pitching this idea to Don: Even very rich men, who already own many beautiful things, are still dissatisfied. The beautiful things they have aren’t enough. The Jaguar ad promises that this thing — finally, at long last, unlike all the other things — will satisfy their longing for the unattainable.
It’s a false promise, of course. And I started thinking about why that is.
Beauty is, literally, in the eye of the beholder. And by that, I don’t mean that it’s a matter of taste or opinion (although of course, that’s also true). I don’t mean that different people experience different things as more or less beautiful, or that duck-billed platypuses see each other as beautiful and see us as fugly. Well, what I mean is close to that.
I mean that the experience of beauty is literally in the eye, or the brain, of the beholder.
I mean that beauty is an experience.
And that means that it can’t be owned, or kept, or held onto.
Some objects or people are “more beautiful,” in that they’re more likely than others to evoke that experience in more people. But the beauty doesn’t really reside in the objects or the people. It resides in the mind and the heart and the body of the beholder. And trying to hold and own and keep this experience of beauty is actually what makes it slip through our fingers. Letting transitory experiences be what they are is what lets them sink in deeply and resonate throughout our lives. Struggling to keep them, to make them permanent, is what makes them slip away — and makes us miss the point.
And you know how, if you’ve had an amazing vacation someplace, you often have this desire to try to re-create it, to go back to the same hotel and eat at the same restaurants and visit the same museums — but if you do, it isn’t the same? And if the place is amazing again, it’s because you did something different, or saw something you weren’t expecting? That.
We can certainly load the dice. We can own beautiful objects. We can make connections with beautiful people (beautiful in all senses of the word, not just physical). We can create beautiful experiences for ourselves — or experiences that are likely to be beautiful. We can work to make a life that is more likely to create the experience of beauty.
We can own beautiful things. But we can’t own beauty.
So I was watching the “Yard Sale” episode (I’m watching the show out of order in syndicated re-runs) — and I wanted to throw my drink at the screen. And I’m not even drinking these days. I wanted to mix myself a drink, just so I could throw it at the screen.
The plot line that was making me mad: Teenage daughter Alex has a new boyfriend, Michael, who she brings to the extended family’s yard sale. Her mom Claire is worried that Michael is gay, and she calls in the gay uncles Cam and Mitchell for a consultation on the matter: the three of them observe Michael’s stereotypically gay behavior, and agree that he’s gay. We see a scene in which Michael is alone with Alex, continuing to act stereotypically gay, but getting very defensive when she asks him point-blank if he’s gay or not.
And for the 787,266,456th time in my pop-culture viewing life, I wanted to scream, “Did anyone consider the possibility that he might be bisexual?”
Why are “gay” and “straight” the only options here? When the grownups decided that Michael was probably queer, why did that automatically rule out the possibility that he might be genuinely into their daughter/niece? Why did nobody consider the possibility that he might be a queeny queer guy who likes girls?
I have known some very queeny bisexual men. I have known some very dykey bisexual women. I know some very queeny bisexual men in serious or primary relationships with women, and some very dykey bisexual women in serious or primary relationships with men. (I’ve also known some queeny straight men and some dykey straight women, but that’s a post for a different day.) Why does tagging someone as “probably queer” automatically mean that if they’re dating someone of the opposite gender, they’re deceiving themselves or flat-out lying?
For the record, I do think gaydar is a thing. It’s not a magical thing, it’s not like some psychic connection queers have with each other: it’s more of an unconscious adding-up of lots of personal and cultural signifiers, it’s very culturally determined and it does go wrong. But yes, I think queers probably are, in general, better at figuring out who is and isn’t queer. (Although I’d be very interested to see research testing this theory.)
But queer guys can like girls. Queer girls can like guys. Even very classically queer girls and guys can like girls and guys. And we’re not even getting into people who are gender-queer, gender-fluid, or don’t identify on a gender binary… and who have all sorts of orientations in terms of what genders or lack thereof they’re attracted to. Not to mention people who are traditionally gendered, but who can be attracted to people who aren’t. Queerness comes in lots of different flavors: simple homosexuality is only one of many.
