Overexposed

Apparently, I’m a bit ouf of the popular culture loop, because I didn’t even realize there was a raging controversy over Britney Spears’ naughty bits. Apparently, the recently divorced pop star has been getting photographed by papparazzi on the party circuit getting in and out of cars in very short skirts with no undies on. Apparently, too, Britney is following in the foosteps of fellow crotch-flashing celebs Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton, in whose company she has been enjoying herself.

I learned about this great moment in the Decline and Fall of Western Culture from a rather mind-boggling thread at Reason‘s Hit & Run blog. The post by fellow Reasonite Kerry Howley, memorably tittled “The Hidden Threat of Vaginofascism,” was inspired by an almost equally remarkable piece in The American Spectator, in which attorney and blogger Carol Platt Liebau laments these pantyless antics. Writes Liebau:

What’s most remarkable is the deafening silence from the larger culture that has greeted the antics of the young starlets. It may be that many adults take it for granted that flashing one’s privates is so tawdry and declasse that a dignified silence is the only appropriate response. But perhaps that’s because they’ve enjoyed the benefit of growing up in a time and with a culture that was unified in its disapproval of such behavior. Sadly, such a cultural consensus has long since eroded.

It’s hardly admirable that adult males say nothing about the exhibitionism, but perhaps it’s understandable; while they may not respect young women like Lohan and Spears, the visuals are doubtless intriguing. But older women who fail to speak out about why Spears’ and Lohan’s behavior is inappropriate and wrong become complicit in it on a much deeper level. By their silence, they are allowing little girls (like they once were) to absorb the destructive message that vulgarity is the same as sexiness, that exhibiting oneself to be stared at or drooled over like a prime cut of meat constitutes “empowerment,” and that it’s “cool” to flaunt one’s sexuality indiscriminately, rather than sharing it with a man who’s shown he’s interested in more than just another female body.

Just as Lindsay Lohan and Britney Spears need to practice a more elegant method of leaving the car, perhaps the adults need to learn their own lesson: That if the young women of America are going to understand the importance of behaving in a way that maintains their own dignity and self-respect, it’s time for men and women alike to begin stigmatizing vulgar, exhibitionist displays. Reacting to them with nothing more than voyeuristic amusement or bored indifference allows the bottom-feeders to set the standard for what constitutes glamorous female behavior — a thought that should strike terror into the heart of every parent (or aunt or uncle) in America.

Note Liebau’s unself-conscious use of the word “bottom-feeders,” quite hilarious in this context: it bespeaks a peculiar tone-deafness and a severe humor impairment, characteristic, in fact, of the entire piece.

In the Hit & Run thread, some posters take libertarians to task for seeing a menace to freedom not only in governmental restrictions on personal behavior but also in social stigmatization of promiscuity, immodesty and other sexual wantonness. (Watching them make these serious arguments in the midst of bawdy banter about female anatomy is part of what makes the thread so surreal.) And they might, actually have a point. But the real irony (which Kerry Howley’s post misses) is that Liebau is barking up the totally wrong tree. “Deafening silence”? Actually, Britney Spears’ indecent exposure has been roundly condemned and ridiculed. Even Rosie O’Donnell on The View pleaded with the pop starlet to keep her parts hidden, and issued an appeal to Victoria’s Secret to give Britney, Lindsay, and Paris an unlimited supply of undies (“it’s supposed to be a secret down there!”). There’s that condemnation from older women that Liebau finds lacking. Celebrity gossips, too, have been quite hard on Britney; the gossip blog PerezHilton.com, which posted the naughty shots, ran them under its “Icky Icky Poo” tag, with such titles as “This Pains Us” and “Britney, This Has to Stop” and with such inscriptions as, “GROSS!” I’d say that’s a much more effective deterrent to any girl who contemplates flashing for fun and profit than tongue-clucking from Carol Liebau, Michelle Malkin, or even Rosie. And I haven’t even mentioned the unkind comments from readers on various websites, ranging from “Britney, get some help” to brutally disparaging remarks about Britney’s “precious flower” (to quote Kerry Howley).

So the bottom line, as it were, is that “vulgar, exhibitionist displays” are being stigmatized plenty. At least on that score, America’s parents, aunts and uncles can rest easy, and conservatives can give the hand-wringing a break.

