the immodesty i can’t unsee
“Daily life shouldn’t be a fashion show all the time.” – Leighton Meester.
Oh, but it is.
A constant one. A relentless one.
All the world truly is a stage, and often times, I feel like that audience member who bought the really good orchestra seats. I’d hate to leave, those tickets be so damn expensive! But I feel morally stricken by the scenes I am seeing, namely the ones involving a false, expectant sense of modesty. Will people around me judge me if I leave early? I could say something, I guess. But that would disrupt the show, and I didn’t write it. Hell, I’m not even performing in it. So I watch, and hope my supply of chocolate covered raisins last until the denouement. I watch, realizing that we are constantly observing and being observed, acting and reacting, and judging and being judged. Enjoy the show.
Modesty: The hero/villain/main/supporting character. While present at all times, we never want this character to be an overt presence. Obvious subtly is the name of the game.
Male: Preferably on stage as much as possible. Improv is strongly encouraged, nay, expected!
Female: Should be onstage as support to the Male. Should also embody the general persona of Modesty.
A classroom, a different classroom, a Harkins movie theater
Act I, Scene I: The Lowered Raise
In this scenario, the female character is a middle school English teacher. She is surrounded by boisterous members of her own kind at an early morning meeting with her collegues. The topic is the raise said female teacher deserves based on the extra class period she has taken on to teach, providing the students with better access to her as a resource. A second female teacher asks her how her conversation went with the principal regarding the desired raise.
Female Teacher 1: You know, it wasn’t as hard as I expected!
*Random exclamations from other female teachers: Really? Wow! How’d you do it?
Female Teacher 1: I just showed him all the extra hours I’ve put in and an approximate of what they should be worth. I’m gonna be working hundreds of extra hours a semester, after all.
Female Teacher 2: And? What’d he say?
Female Teacher 1: Not much. He thanked me for my time and said he’d get back to me.
Female Teacher 2: Wow, that was brave. I’ve never asked for a raise before. I’m not sure I could do it.
We live in a world where it is cute and expected that a female would be hesitant about asking for a raise, even in a situation where she was doing the work of two people and had evidence and data to back up her claims of raise worthiness. This sense of modesty or “humility” is damaging to working women’s sense of worth in the workplace and can lead to burnout when she is not properly compensated.
Act I, Scene II- The Yellow Card
It is spirit day and students are hyper and excited while completing warm-up work in Female Teacher 1’s English class. Students are allowed to dress up as nerds, or in gear that represents their inner nerd. They just need to be modest, is all.
Female Teacher 1: Female student, I’m sorry, but I have to give you a yellow card. You are out of dress code.
Female Student: But my dress is covered in Pikachus… it’s nerdy!
Female Teacher 1: Yes, but the dress code still applies, and your dress doesn’t have long enough sleeves. Would you like to serve your detention on Tuesday or Wednesday?
Female Student: (mumbles) Tuesday, I guess.
The same female teacher who was beholden to gendered modesty stereotypes about asking for a raise was also forced by the school system to perpetuate modesty rhetoric on a preteen girl because the sleeves of her dress weren’t quite up to code. A girl who had been excited to nerd out and wear a favorite fangirl dress left her English class with a yellow detention slip and without a smile. But rules are rules and shoulders ARE scandalous.
End Scene. Start Rant.
I’m not even going to be cute or clever about this last scene. It just calls for a good ol’-fashioned rant.
I had my misgivings about seeing the movie Deadpool. I was down for the action and the cheeky humor, but was a little put-off by what seemed to be, from what I’d seen from the commercials, gratuitous stripper scenes. More of my wariness on that in a minute. Anyway, I knew my boyfriend was all hot and bothered to go see it, and he had accompanied me to see Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, so I decided to swallow my uncertainty and take him to see it. I laughed more that I’d expected. I even survived what I thought were super unnecessarily sexy sex scenes.
And I watched for the penis.
