Voyeur reading pleasure: Gene gets an eyeful AND an earful


(Eric Shansby)
Gene Weingarten
Columnist March 27

Gene is on vacation. This column was originally published in 2004.

Gene Weingarten is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and writes "Below the Beltway," a weekly humor column that is nationally syndicated. View Archive

This just in:

What is going on in the brains of girls and women today? Why must they wear tight jeans or spandex shorts to bring attention to their butts? I am starting to understand why Orthodox Jews and Muslims have strict dress codes. I am a grandfather, but no matter how old a man is, it is distracting. What are they advertising?
— Frank Barletta, Rockville

I also think this is a disgrace, Frank — a shame and a disgrace about all those bottoms and crotches we older fellers are forced to look at. Unfortunately, gosh darn it, we live in an open, free society. So even though we men are cruelly victimized by this outrage, I fear it would be unpatriotic and un-American to require women to temporize their tailoring. And I bet Gina Barreca, my feminist friend, agrees with me. Right, Gina?

Gina: I am trying to figure out how to address this issue without rewarding your disingenuousness. Mr. Barletta, women are advertising their freedom. Historically, the biggest advances in women’s liberation were accompanied by liberation in clothing. It was only after American women got the vote that the flapper era arrived, along with freedom from the restrictions of corsets and petticoats and skirts that swept the floor. The point is, what is erotic to men is whatever men have decided should be hidden. Modern women are simply saying that we do not define ourselves as objects of your personal fantasies. By exposing what we wish, we are declaring that our bodies are sexual only when we decide they are sexual, not when you decide. We decline to be objectified.

Gene: “Don’t you dare objectify my body! Now check out these hooters!”

Gina:

Gene: “I am not your eye candy, buster. So kindly stop ogling this here skirt-slit, as I casually cross one creamy thigh over the other.”

Gina: One, women are aware their bodies are attractive to men. And two, women dress in a way that accentuates their better features. But point one is not necessarily related to point two.

Gene: Okay, then, please decode the following, which is a scene that by my observation must occur hundreds of thousands of times every morning in major cities across America. A young woman is dressing for work or school. She decides to wear a short skirt. At that moment, what is she thinking? Is she thinking, “You know, I’ll bet that today, for some reason, unlike every other day, I will not find myself riding up an escalator. So I certainly do not have to consider the possibility that dozens of men I do not know and probably would not like will be staring at my underpants.”

Gina: No, she is thinking, “Gee, I look good in this. Isn’t it great it still fits?” She will NOT be thinking, “Omigod, is there some point in the day when some guy might figure out how to look up my skirt?”

Gene: Figure out? Do you think this requires periscopes, or global positioning satellites? Her exposed behind is placed in the direct line of sight between a man’s eyes and his destination, the top of the escalator.

Gina: A gentleman would not look.

Gene: So, let’s say your husband was on such an escalator beneath such a woman. You would expect him to avert his eyes?

Gina: I would expect his eyes to bug out like a lobster’s.

Gene: But you said ...

Gina: You guys have your fantasies, we have ours. Ours involves the existence of “gentlemen.

E-mail Gene at weingarten@washpost.com. Find chats and updates at washingtonpost.com/magazine.

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