Are we really fighting about hats and shoes again? April 25, 2013 2:22 PM   Subscribe

I was just reminded of a few moments in mefi's past that were a bit ridiculous by the "when did someone get the answer they didn't expect?" thread, both with the hat thread and the shoes indoors thread. Then i flipped over to AskMe and noticed this...

This is the thread in question.

This really doesn't seem like as loaded of a question as some people are taking it to be, but there's some serious grar and some pretty out there comments in there.

I saw that jessamyn waded in there more than once to throw in a "settle down guiz", but overall the entire thread is just pretty bad form.

It's like the miss manners half of the average Mefites brain is at open war with the SJ-liberal internet warrior half and the whole thing shorted out and started flipping breakers.

Pretty much though, the general gist of "if anyone notices you're distracting people and doing something horrible and rude, cover up!" that runs through a lot of comments just rubbed me the wrong way. This attitude seems inherently at odds with the "liberal" general stance i see expressed on this site most of the time. The dissonance vaguely reminds me of a certain ljdrama-titled giant MeTa and the associated atheism thread. And are we really doing that again?
posted by emptythought to Etiquette/Policy at 2:22 PM (130 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

Well, the question is "Is this socially acceptable?" And lots of people are responding with "In my social circle, it is/is not." But the unasked question is "Is this social more reasonable?" and people agree/disagree with that, plus you have the confounding factor that Mefites represent many different social circles, and you have a recipe for people disagreeing with statements for all sorts of different reasons, not all of which are obvious. Hence, crankiness.

It's still nowhere near as bad as the hat thread.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 2:28 PM on April 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


Yeah, the asker asked how people see bralessness. It's a question that invites people to weigh in, and people's responses have been all over the map. I tend to think questions like that are not useful, since these things are so very context-dependent.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 2:29 PM on April 25, 2013


The question is "what is the current social acceptability of going braless" and I think the answer she got was pretty clearly "it's obviously a contentious issue, so take that into consideration before going braless."

Just because you or I or many of us don't agree on a philosophical level with the you're-being-rude-cover-up-issue doesn't mean that it doesn't exist.
posted by phunniemee at 2:30 PM on April 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


The real solution to this issue is for women to wear stick-on fake nipples all over their bodies: foreheads, backs of the hands, knees, elbows, and continue doing so until all of society is no longer terrified of them.
posted by elizardbits at 2:35 PM on April 25, 2013 [77 favorites]


Yeah, I feel like this gets tricky for people who try to guess their way through etiquette vs people who feel it in their bones. I read a lot of "well I don't care much but yes it's a faux pas" and the other people who just felt they had to chime in and be judgey about other people's opinions. The question asked for a judgment, people sometimes have a hard time offering one without assiciating condemnation if others' opinions. I get it, as an etiquette-guesser, but I was dismayed that people couldn't answer without getting preachy.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 2:36 PM on April 25, 2013


the other people who just felt they had to chime in and be judgey about other people's opinions.

For real. The "I'm shocked, shocked I tell you" is out of control in that thread.
posted by sweetkid at 2:37 PM on April 25, 2013 [6 favorites]


To be clear, my point wasn't that it doesn't exist. I'm very well aware that it does.

It was the way it was being presented as if this was some sort of much huger deal and offense than it probably is, much like how incredibly worked up people got in the shoes thread with relation to people who wanted them to remove their shoes at the door. It's the intensity of the backlash in that direction that this is some horrible thing beyond the level of a faux paus that surprised me, and honestly upset me a bit.

On preview,

I was dismayed that people couldn't answer without getting preachy

This, especially coming from a fellow etiquette-guesser.
posted by emptythought at 2:38 PM on April 25, 2013



It was the way it was being presented as if this was some sort of much huger deal and offense than it probably is, much like how incredibly worked up people got in the shoes thread with relation to people who wanted them to remove their shoes at the door. It's the intensity of the backlash in that direction that this is some horrible thing beyond the level of a faux paus that surprised me, and honestly upset me a bit.


