There is a wonderful black-and-white photograph of my grandparents when they were a young couple in the 1930s. Grandpa Nat sports a confident Sinatra grin, his arm around the younger Barbara who stands thin and prim, wedge heels tight together and her body wrapped in a long wool coat. A man and the woman he courted, taking on life in the face of the Depression and the coming war that would draft him while she was left behind to nurse their newborn son, my uncle.
Eighty years later and we have the easygoing hipster couples I see here in Portland with nary an opinion or a spine between them. He has no muscles, she has no ass. He wears tight jeans, she wears tight jeans. He wears plaid flannel shirts, she does the same. They both have tattoos that are more lifestyle accessories than signs of hard living or military camaradarie. They like the same kitschy folk bands that are not fueled by testosterone but accented by the pings of xylophones. The only way you can tell them apart is that he has a beard and she has bangs.
Meanwhile in the general female population seen downtown or in malls, they all wear the same provocative outfit regardless of age: tall hooker boots made of synthetic leather, sleek tights that show every curve and crevice in titillating detail, and some cute, cheap top from Target that accentuates the best features of their bust. From behind you can’t tell if they’re 15, 30, or 45. (If for propriety’s sake you’re “lucky,” at least they’ll be wearing a monochrome “skirt” made of the flimsiest t-shirt material.)
As a man you can’t help but look at their exposed crotches and become aroused—it’s an unexpected free striptease on a public street for Christ’s sake—but you will not be satisfied. Even though this is how prostitutes dress to sell their bodies, it’s just modern women’s way of feeling “sexy and empowered.” Never mind that they’re completely oblivious to the alliance between the gay fashion designer, the coked-up celebrity endorsee, and the gossip magazine racket that convinced them that the whole tacky getup was this year’s trend.
Frankly I’d rather see women in a (tasteful) dress or skirt than be subjected to this incessant barrage stimulation without release. It can be intimidating to encounter what looks like a dolled-up hooker on the prowl, easy to be fooled into believing that behind the catwalk strut isn’t just another uncreative follower with no real identity or confidence. How do you in good faith hit on a woman dressed like this without treating her like a slut or exposing her as a trendy drone when deep down you can’t take her seriously?
* * * *
Apparently today’s super-empowered feminized women are oblivious to or simply don’t care about the consequences of how their behavior impacts men. “Oh, my outfit provokes you? I and my female sisters will no longer be oppressed so deal with it!”
It’s like we’re living an inversion of Saudi Arabia, where it’s the men who treat women with haughty disregard in public. But to what end, ladies? You outnumber us in college, every desirable job is open to you, and now there isn’t any shame in being immodest even while running errands around town. Look sexy on Friday night at the club, I get it—but showing me a topographical survey of your ass while I’m trying to shop at the goddamn grocery store?! Overweight fifty-year-old women in skin-tight black spandex and fuck-me boots babbling on their cell phones while ordering deli meat?!
Past oppression may be the eternal justification to fall back on in the case of any female act that comes under scrutiny or censure, but my god, consider the sheer banality and shortsightedness of a movement that finds it reasonable, courageous, or at the very least not questionable for women to be hoisting giant bottles of laundry detergent into a shopping cart while their labia is exposed through millimeter-thin gray leggings for all to see!!!
It’s an obscenity, a parasitic termite eroding the last vestiges of decency that would make our culture worth fighting to preserve. Women’s whimsical needs are as insatiable as the locust, and since men have been virtually neutralized in our society no pesticide exists to check their blind and ravenous pride parade as it marches in shameless full regalia down every sidewalk from coast to coast.
Oh, the banality! I really don’t think this is the type of zesty female empowerment that Camille Paglia had in mind. At least Hester Prynne and Lady Chatterley knew their society’s conventions and understood the consequences their actions would bring. Today’s women however are unshackled from cultural mores, liberated beyond the concept of shame, and unconcerned about the impact on others. “If it makes me look hot, propriety be damned!”