Breast Beating

So here’s the thoroughly charming duet with Elmo that got Katy Perry booted off Sesame Street:

The great bogeyman “parent protests” won this battle just by showing up on the field: to save itself a headache PBS caved in to a handful of puritanical whiners, leaving the hard work of defending free speech and common-sense to some other luckless sap. (It’s sure to be the saddest lesson kids will learn on Sesame Street this year.) Since no normal pre-pubescent child would ever notice Ms. Perry’s chest without some helpful adult writing F-I-L-T-H across it with a Sharpie pen, the parents are clearly registering their own reaction to her body. And because (unless you have a thing for Elmo) it’s all occurring in the most innocent possible context (even the song is a plea for emotional constancy), these prigs really are saying that the tops of a young woman’s breasts are objectionable in themselves—which, I gotta say, is both mind-boggling and kind of exciting, because it’s also very, very dirty. In fact, if anyone here can explain to me how, except by degree, this is any different from the Taliban and all of their crazy-ass shame-based bullshit about the female body, there’s a plateful of blueberry pancakes in it for you.

Meanwhile, over at Slate the professional busybody Emily Yoffe (aka “Dear Prudence”), who earns a living by solving “problems” that would make the average Somali laugh bitterly in your face, is busy having this exchange:

Dear Prudence,

Two colleagues and I own a business. We are all good friends and do great work together. Our dress code tends to be somewhat formal, but we don’t have a specific uniform. One of us has been showing up lately for professional events braless, very obviously so. This concerns the other two of us, because we have a relatively conservative clientele, the market has been extremely cutthroat for the service we offer, and we always want to put our best foot forward. Is one of us “nipping out” a big deal? The two of us who wear bras have been trying to dress by example, but our third colleague doesn’t seem to notice. Should we mention it and, if so, how? Should just one of us take her aside? Or should we drop it?

—Mountains out of Molehills?

Dear Mountains,

There you two are, trying to put your best foot forward, but all anyone notices is her bouncing chest. If her lack of undergarments is so obvious, your female clients are going to wonder what’s up (or not) with your partner. And your male clients are going to have a hard time focusing on your actual message when she’s sending such a distracting subliminal one. So she doesn’t feel ganged up on, before the next presentation, one of you should bring up the two of hers. Do it with as little drama as possible. Say something like, “Marissa, we’ve noticed that at the last few meetings, you’ve been going braless. That is just not a professional enough look for the image we’re trying to convey. So please truss up your gals.” Let’s hope she takes to heart that you’re just being supportive.

—Prudie

Is there a single line of this drivel that doesn’t make you want to spew? It’s all so neutered and boringly affable, it’s like the verbal equivalent of mom jeans. Note that we’re never given any information that would be actually useful in diagnosing the situation, such as which industry the women service, what kind of “professional events” the colleague is attending, whether the clothes she does wear are appropriate, whether any clients have complained about her, and whether or not she is known to have cost the company a penny’s worth of revenue. Instead we’re treated to that ghastly faux collegiate tone and a snotty assertion—“All anyone notices is her bouncing chest”—that isn’t backed up by even a whisper of evidence.

But other parts of Prudie’s advice caught my eye, too, beginning with: “[Your] male clients are going to have a hard time focusing on your actual message when she’s sending such a distracting subliminal one.” You want to know somethin’? A long, long time ago, back in the 1970s, there were these funny creatures running around who were called “feminists”. Oh, they were a pissed-off bunch of bitches alright, but if you listened to them long enough they began to make a lot of sense, and one of the things they made greatest sense about was how their actions didn’t necessarily mean what men might want them to mean. A lot of women back then didn’t wear bras—some to make a political statement, some to make a statement no bigger than “I don’t like the damn things”—yet somehow the engine of capitalism didn’t come flying off the rails. More to the point, if a man ever suggested that a woman’s bralessness was actually a “subliminal message” to him, he was usually disabused of the notion with extreme prejudice. Indeed, this happened enough times that guys eventually began to understand that a woman showing up braless—at school, in a meeting, or even on a date—didn’t necessarily mean that she wanted to break in a box-spring with them. In fact—and here was the gargantuan leap—it might not have anything to do with them at all.

And then there’s this:

So she doesn’t feel ganged up on, before the next presentation, one of you should bring up the two of hers. Do it with as little drama as possible. Say something like, “Marissa, we’ve noticed that at the last few meetings, you’ve been going braless. That is just not a professional enough look for the image we’re trying to convey. So please truss up your gals.”

Yeah, that’s the ticket, baby! Work her, but don’t let her feel ganged up on, even though that’s exactly you’re doing. And keep the drama down, for heaven’s sake! If crazy ol’ “Marissa” is willing to walk around in undergarments of her own choosing, God knows what psycho reaction she and her giant floppy tits might have if you simply approach her with your concerns. (She might even have a reasonable comeback to your objections.) I swear, if any adult professional woman thinks a line like “Truss up your gals” is anything other than sick-making in the extreme, having a braless colleague is the least of her problems. She needs to forget about doing grown-up things like running a business or slagging her friends in Slate, and stick to watching Sesame Street.

2 Responses to “Breast Beating”

  1. Obsessive « Tom Blog Says:

    […] MPAA ratings board? Don’t worry, I know the answer—our discomfort about sex trumps everything. (Even common sense.) I’m just pointing out a discrepancy. Share this:Like this:LikeBe the first to like […]

  2. hear ye hear ye « Tom Blog Says:

    […] ratings board? (Don’t worry, I know the answer: their discomfort about sex trumps everything, including common sense. I’m just pointing out a discrepancy here…) Share this:Like this:LikeBe the first to like […]

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