Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Panty Ranty

A couple of weeks ago on SNL, Weekend Update did held a "debate" about the use of the word "panties". Amy Poehler held the position that it was a derogative and exploitative term - one more culturally ingrained tool in ongoing sexism and objectification of women. Seth Meyers dismissed this argument, saying that it didn't really matter, and suggesting the word "manties" be used to replace "underwear" for men.

I know quite a few people who despise the word "panties". It's right up there with the word "moist". Something about the way the word rolls off the tongue is capable of inflicting nausea on not less than 5 people that I interact with on a regular basis.

I've never had the same reaction. I use the term freely and indiscriminately to refer to both men and womens' undergarments, much to the dismay of my fiance, who insists that he does not, in fact, wear "panties".

But that's neither here nor there.

Despite (and perhaps because of) my post secondary education in cultural studies, comparative literature and semiotics, I find these sorts of arguments for the most part to be rather fruitless and immaterial. That is, until I sit in front of the "Today" show at the gym and watch as women's underwear is paraded around, so that we can be sure to know how to feel our most beautiful by choosing the proper undergarments for our naturally imperfect selves. Mannequins donned bras, panties, and supportwear which were then sported by fully dressed models, so that you could see how fabulous they looked in their $80 bras and $50 panties. The segment had to have been on for a full 5-7 minutes.

That's when you know that it's all true.

I had to give them credit for using regular sized women, instead of ultrathin supermodel types. Nevertheless, there were "panties", right on stage, for the whole world to see. Then they'd bring the models out so that you could see how their breasts look in a certain bra, or how certain underwear can lift and pad your butt. These women wandered around the stage for the express purpose of people staring at the regions of their bodies covered by their underwear.

I'd have to argue that the time and place for this is not on a national morning "news" show. It's also glaringly obvious that NBC certainly wasn't going to parade men around the stage to see how different types of men's underwear looks once pants are on, having millions of viewers ogling their genitals.

I may have to swear off the word "panties".

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