Thursday, February 7, 2013

On CBS and Their Grammy Dress Code


CBS has issued a warning to the artists and performers attending The Grammys to wear "appropriate" attire.  The message is as follows:
CBS Program Practices advises that all talent appearing on camera please adhere to Network policy concerning wardrobe.

Please be sure that buttocks and female breasts are adequately covered. Thong type costumes are problematic. Please avoid exposing bare fleshy under curves of the buttocks and buttock crack. Bare sides or under curvature of the breasts is also problematic. Please avoid sheer see-through clothing that could possibly expose female breast nipples. Please be sure the genital region is adequately covered so that there is no visible "puffy" bare skin exposure. 

Please avoid commercial identification of actual brand name products on T-shirts. Foreign language on wardrobe will need to be cleared. OBSCENITY OR PARTIALLY SEEN OBSCENITY ON WARDROBE IS UNACCEPTABLE FOR BROADCAST. This as well, pertains to audience members that appear on camera. Finally, The Network requests that any organized cause visibly spelled out on talent's wardrobe be avoided. This would include lapel pins or any other form of accessory.

Some might read this and think "Bravo!  Thank you CBS for protecting our children from unsightly nudity and pesky causes!"  Others will immediately be up in arms about this message.

While I tend to lean more towards the latter of those two groups, I will endeavor to break down in as unemotional a way as possible the simple idiocy and sexism of this message.

The choice of language in this letter is inherently problematic.  The most easily identifiable way that this message promotes a negative mentality with regard to sexuality, the human body, and, in particular, women, is by subtly leaving men out of this discussion.

America has always been rather conservative with regard to nudity and the human body but particularly female nudity.  The female body carries with it a stigma of overt sensuality, as though breasts and vaginas and female buttocks are somehow inherently more sexual, and therefore more socially unacceptable, than male torsos or male midsections.  And yet because female sexuality has been simultaneously promoted as a softer, less aggressive kind of sexuality, and because female genitalia are internal, such imagery finds its way into our commercials, our films, our billboards, our teen-lit covers, and our Facebook profile-pictures.

CBS doesn't want the music industry (an industry that supposedly exists upon the bases of freedom of expression) to dress how it wants to dress, because it believes the music industry (specifically the women of that industry) will dress too scandalously, thereby promoting a negative or morally corrupt point of view.

And yet CBS runs this commercial for Two Broke Girls during the Super Bowl (the most-watched American television event of the year)  
The hypocrisy is almost too easy to attack.  

The larger issue is that this message specifically demonizes breasts and the vagina, thereby corroborating the genuinely immoral notion that women are sexually devious, that their bodies are "problematic" while a man's is easily ignored, covered up, and therefore harmless.  Each sentence in the second paragraph of this letter is directed at women, preoccupied with "curves" and "puffy" regions of flesh, as opposed to taking a more equal approach to the issue of nudity and laying down guidelines for men as well.  Why are "bare sides or under curvature of the breasts...problematic" and Justin Bieber's tight pants are not?  Why would it be socially acceptable for a man's nipples to show through his tee-shirt, but not Lady Gaga's?

Why are Justin Bieber's eyes not problematic?

Why is Beyonce's smile not problematic?

Anything can be sensual.  The fundamental flaw in the predominant understanding of modern sexuality is that there is something inherently devious about the act in the first place. 

This manifesto reaffirms the tired notion that the female body more easily corrupts the innocent than the male body.  If CBS took issue with unnecessarily, distasteful sensuality and sexuality perpetrated by any and all sexes, at least they wouldn't be reinforcing a destructive trope, a misinterpretation and misunderstanding of female sexuality and male sexuality that pervades a predominantly sexist and unenlightened culture.

CBS would still be hypocritical to lay out any clothing guidelines at all, however - considering they are choosing to celebrate an industry founded on sexuality and the exploration and exposure of it - but if they chose their language more carefully they could, at the very least, escape the easy criticism of being blatantly sexist.

The second part of this manifesto focuses on brand-names and advertisements that might not actually be sponsors for CBS - thereby strengthening the link between money and sex in an unconscious way.  CBS also does not want the attendees promoting "any organized cause", even one that is beneficial to the human race.  This, again, is purely a financial regulation, and meant to ensure the broadcast won't offend anyone, despite the fact that The Grammys honors music that consistently offends a big part of this country.  Why honor the voices of artists if those voices are to be stifled the night of their honoring?

Certainly the attire of famous people may be in poor taste, but when an organization chooses to celebrate those individuals that organization has agreed to embrace what those individuals, for better or worse, represent.  The music industry represents a myriad of beliefs, principles, ideologies, and cultures - some of them as simple as a person with an acoustic guitar, some of them as complex as a person arriving to an awards show in a giant egg.
In continually approaching sexuality in this manner (particularly female sexuality) as something that is inherently destructive while simultaneously a necessary component of the economy, one of the most important & complex physical, spiritual, emotional, and original forms of human expression is mutated into something equal parts nasty and simplistic.  This mentality helps no one and promotes no higher moral philosophy.  This mentality serves only to strengthen misguided beliefs and embolden the weak-minded to see sex as a fun, secret toy, a vice that everyone secretly & publicly partakes in.

These contradictory and hypocritical ideas do more harm to the youth than the sight of a woman's nipple (or a man's penis) ever could.           

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