More than a generation ago, women burned their bras in a battle to obtain equal respect in society. Now female undergaments are once again highly visible… and highly controversial. The trend is pitting women against women - those who believe bold baring is driven by confidence and those who view exposing extra skin as a sign of diminishing self-respect.
On the side of “show all” are those trendsetters sporting negligee-inspired tops and super-short minis. These same folks look the other way as celebrities shrug off sex tapes and teens post risqué self-portraits online. Even Oprah Winfrey aired a show on how to simulate stripper-pole dancing in order to shed some pounds.
Proponents contend that this proves women have achieved their feminist goals. For example, the group CAKE, established for women in “pursuit of professional, personal and, most importantly, sexual evolution,” boasts thousands of online members.
Others call imitating strippers in the name of empowerment dangerous. “Once we are imitating an imitation we aren’t moving ourselves closer to authentic, uninhibited freedom,” says Ariel Levy, author of Female Chauvinist Pigs (Free Press, 2006). “It doesn’t bring us any closer to allowing every woman to be her own, specific self.” Journalist Frank Rich of The New York Times sums up the cultural shift by noting that pornography is “no longer a sideshow to the mainstream. It is the mainstream.”
Whether modesty is dead or not, a backlash against body baring has begun. High-waisted jeans are hitting the runways and spas are offering “modest menus.” Is wearing revealing clothing a sign of liberation or consternation? You decide.
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Rachel Lubchansky, 29, St. Louis
Exposes only her lower legs, forearms and head
To Rachel, being covered is a lifestyle, not a trend. She dresses to show her faithfulness to G-d. She found is so tough to shop for modest clothes that she launched FunkyFrum.com, an online store that sells high-neck shirts and long skirts. (Frum is Yiddish for pious.) Rachel maintains, “Women can be attractive without revealing skin.”
99% say LIBERATED! / 1% say X-RATED
“It’s a form of freedom to cover up. Modesty is humility expressed in dress. It helps me to see that what’s most attractive is my desire to please G-d, not my outwards appearance.” - - Sandra, 31, Des Moines
“What is more liberating: to be judged on the shapeliness of your body and the beauty of your hair or to be judged by your character and intelligence? As a Muslim woman, I’m glad to cover up completely – including my head and my neck – so I may be seen in a respectful way. - - Adara, 38, Boston