Every time I log into my Yahoo email over the last couple days, I am reminded that a female Olympic athlete recently had a “wardrobe malfunction.” I am purposely being circumspect about the details because we really shouldn’t be talking about this story at all, and I truly hope it will stop soon. For poor Janet Jackson, a wardrobe malfunction will forever be one of the things she is most known for.
Apparently, I’m in the minority when it comes to this approach, because upon doing a Google news search of this Olympic athlete’s name and the words “wardrobe malfunction” I see that there are exactly 642,000 news outlets who thought it appropriate to cover this turn of events.
Who this athlete is, how many years she trained, honed her craft, repeatedly fell, repeatedly got up, sacrificed to be one of the best, to have the chance to be the best on the world stage doesn’t matter if you’re a woman and if your wardrobe happens to “malfunction.” Because as the headlines continue to blare, this woman, this star athlete is reduced to a pair of boobs. (And the story continues to spread because inquiring minds want to know, “how much?” and “for how long?” Please do resist the urge to find out!)
We have stolen what could have been the greatest moment in one woman’s career and replaced it with a moment of titillation mixed with schadenfreude. What is wrong with humanity?! How could we be so hateful to women?
The Jewish concept of modesty, has, unfortunately, been grossly misunderstood. Not just by people from outside the Jewish community, but by myriad people from within. It is not supposed to be about controlling women. It is not supposed to be about women preventing the “ever-sinful man” from sinning. It should be about a woman getting to be a person in the public sphere without the distraction of her body getting in the way. This is how most men get to live, day in and day out.
Wardrobe malfunctions almost never happen to men, and that is because men are afforded more fabric than women are most of the time due to the skin gap. If you aren’t familiar with the skin gap, it’s because we coined the term. The skin gap is the discrepancy in the amount of skin men and women are expected to show in the same social setting. (We made a nifty video about it here.) From Hollywood to the runways to Madison Avenue, girls and women get the messaging from the earliest age that they are meant to have less fabric than their male counterparts.
This imbalance in fabric automatically leaves females much more susceptible to the ever viral “wardrobe malfunction.” This is not only because our clothes are more likely to malfunction, but also because even in the rare instance that a man’s outfit might slip, no one really cares. (Google proves this one as well.)
So if we believe in treating women with respect, which I hope everyone here does, let’s remove “wardrobe malfunction” from our vernacular, let’s avoid the outlets that promulgate it, and let’s consider how we might change society itself to prevent the proliferation of wardrobe malfunctions in the first place.