It's because people take personal offense where there isn't any meant. Like someone who keeps their hat on or keeps their shoes on or keeps their bra off reads these threads where people say "social convention or in my personal experience the answer is x" and go off because they think the posters are talking about them, specifically, and if they were in a room with such a poster, the person would laugh, scoff and point at their faux pas and everything would be horrible from there on out.

But that's not it.
posted by sweetkid at 2:47 PM on April 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


I go braless all the time.
posted by jonmc at 2:49 PM on April 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


It's still nowhere near as bad as the hat thread.

That's true, and it really surprised me. Given the potential sexism angle that the bra question implicates, I was sure it was going to be more horribly fighty than it was. I was briefly moved to post a sure to be deleted comments about how it wasn't acceptable for men's nipples to be visible either, but declined because, in addition to being off topic and inappropriate, I figured the thread was going to be a headache anyway.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 2:49 PM on April 25, 2013


the other people who just felt they had to chime in and be judgey about other people's opinions.

I know how they feel. It took all my restraint* not to jump in and point out that just wearing a bra doesn't guarantee the invisible nipples (invisipples, patent pending) or well-disguised nipples that many responders seem to expect. Some of us wear bras habitually and still have visible nipples, to which I say: y'know, body parts differ and also exist. Whatever.

*said restraint, of course, being the thing that keeps AskMe useful. I am not asking for a cookie for showing proper restraint, just expressing gratitude for this safety valve that reduces my horrible temptation to jump in there and be all "MY UNREPENTANT NIPPLES**, DEAL WITH THEM."

** band name or Tumblr? Either way, dibs. UNREPENTANT NIPPLE DIBS.
posted by Elsa at 2:51 PM on April 25, 2013 [14 favorites]


In addition it has the "America is so uptight about bodies amirite" angle to it.
posted by sweetkid at 2:51 PM on April 25, 2013 [6 favorites]


"nipples and chest hair in professional settings" may as well be on my business cards.
posted by griphus at 2:51 PM on April 25, 2013 [24 favorites]


"nipples and chest hair in professional settings" may as well be on my business cards.

Nipples and Chest hair: we fight crime.
posted by Elsa at 2:54 PM on April 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Nipples challenge the status quo in the boardroom power game or something.
posted by KokuRyu at 2:57 PM on April 25, 2013


Question specifically mentions the US, answers that start "Speaking as someone not in the US, this is what I think" should get deleted.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 3:10 PM on April 25, 2013 [5 favorites]


Ok, my comment was deleted, (reasonably); when men chime in with suggestions on how women should and might tame their bodies, I do get very grar. It's annoying when women do it, but when men do it, it really changes the context for me.
posted by small_ruminant at 3:10 PM on April 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


For the reason that elizardbits points out somewhat more gracefully.
posted by small_ruminant at 3:11 PM on April 25, 2013


Some of us wear bras habitually and still have visible nipples

This is the story of my life. And I did not really know that was a thing until... maybe today? Rebel nipples! Or maybe that isn't reading properly. I don't know, I'm just staying the way I am. It seems to be okay at my job, which is here.

when men do it, it really changes the context for me.

You and me both, sister. It is only the fact that I like to pretend I'd get fired if I told people off the way I feel like I want to some days that prevents me from making similar comments.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 3:13 PM on April 25, 2013 [22 favorites]


The real solution to this issue is for women to wear stick-on fake nipples all over their bodies: foreheads, backs of the hands, knees, elbows, and continue doing so until all of society is no longer terrified of them.

This made me think of this response to the awful Playstation Vita advert.
posted by knapah at 3:16 PM on April 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


It is only the fact that I like to pretend I'd get fired if I told people off the way I feel like I want to some days that prevents me from making similar comments.

