Friday, June 10, 2016

Reflections on the "Skin Gap" video

Someone recently sent me a video entitled "The Skin Gap: The Most Pervasive Gender Inequality You've Never Heard Of," produced by "Jew in the City."

It was well-done and is a worthwhile video to watch. However, it only skims the surface of the gender gap that exists in modern fashion. Hopefully, it will begin a long overdue conversation about the messages that popular culture is sending women. (I have wished to write on this sorely-neglected topic for years but felt somewhat awkward. Now that the public dialogue has begun, I'll share my two cents)

Here is the video, followed by the letter I sent to its producer.

Dear City Jew,

Thank you for producing this revealing video. It succinctly exposes the appalling apparel disparity between male and female in popular culture.

In today's confusing world of trans-dressing and identity dysphoria, a video like that might be misconstrued as advocating for skimpier or more contemporarily feminine styles of dress for males so as to “close the gap.” Surely that was not your intention, but just pointing it out. I hope that all viewers gleaned the intended message from your otherwise terrific burlesque. Thanks for expressing this message in such a humorous yet provocative way.

However, your exclusive focus on skin per se presents a somewhat superficial, skin-deep perspective on the "gender gap," if you will. Your exposé falls a bit short at the hem.
It's not just that culture dictates that knees, elbows, shoulders, collar bones, abdomens, belly buttons, etc., be bared and exhibited. It's not just the show of epidermis.

It's much more pervasive than that. Modern women’s apparel reflects a ubiquitous societal pressure to spotlight and objectify the female body, bare, opaque or otherwise. It’s the tightness, for starters.

Even the women's clothes that are meant to provide covering tend to be suggestive of shape and contour.

Compare an average pair of men's jeans to a woman's jeans. The latter is significantgly more tight-fitting, virtually clinging to the skin. Of course, this highlights the shape of the thigh itself, for example. Not only the thigh, but often the buttocks and crotch too!  Sheesh… is nothing off limits?

The same is true with regards to the upper body, and even more so. The "gender gap" is blatantly evident, not only if there's excessive skin exposure. It's often the tightness of the shirt that emphasizes precise shape and contour of the very body parts that visibly identify someone as female, for mammals, at least.

In fact, skin-tight apparel is arguably more risqué than skimpy clothing, because it suggests the precise shape of something that is ostensibly meant to be covered, and rightfully so.

Although we are starting to see somewhat tighter-fitting styles of men's clothing too, the gap is huge and out of proportions.

I can’t imagine that tight-legged jeans are anywhere nearly as comfortable as a roomier pair. Much like high-heeled footwear that serve only aesthetic purposes at the sacrifice of comfort and utility. Perhaps there’s value in appearing taller that justifies the discomfort of high heels. Is exhibiting the shape of one’s legs worth the discomfort of tight pants?
The word I used above is "suggestive." Think about what that word means. What is a wearer trying to suggest when purposely or unwittingly silhouetting the nether part of her torso and thighs?

Since when does a self-respecting person welcome any random passerby to discern the precise shape and curvature of his rear end or crotch? Or thighs or belly?

A woman generally keeps her weight a secret, or at least doesn’t advertise it. So why must she advertise her waist size?

I personally feel that tight-fitting clothes cheapens a person’s appearance. It strikes me like someone crying for attention, or demanding to be noticed. There’s an implied statement, and I’m struggling to figure out what that statement is.

The precise and unambiguous shapeliness of certain parts of another person’s body is really none of my business, whether bare or opaque. When I see someone dressing that way in public, I feel like commenting in modern acrostic parlance: “TFS” (“thanks for sharing”) or better yet, “WTMI” (“way too much information.” Why must I be privy to the exact form of your private (hence covered) body parts?

But apparently, trend-setting females of our society and their clothiers seem to feel otherwise. Our culture promotes a style of dress (or lack thereof) that not only attracts attention, but in a blaring yet unspoken way, invites voyeuristic curiosity.

Is the tight or scanty garment intended be make its wearer attractive, or seductive?

It's almost as though modern society beckons the woman to “show her goods" and put her body on display. Is that all she has to show for herself?

Indeed, modern fashion serves to showcase and exteriorize a woman’s body. And that’s the bare naked truth.

Where are the egalitarians? Why aren’t they demanding that we “level the playing field” and make women’s clothes equally as comfortable and loose-fitting as their male counterparts?

I know you weren’t trying to cover up or (mini) skirt the issue of suggestive clothing, but it might be worthwhile to remind your viewers that the so-called “Skin Gap” is not limited to skin. The dress discrepancy between the sexes is manifest not only in the low-cut and sleeveless, but also in the full-length and the long-sleeved, as you’d surely concur.

Perhaps in your sequel film, you can place your male actor in a leotard, or better yet, in a translucent leotard, on a cold day.

Thank you again for calling attention to this absurd inequality that has become a modern-day emperor’s new clothes, or shall I say, the “empress’ new clothes?” (And who's the empress trying to impress?)

M. Green

(A Jew from the Suburb)

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