Saturday, December 6, 2008


We has it.

Found via Hoyden About Town.

This is just wrong in too many ways to count, but here are four to be going on with:

1) False advertising. A woman the size and shape of the one in the photo doesn't 'need' to wear this or any other torture garment. I am of an age to have spent the first year of my adolescence being forced to wear 'foundation garments' (then suddenly they invented pantyhose -- stockings had hitherto been kept up by girdles, and if you were over fourteen and left your legs bare you were a slut -- and the world changed overnight) so I know whereof I speak.

2) Allegedly to minimise 'figure faults' and maximise 'assets', this garment has a (porno)graphic subtext, not particularly sub, that fetishises the arse in a way that makes crotchless 'panties' look innocent, normal and sweet. I have my own ideas about where this growing arse/anal fetish is going. Between it and the various charming customs around the place -- mass abortion of female foetuses in countries where of course everybody wants a boy; large-scale rape of babies and toddlers in the belief that it will cure AIDS -- the global overpopulation problem is already well on the way to being sorted.

3) This 'body shaper' underwear craze is bringing back the quaint locutions of the 1950s, isn't that sweet? Do a quick prac crit / close reading / fisk of these corset manufacturers' advertising some time. 'Body shapers' = 'Your own uncorseted body has no shape, ew, men won't like it [*makes child-frightening bogeyman noises*], so put that self-esteem in the garbage right now and spend money instead.'

4) OK Girls, Break Through the Surface of the Primeval Slime or Die Trying department: this garment is a patriarchal instrument of torture. Do. Not. Wear. It. Or anything like it. Ever.

Those who don't understand (or don't want to understand) that 'patriarchal' can apply in a situation like this where women appear to be willingly doing these things to themselves are being literal-minded essentialists who don't understand what a patriarchal society is or how it works, and no correspondence will be entered into on this subject because I spent 17 years explaining it to fresh crops of newbie students every year and that is enough for a lifetime. In a nutshell: when you say 'Yes but women want to do this to themselves' I will reply 'Yes indeed, many of them do. Why is that, do you think?'

I know there are men out there who deliberately Google 'patriarchy' so they can turn up at strange blogs for the first time and argue the toss, and any such (instantly recognisable) comment will be binned. Go here if you genuinely want to understand this concept better than you do.


Anonymous said...

Wow! Ease of entry and you don't have to look at her face - what more could a 'real' man ask?!

lauredhel said...

... and if it was fetishwear, I'd expect it in a nicer colour and fabric than shiny-underwear-beige.

Insert comment here about the institutionalised racism involved in dubbing that particular shade "nude".

Alexis, Baron von Harlot said...

As for the more a 'real' man might seek, have you seen the Heineken beer ads, where the buxom robot wench dispenses beer from her multi-function torso?

Meanwhile, I have run for the hills where I am romping with the quadrupeds and eschewing kidney squishing couture with my whole heart.

JahTeh said...

Instrument of torture indeed but I am laughing at what my backside would look like protuding from this. Something along the lines of a butler's tray without the wheels.

Ruth said...

"Don't wear this... Ever."

Excuse me? I think I'd like NOT to be TOLD what (not) to wear, thanks. What happened to respect for women's autonomy?

Pavlov's Cat said...

Oh for crying out loud, Anonymous and Unidentifiable Ruth Whom I've Never Seen Here Before, you are confusing a blog with a State edict. Of course I have no power (unlike the state, or the less overt pressures of the dominant culture) to tell you or anyone else what or what not to do.

As for women's autonomy, yes, I'm exercising mine by having a blog and expressing an opinion by way of a dramatised and exaggerated ticking-off voice. If you take everything you read literally and are incapable of reading different shades of rhetoric, ventriloquism, point of view and narrative voices employed to make a point, then that is your misfortune but it is not my fault. If you really want to wear this painful, ridiculous, demeaning shit, then by all means be my guest.

Misrule said...

And this is why we love you, Pavlov's Cat.

Elsewhere007 said... looks kind of like what Trinny and Susannah recommend the Women of Britain wear, even the skinny minnies who apparently have saddle-bag thighs in need of corsetage. This is supposedly to help Rid the Nation of the can see I take this show way too seriously. (I think you're meant to whip off huge, scary udies and replace with sexy ones before leaping into bed with Mr Darcy.)

Actually, there are seamless knickers in Target that do the anti-VPL trick quite effectively. Only $11 too.