P.S.: As a follow-up to yesterday’s post, I considered giving this one the title “Speaking of uncovered meat…” But then I chickened out.

7 Comments

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7 responses to “Overexposed

  1. Fruitbat44

    Hmmmm . . . just occurs to me that Britney’s going commando would have passed unoticed if were it not for some paparartzi sticking their lens in her crotch.

    I realise that the relationship between celebrities and the paparatzi is more often than not mutually beneficial, but whatever is right or wrong about Britney’s behaviour I find the idea of the paparatzi hanging around for just such a “hoto-opportunity”naff in the extreme.

    And as an aside I do know one or two women who feel that going commando is far healthy than wearing panties.

    And as anothere I also know women who find the idea of going commando on a routine basis decided uncomfortable.

    Btw, what is the origin of the term “going commando?

  2. Drew W

    I saw Howley’s “Vaginofascism” posting on Reason’s Hit & Run on Friday, and the next day read the tsunami of comments that followed. On that blog, debate and burlesque are always elbow-to-elbow, and never so much as on such topics as this.

    Lievau’s piece was a kind of unhinged counterweight to the ribaldry of that Hit & Run thread, as she behaves like a stuffy Margaret Dumont character in a Marx Bros. movie. She also seems to contradict herself. She charges Spears with “exhibiting oneself to be stared at or drooled over,” but then suggests that what these young women really need to do is “practice a more elegant method of leaving the car.”

    There would probably be fewer celebrity crotch-shots if there were fewer wasted female celebrities. Who could forget the famously hard-partying Tara Reid smiling blissfully before photographers, not realizing that one of her breasts had broken free from its constraints? These women aren’t exhibitionists — they’re just publicly impaired. The paparazzi and the Internet do the rest.

    (Amusingly enough, one series of Spears photos shows Paris Hilton, noticing the photographers, reaching across to try to close Spears’ legs. In the right company, Paris Hilton becomes the sensible one.)

    Also, re: Fruitbat44’s question, Slate ran a piece within the last year asking if actual commandos ever “go commando.” Although I can’t remember it that well, the piece may have had an explanation of the term’s derivation.

  3. Fruitbat44

    Drew w – Thanks for the pointer.

    PS to my original post: Sorry about my eccentric spelling of “paparazzi.” -doh!-

  4. Jim

    Going commando” I hadn’t heard it called that, but it’s a sensible term – in the (US) Army people typically don’t wear underwear “in the field” because it’s hard to deal with as laundry maybe, and because it gets itchy after a few days. God, I hope that’s not why that poor girl………

  5. Revenant

    And as an aside I do know one or two women who feel that going commando is far healthy than wearing panties.

    Is there a health reason for the miniskirt too, or is that just a lack of common sense on Britney’s part?

  6. Fruitbat44

    jim – Most theories as to the origin of “going commando” do point to it US military, generally the Vietnam era. As an aside the recommendation in the British military is that NBC (Nuclear Biological Chemical) suits should be worn over one layer of clothing with underwear that covers the armpits and crotch, to absorb sweat.

    revenant – At this time any health benefits to wearing a mini-skirt, commando or otherwise, are known only to Ms spears and her associates. 🙂

  7. Anonymous

    Going pantiless is for more healthier than wearing panties. Panties should only be worn during menstruation.

    All women should try going pantiless under a skirt which sits above the knees or shorter then only will they appreciate how natural it is to be pantiless.

    Wearing panties causes all sorts of complications as most gynaecologists will inform you.

    If you wear panties during menstruation it is recommended that women wear white cotton panties and any other time it is better to go pantiless.

    If wearing stockings opt for thigh highs and go pantiless allowing the vagina to be aired.

    Going pantiless will prevent vaginitis and cystitis as the vaginal area needs to be kept cool to prevent the multiplication of bacteria.

    Due to the build of a women bacteria from the anus finds its way to the vagina therfor it is also recommended that women wipe the anus away from the vagina after excretion. Wearing panties also increases the chances of bacteria moving from the anus to the vagina therefor going pantiless is far more cleaner than wearing panties.

    The vagina should also be washed with non perfumed glycerine soap.

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