I think this bugged me even more than it might have because “Modern Family” is supposedly all about breaking down standard gender and family expectations. It’s supposedly all about how modern American families aren’t Ozzie and Harriet any more (not that they ever were): they’re commonly blended, multi-racial, mixed-generational, adoptive, and/or same-sex. And yet here it is, reinforcing the tired old notion that everyone is neatly divided into two groups, gay and straight, and never the twain shall meet. Eradicating even the possibility of bisexuality along the way.
One of the things that sucks most about being bisexual is not being recognized by either straight or gay people. It sucks having it assumed that having sex with both women and men means, at best, that you’re confused or experimenting or trying to find yourself. It sucks having it assumed that if you’re in an opposite-sex relationship, you’ve sown your wild oats (and have renounced any right to be part of the queer community; that if you’re in a same-sex relationship, you’ve finally found your true gay self. It sucks having past relationships seen as false, depending on whether they were with the same gender you’re with right now.
It sucks to be treated as invisible. It sucks worse to have even the possibility of who you are be eradicated.
(And yes, I know. This is fluffy mainstream-ish pop-culture entertainment. It’s just replacing an old set of cultural norms with a new one. It still bugged me.)
I’ll get this out of the way first: I love “Mad Men.” I think it’s one of the best programs currently on TV; actually, I think it’s one of the best programs that’s ever been on TV. This isn’t a “Mad Men did this thing, therefore they suck” piece. This is a “”Mad Men did this thing, and I still love the show, but I really wish they wouldn’t do this, especially since it’s such a depressingly common pattern” piece.
So. In last Sunday’s episode, “Man With a Plan,” Don Draper and Sylvia Rosen take their torrid affair into a hotel room… where things get seriously kinky between them. Don orders Sylvia to crawl on her hands and knees and fetch his shoes — and although she declines to crawl, she does fetch his shoes…s and gets on her knees in front of him, to put his shoes on his feet. And thus begins a very intense interlude of sexual dominance play between them, in which Don orders Sylvia to undress, get back into bed, and stay there in the hotel room waiting for him, while he comes and goes at his leisure. In which he phones her, instructs her that she’s going to wait for him without knowing when he’s coming back, and then orders her not to pick up the phone again — an order that she obeys. In which he sends her a beautiful and sexy evening dress from Saks Fifth Avenue, and then, instead of taking her out to dinner, orders her to take it off for him, right there in the room. In which he takes her book away from her, controlling even what she thinks about when he’s not there. In which she asks him for instructions, asking, “What do I do now?” — and he tells her, “You fall asleep the minute I close that door. I’m flying upstate — and when I come back, I want you ready for me.” In which he tells her, “You are for me. You exist in this room for my pleasure.” In which both Don and Sylvia both seem to be getting off, hard, and at great length.
We’ve seen Don’s kinky side come out before. When he and Betty broke up and he was living alone, he hired a prostitute to slap him in the face while having sex with him. And he and Megan have some sort of kink going on in their sex life… kink they only talk about obliquely (when Don suggests that Megan is picking a fight so they can have rough sex, she uncomfortably says, “This isn’t about that.”) But this episode spells it out much more clearly, and at much greater length, than the show ever has before. And I won’t deny it — as a kinky person, I found last Sunday’s sequence incredibly sexy. The fantasy of having a willing human sex toy holed up in a secret room, for you to enjoy at your whim — or the fantasy of being that sex toy — is, for many kinky people, super-duper-hot. Myself included. And it’s a fantasy that could easily be acted out consensually, by any number of sane, ethical, happy sadomasochists.
And I am sick, sick, sick of this shit. I am sick to freaking death of kinky sex — or even just a display of the outfits and equipment of kinky sex — routinely getting used as a cheap, easy, quick-and-dirty way to indicate that a character is either evil, or damaged, or both. Continue reading “"Mad Men," and How Kink Gets Used as a Marker of Evil — or Damage”