Will actors and singers, presenters and recipients ever arrive at the Academy Awards or Grammy Awards dressed in the nude? Of course not! Such a ridiculous question!
Men, except for the few who are out of range already, would never appear in the nude on a grand stage to give or receive honors. That would make them so… Vulnerable! After all, they are there for recognition of their talent not the exploitation of their bodies. To insure solidarity against revealing vulnerability, they all dress alike, for the most part.
From J Lo crotch shots to V-neck gowns that plunge to the belly button — plunges that are as wide as they are deep — women seem to be undressing more than they are dressing for TV appearances.
Why am I so sure that women’s undressing will not lead to nudity in place of clothing on TV?
Because men are as buttoned up and starched as ever, securing their closures at the neck with knots and bows. Only their hands and heads, certainly not even their necks, show any skin. The really daring men eschew the tie and tentatively unbutton the first button of their shirts. Go for it guys — huge break from tradition you daredevils!
Don’t get me wrong — I’m not looking for men to undress or expose more of themselves on TV. But I have always found equality to be very appealing. Consider the TV show, The Voice. Its version of equality starts with the blind auditions where the contestants’ voice is all the judges have to go on in making their decisions. And if it is a good voice, then the big name, top-of-the-chart celebrity judges have to compete with each other to get the most talented newcomers on their team.
How’s that for switching roles and levelling the playing field? This approach takes the edge off of being judged for something other than one’s talents.
As far as equality on The Voice goes, each end of the panel of judges is secured by white males, but there is a seat for a woman and a seat for a black person in between them. Okay, so it’s tokenism, or at least they are skewing equality. When it comes to quotas for women and blacks, remember what Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg says when she is asked how many women should sit on the Court: “Nine,” she answers.
One of The Voice judges last season took equality a step further — instead of breast-baring or the move toward replacing skirts with G strings, Gwen Stefani, week after week, broke from those expected styles for women with her classy buttoned blouses. No diversions from her voice or her comments to contestants. Even when she performed with one of the men, there was not that discrepancy between his buttoned-down protection and a woman’s semi-nudity. We were free to give our attention fully to her amazing voice and talent.
The next time you might think it is prudish for someone to be turned off by female breast-baring on TV, remember those bows and knots holding heavily starched collars securely in place around the necks of the men.
Kathleen Barry is a sociologist and Professor Emerita of Penn State. She is the author of Female Sexual Slavery and Prostitution of Sexuality as well as a recent book on the masculinity of war, Unmaking War, Remaking Men.