*SPOILERS* (sorta, not really at all)
My boyfriend had read an article about how Ryan Reynolds, aka Wade Wilson, aka Deadpool, did a nude fighting scene. “Wow,” I thought, “that seems progressive.” And a whole article was written describing how Mr. Reynolds felt about his phallus being on public display. “This is gonna be big,” I thought. And then I laughed at the verbal irony.
So when the nude fight scene came up, I sat up a little straighter in my theater seat. I started the scrotum search. I was on penis patrol. Now, before I come across as some sort of pervert, let me be clear- I do not prowl for penises during my free time. I don’t really feel a whole lot of emotions towards them visually one way or another, but dammit, there is so much female nudity in movies, and I hate it because I know it’s for the male gaze and it is almost always extremely sexualized and I always feel a hot furnace of anger rage in my gut when I see it over. And over. And over and over and over again. So I thought maybe this once, just this once, Ryan Reynold’s wang would even the playing field. I was wrong.
I guess it was there. Sorta. In the back-light of some sort of fiery explosion, it was there. My friend, who had seen the film before me, said he hadn’t even know about the wayward wiener and had missed it completely. I’m not surprised. I sat there with my mouth agape, floored that this moment would merit a mention, let alone a whole article.
But that wasn’t even the worst of it. Fast forward ten or fifteen minutes, and the movie did get naked and naughty- at a strip club. Women’s huge breast and perfectly shaved vaginas stared back at me unapologetically from the screen.
So… let me get this straight. Deadpool is a film that is supposed to defy super stereotypes and stuff and things and blah da freaking blah… and as several articles tout the amazing naked feats of Mr. Reynolds, the real nudity comes in the COMPLETELY ORIGINAL, NEVER-BEFORE-ATTEMPTED DEBUT OF A BUNCH OF STRIPPERS AT A STRIP CLUB! I HATE MY LIFE RIGHT NOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
You. Let. Me. Down. Fox. You gave me oranges when I asked for a banana. You sold me Avant-garde flavored gum but the flavor faded in five seconds, and then you gave me a whole buffet of more of the same- naked women doing what naked women are supposed to do- dance and flaunt themselves around for the menz. At least when Wade Wilson was naked, he was kicking ass. All I saw happening with the stripper routine was the film studio politely kissing the ass of the horny dude bros.
And all I can offer as a form of analysis is this- naked women on display for men is arguably not that modest. I hate to see it. Female students getting called out when they geek out for not being perfectly covered is nowhere near true modesty. I hate to see it. And female teachers having to talk to each other support group-style about whether or not they should ask for raises they have clearly earned is NOT modesty. I really hate to see it.
So, what it all boils down to is this- I need to figure out a way to:
a). not let what I see in life’s show bother me/grin and bear it
b). leave the damn show
c). start stealing the show
One Response to “the immodesty i can’t unsee”
I understand feeling frustrated about yet another female stripper scene when we almost never see males or other genders in stripper scenes — we’re being told that (straight, cis) male sexuality and desire are what matter, not other people’s sexuality. (I hear Magic Mike and its sequel make up for this injustice, so you might consider seeing them if you haven’t. Leave the boyfriend at home. 😉
Sexy sex scenes between couples are a different thing, however. They aren’t unnecessary; they’re sexy and appealing, just like action scene are fun or thrilling, and jokes are funny and entertaining. It’s all there for fun, and it can also tell us about the characters and further their stories.
Modesty, IMO, is a male invention. Believing in modesty is believing in the idea that women’s bodies exists for men to control. I was taught that hiding my sexuality until a man was ready to claim it was being modest. Long sleeves and long skirts are about suppressing women’s natural sexual desires so that men can use their bodies as they see fit: stick them up on virgin pedestals, drag them down into Jezebel fantasies, blame them for “asking for” their own rape because they didn’t dress modestly enough, desexualize them as mother figures or hormonal-less grandmothers, etc.
Modesty is society pretending women’s wild sexual fantasies are wrong, because women are there to have children, not to be sexually passionate and dominant, because that’s a man’s domain.