Below the Beltway

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By Gene Weingarten
Sunday, August 1, 2004

More from the Below the Beltway mailbag:

Hi, Gene: 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? Or wear low-cut blouses or skirts almost up to the crotch? 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. Even at church services. I want to concentrate on the sermon and not some girl's bottom! What are they advertising?

Sincerely, 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 that our forebears fought and died for. 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 famous feminist co-author, agrees with me on this important subject. Right, Gina?

Gina:

Gene: Doll?

Gina: I am trying to figure out how to address this issue without rewarding your disingenuousness or validating your chauvinism. Mr. Barletta, you ask what women are advertising. They 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 dainty white gloves, and skirts that swept the floor. Before that, women's ankles and wrists were considered erotic. Even today, in certain societies run by religious zealots, the careless exposure of a woman's earlobe is considered a brazen incitement to be violated. 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: Ha-ha!

Gina: What?

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: You're missing the point, or beclouding it with testosterone. One, women are not unaware that their bodies are attractive to men. And two, women will dress in a way that accentuates their better features. But point one is not necessarily related to point two.

Gene: Do you expect me to believe that?

Gina: I don't care if you believe it. Actually, that's the precise point of what I am saying.

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 miniskirt. 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, Michael, was on such an escalator beneath such a woman. You would expect him to avert his eyes?

Gina: I would expect Michael's eyes to resemble Marty Feldman's eyes in "Young Frankenstein." I would expect him to be giving a double thumbs-up and yelling, "YOWZAH, YOWZAH."

Gene: But you said . . .

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

Gene Weingarten's e-mail address is weingarten@washpost.com. Gina Barreca's is gb@ginabarreca.com. Chat with Gene online Tuesdays at noon at www.washingtonpost.com.


© 2004 The Washington Post Company

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