When a photo of the bare derriere of a famous woman makes the rounds on the Internet, it’s sure to spark a debate: “Being in the public eye means you’ve signed up for this kind of thing!” “Creepy photographers are the ones to blame!” “Rich people deserve this kind of embarrassment!”
When that woman is Kate Middleton, debate turns into utter lunacy.
In 1,000 or so words that do nothing but push feminism back a few decades, The Daily Beast’s Kelli Goff argues that Middleton—and all women, for that matter—should wear slips or weight their clothing to avoid revealing their bodies when the pesky wind catches their skirt. “But as ‘Bottomgate’ proves,” the author writes, “[Middleton] could benefit from an extra something under her dress, and an old-fashioned slip just might be the perfect fit.”
Cue my inner bra (or in this case, slip) -burning feminist.
Clothing has long been a symbol of female progress—from flappers’ short hemlines to the first two-piece bikini to the braless marching Steinems to today’s topless rebels. In elementary terms, more clothing = more repression, less clothing = more freedom.
Women are frequently “clothing shamed,” especially in cases of sexual assault where a woman’s outfit cued to her attacker that she was “asking for it.” And there isn’t a day that goes by when women aren’t harassed on the street over the length of a dress or sheerness of a blouse. Telling women to cover up is telling them that it’s their fault—not their attacker’s, or harasser’s, or in this case, photographer’s.
We live in a society where female bodies can be photographed without permission, and then displayed on the Internet for all to see, and then instead of calling for laws against this kind of thing, women are told to change their behavior—to cover up. Add more layers, add more discomfort, add something else to worry about before leaving home each morning.
The article’s author does suggest a slip alternative: Spanx, the cellulite-smoothing, stomach-sucking, fake-it-till-you-make-it undergarment of today. “While slips can hide [a visible panty line] and your backside on a windy day,” the author writes, “Spanx can help hide a lot more, like cellulite or a protruding tummy. As such they have become the go-to under-dress garment for many.” Because if women don’t have enough to worry about already, it’s definitely smoothing out that bit of protruding tummy.
“So the slip may live to see another day down the road, especially because while Spanx may provide more coverage than a traditional slip, they don’t provide more comfort,” the author continues. “That’s the tradeoff.”
But that’s not a tradeoff. It’s not the tradeoff I settle for. Decades of feminists—female, male, trans—have fought, and continue to fight, so that that will never be the tradeoff.