Fyodor said...

Nice arse.

Personally, I find VPL exceedingly sexy.

Generally speaking, if you need to wear a g-string to avoid VPL then the g-string's presence becomes obvious because of the absence of VPL under too-tight pants (and that weird, "hello boys", cleftyness over the cheeks), which creates the (usually) unintended problem of VGS, which in my book is far less aesthetically pleasing than VPL.

*blames patriarchy, runs for cover*

Oh, and: "onsubjog".

lauredhel said...

I wear undies with nice wide comfortable non-discreet binding at the legs, and anyone who's looking at my arse can deal with it, shutting the hell up no matter whether they find it grotesque or tantalising.

Feral Sparrowhawk said...

Ok officially confused now. What on Earth is VPL?

On a wider point of confusion I have recently found myself on the outskirts (so to speak) of a friendship group where most of the women (and one of the men) likes wearing corsets a lot. One even makes them as her primary hobby.

I can't say the outcome is aesthetically unpleasing, but I also can't help thinking "God that must hurt. Why would you DO that?" Actually, by comparison this looks kinky, but not particularly painful.

Pavlov's Cat said...

Visible Panty Line. If you do an image google of this phrase I'm sure you will be, erm, richly rewarded in your quest for knowledge.

Corsets proper -- I assume the old fashioned ones with laces -- are about something a bit different (at least in the 21st century) from what's going on here, I think. Also, to each her own, their choice, etc etc. But I despise this particular garment for its place in keeping women insecure and self-hating. The fact that I despise it, as I have tried to explain to Ruth, does not mean I think it ought to be banned or anything.

NB if you think women are not insecure and self-hating in the face of unrelenting messages from the culture that they must look thinner and hotter, have a look at the guest post that went up today (Dec 10) on Hoyden About Town, which I've been thinking and fretting about for several hours now.

Feral Sparrowhawk said...

I completely agree with that Hoyden post (and loved the writing into the bargain). However, I have to confess I don't see why this particular garment is a particularly egregious example of the problem.

I get this a lot actually. I'm very on board with general feminist analysis, but often when specific examples enrage women I know I'm thinking "well yes its bad, but it doesn't seem to me worse than x, y and z).

I also think that if there is something approaching consensus amongst feminists that something is a particularly awful example then it doesn't matter whether I or other men get it or not, we should accept that consensus, without adding insult to injury by expecting women to explain.

lauredhel said...

"However, I have to confess I don't see why this particular garment is a particularly egregious example of the problem.

I get this a lot actually. I'm very on board with general feminist analysis, but often when specific examples enrage women I know I'm thinking "well yes its bad, but it doesn't seem to me worse than x, y and z)."

Does it have to be "particularly egregious" or the worst thing ever? I've been back over both posts and can't see where this claim was made, or even implied.

Pavlov's Cat said...

Lauredhel is right, there are other things that are indeed even worse. I'm trying to think why this particular garment roused my ire. It's partly just that I was shocked, never having seen anything like this before. But also ...

1) Aesthetics. It is, as Lauredhel has said upthread, an ugly garment, made of ugly materials (and having an ugly bulge-making effect on all bodies but the ones who don't "need" it). I infinitely prefer the range of knickers she linked to. I want the ones with the owls on them. You don't specify, but I'm assuming your friends' corsets are of the mock-Victorian variety, which are also (usually) pretty, and are made and worn for reasons more to do with aesthetics and sex rather than with hoiking all their body bits in and up.

2) I really do find the hanging-out arse obscene, and also

3) ridiculous.

4) The message of this garment is 'No matter how hard you try to make your body perfect, we will come up with new ways to make you feel insecure. Therefore, now that you have damaged your vital organs with malnutrition and weight loss drugs, stuck foreign objects into your breasts, wrecked your hair with chemicals, stuffed your spine wearing stilettos and surgically cut up your face, we are going to make you hoik your arse up to levels you haven't experienced since you were nine. And if you don't co-operate, we will point and mock.'

5) Believe me, this garment would be staggeringly uncomfortable on any woman in a position to benefit from it, eg yours truly. A young woman with a thin, hard body, like the one in the photo, would look pretty much the same with it on or off. By definition, the women whose bodies might be a bit tidied up by tight and tortuous garments are precisely those who never, ever appear in ads for them. There is a reason for this.

I could go on, and on, and on, but you probably get my gist.

