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Opinion: American Apparel, upskirt photography a shot to privacy, decency of women

March 31, 2014

seamon.17@osu.edu
Lena, a fashion blogger, arrives for Issey Miyake Autumn/Winter 2014-2015 Ready-to-Wear show held at Jardin des Tuileries in Paris on Feb. 28. Credit: Courtesy of MCT

Lena, a fashion blogger, arrives for Issey Miyake Autumn/Winter Ready-to-Wear show held at Jardin des Tuileries in Paris Feb. 28.
Credit: Courtesy of MCT

When I was 11, my mom, being the strong, outspoken East Coast woman that she is, was somehow able to abridge the sex talk to the following thesis:

“Your body is a temple. Keep your legs together until a man proves worthy and not pervy,” she told me on a walk around the neighborhood she knew I could not escape.

Some 10 years later and more informed about the chirping of the birds and the buzzing of the bees, I hold onto that value.

However, if clothing giant American Apparel created the moral groundwork for the way American women dress and present themselves (as their name loosely suggests), being an all-American girl would mean my legs were made of peanut butter.

Recently, the store decided to begin advertising its miniskirts not by picturing a smiling young woman excited that summer is upon us, but with a faceless girl in a blue, pleated mini bent over in a field — white undies and all.

Of course, whining about this is like taking a bat to a dead horse.

The store seems unable to thrive without some drama pulsing in its infrastructure, which is how it became known for its extremely risqué campaigns. Rarely a week goes by where American Apparel is unable to provide some “unique” angle of a woman’s breast in its advertising of beanies yet still not have to ask online shoppers if they are over 18 to access its website.

However, it is known that American Apparel does not represent our country any more than “American Idol” represents our taste in music.

What does represent the U.S., though, is Massachusetts, where for at least 24 hours earlier in March it was completely legal to take upskirt photos.

On March 5, Massachusetts’ highest court ruled it was not illegal to secretly photograph up a woman’s skirt or underneath her clothing, given she is not “‘partially nude,’ no matter what is or is not underneath the skirt by way of underwear or other clothing,” Justice Margot Botsford of the state’s Supreme Judicial Court wrote.

In other words, you’re not a peeping Tom unless you are looking at my undergarments through a window, and sexual deviancy is not that unless you have an obstacle in the way of the money shot.

The next day lawmakers banned upskirt photography, a decision I can only imagine was made upon waking up per “The Hangover” style asking, “What the hell did I do yesterday?”

However, this momentary lapse of judgement, spearheaded by a woman in the judicial system, invades female privacy more than the actual guy who was upskirting.

As today’s culture allows women to be more free with their sexuality (Lady Gaga can wear a seashell bikini on TV while Rihanna can dedicate three minutes of radio time to her love of S&M), femininity in America no longer comes with the burden of hiding desire under a turtleneck and slacks.

But there is a disconnect in our society. The fact that just because one woman has no qualms about airing her breasts in public or wearing a skirt that falls short of the finger length test does not mean every female’s body part is fair game for public knowledge and exposure.

In other words, just because Miley Cyrus wore panties at her concert does not mean I want you to take a photograph up my dress because, “Hey man, anything goes!”

As women inch closer to smashing the glass ceiling, it feels as if we must become as unabashed as men to receive equality. Because I am able to touch a man in the chest area without it being “inappropriate” or “violating” does not mean a man, with all puns intended, can do tit for tat.

Although women are created equal to men and wish to be treated as such, men and women are not created the same. Furthermore, although all women are created the same, we do not all want to be treated the same.

Just because American Apparel’s model had no problem displaying her anatomy through a cotton shield does not mean a subway creep should be allowed to take advantage of a moment I accidentally revealed too much.

After all, my body is a temple and no outsider photography is allowed.


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  1. Teresa says:

    Great article! There are laws in some states where spitting on the sidewalk is illegal. Are they enforced? Probably not but if a police officer decided to pursue it, I suppose he could, and then the law would quickly get changed! I believe this is the case of the upskirting issue. It SHOULD be illegal, but it wasn’t at that time. So it was quickly rectified. Hopefully that takes care of that.
    Sadly, many people believe it should be the woman who protects her privacy, (and she SHOULD) but we should be teaching boys, and expecting men, to RESPECT a woman’s privacy. Instead, society assumes that “men just DO that” by ogling women, looking for opportunites to sneak a peek, “checking her out”, and all the other euphemisms we use for what is actually “disrespect”.

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