Feral Sparrowhawk said...

PC, thanks. I seriously don't want to put on an onus on you to explain it all to the rather slow male, but I do appreciate it when you do.

Lauredhel, I interpreted lines such as "this garment has a (porno)graphic subtext, not particularly sub, that fetishises the arse in a way that makes crotchless 'panties' look innocent, normal and sweet."


"this garment is a patriarchal instrument of torture. Do. Not. Wear. It. Or anything like it. Ever."

as an indication this was considered egregious in the rather large panoply of clothes designed to make women feel bad about themselves and suffer/injure themselves at the same time.

Sorry if I overinterpreted.

Certainly the mock-Victorian corsets I'm referring to do look very nice even without someone gorgeous poured into them - a lot of them are in beautiful velvet colours for a start. Still I would have thought that they would be more painful to wear than this, and I guess that the level of pain involved in wearing something does seem to me, to a first order of approximation, to be a measure of how oppressive it is.

My thinking is that if it hurts like hell to wear it, or it does long term damage to essential body organs, then that, of itself sends the message "No matter how hard you try to make your body perfect, we will make you feel insecure."

So the crucial difference here would be the fact its new.

Obviously if I'm wrong that this would hurt less than a corset (I admit to no expertise) then my argument falls apart at the first hurdle.

If not, I agree the corsets have aesthetic appeal independent of sex, but as you say, part of the point is that they carry sexual implications. It seems to me that so does this underwear, its just that the implication is about anal sex. I guess I'm wondering if part of the distinction you make is that you think an implication of anal sex is more oppressive than "normal" sex. If so, that was probably part of what I was missing.

lauredhel said...

Mm. I guess I didn't take it that way because I don't see crotchless underwear as particularly egregious or damaging at all. Pointless, sure, but not painful or injurious or restrictive. Unlike girdles and high heels and tight or tiny skirts.

Pavlov's Cat said...

Oh, right.

Not sure which order to answer all this in, and obviously anything I say will be opinion only, but no, that's not what I was thinking at all. I don't think this garment is mainly about sex qua sex -- anal or otherwise -- in that direct way. Apart from anything else, it's hideous, and if you go to their website you'll see that their bras are even worse. This garment was mainly designed to push the bum up and out to produce 'sexiness', which is a different thing. My guess is that the 'reveal the bum' aspect is just a side effect of a bit of engineering designed to reshape the bod.

We're back in the territory of the LP boobs thread here, to some extent -- women dressing in such a way as to get male (sexual) attention, and men mistaking the desire for attention as a desire for a different commodity, ie sex itself.

Re all things anal, we're definitely moving into Too Much Information territory here. Let's just say I think other people's sex lives are their own business and I don't care what any combination of consenting adults does in private. (I would however like to know what the apparently increasing fetishisation by straight men of anal sex with women is all about, but that is a side issue. My guess is that, for men at least, it represents the thrill of the (comparatively) forbidden, the denied, the withheld, in an age where there's no mystique left about ladybits at all.)

Again, the reason this garment doesn't look painful to you is that, on this woman and her thin, hard body, it wouldn't be. Her wearing it is a total waste of time. There's no point in wearing 'body shapers' unless they actually do change the shape of your body. And if there is anything other than non-resistant soft tissue involved (your liver, say, or your ribs, as with your friends' corsets, or half your digestive system, as with this garment), then that usually hurts afetr a while when constricted: if not immediately, then certainly when sitting down or whatever for a long period of time. Most of my female friends can't even bear the constriction of pantyhose or waisted pants and skirts or even underwire bras, much less a laced corset, or an elasticised abomination like this. As I say, I remember the era of tight 'foundation garments' designed to make women's bodies conform to a stereotype, and as a feminist and old hippie it horrifies me to see this kind of 1950s bodily coercion come sneaking back into the culture calling itself "shapewear".

Feral Sparrowhawk said...

Ok, I think I'm getting it.

"women dressing in such a way as to get male (sexual) attention, and men mistaking the desire for attention as a desire for a different commodity, ie sex itself."

I think I might have been making that mistake or perhaps thinking you were. In part is was wondering if you were most offended by the fact that the rear was open in a way that, reminiscent of crotchless panties, might imply "I'm up for it", rather than the shape created to someone who might not even know they were being worn

And Lauredhel, I don't see crotchless panties as problematic, but read the original post as seeing them as somewhat oppressive garments, and this as a far worse version.