Jessamyn, if you suddenly turned into elizardbits part 2 in your commenting style and got canned for it, I'd be the first to take up the "REHIRE EXTRA GRARRY JESSAMYN" signs.
posted by phunniemee at 3:20 PM on April 25, 2013 [17 favorites]


But only if you promised to devote the other half of your comments to discussions of puppies and sammiches.
posted by phunniemee at 3:21 PM on April 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Heh. I saw that question get posted and went "hm, I wonder if it'll get a meta?" Then I moved on with my day because what do I have to offer to that question that would be of any value? (answer: nothing!)
posted by kavasa at 3:21 PM on April 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Jessamyn you can forward all your grary comments to me and I will post them for you. It will obvsly be a terrible sacrifice for me to tell stupid people that they are stupid but I am a giver like that.
posted by elizardbits at 3:24 PM on April 25, 2013 [55 favorites]


I feel like the question was "in the current cultural context, is it generally seen as appropriate to go braless under certain circumstances?" and some people answered it as such, but other people seem to want the question to be "should women be able to go braless without people judging them for it?" which is a very different question.
posted by Justinian at 3:26 PM on April 25, 2013 [6 favorites]


I also felt that the OP's follow-ups suggested that she was more interested in a philosophical debate than getting answers to the practical question she asked.
posted by payoto at 3:34 PM on April 25, 2013


Nipples challenge the status quo in the boardroom power game or something.

Only if they're hard enough to cut glass ceilings.
posted by zombieflanders at 3:37 PM on April 25, 2013 [9 favorites]


i'm glad i didn't see that thread before this meta, both for my sake and the sake of the community. the grar i feel at some of the "it gives me a sexual response, so watch it" answers is immense. i know, some of that is my own baggage and that those answers are totally within the guidelines and me going all gung-ho is against the guidelines, and i think that's a good thing. but, geez. self policing is hard some days.

elizardbits being back (and now imagining an alternate reality jessamyn response) is really the saving grace for me.
posted by nadawi at 3:47 PM on April 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


I also felt that the OP's follow-ups suggested that she was more interested in a philosophical debate than getting answers to the practical question she asked.

Since Ask Me isn't for having a philosophical debate we can safely ignore any such suggesiton.
posted by Justinian at 3:50 PM on April 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


those answers are totally within the guidelines

That doesn't mean that they aren't upsetting, or that your reaction to them is somehow wrong or an overreaction. Nor does it mean you have "baggage". I'm a guy, and some of the responses by men in that thread had me going "uh guys, GUYS, can we not do this?" in my head.

"but it's within the rules" is about as shitty as "just following orders" when it comes to explanations or excuses for things. The fact that they were answering the question doesn't make them not the greatest responses, or unproblematic.

I don't really think anyone should be shushing themselves for being upset by this type of thing.
posted by emptythought at 3:52 PM on April 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


Wait - are we not all wearing bronze breast plates everywhere anymore? Shit. I never get the papyrus.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 3:53 PM on April 25, 2013 [15 favorites]


Nipples challenge the status quo in the boardroom power game or something.

and now i'm singing blood in the boardroom.
posted by nadawi at 3:53 PM on April 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Nor does it mean you have "baggage".

i sort of put that whole thought together when it was kind of separate things. i do have baggage about boobs and presenting my body in a way that is pleasing (but not too pleasing) to the men around me - i grew 'em early, had the school nurse tell my parents it was time i was in a bra in the 4th grade, got bra checks from my dad (not in a creepy way, just in an enforcing the status quo way), got comments on my body in a "now, now" sort of way from the adult men in my church, got called a slut by the girls in my class - and it didn't seem to matter if i wore a bra or not. i realized at about 13 that i couldn't answer the door for pizza without a bra on anymore...so, my reaction as a big breasted woman who has been mostly shamed into bra wearing didn't really seem like a good thing to throw into that thread. i try to ask myself when i know i'm getting into personal to me territory on ask.me - "how does this benefit the asker/the thread?" and that reaction didn't seem to have a place.

on the other hand, as upsetting as i find some of the answers (and not just the guys, some of the gender self policing in there is also hard to stomach), they do directly answer the question of how being braless and obviously having nipples seems to the professional world around you. i might not like the reality of it, but it does seem to be the reality that i've seen.
posted by nadawi at 4:05 PM on April 25, 2013 [12 favorites]


Man, I bet the guys I see trotting around my neighborhood in shiny white track pants (or better yet, shiny white basketball shorts) who are visibly free-ballin' it don't agonize over whether Society thinks they should tape that shit down.
posted by nacho fries at 4:22 PM on April 25, 2013 [17 favorites]


"Like someone who keeps their hat on or keeps their shoes on or keeps their bra off reads these threads where people say 'social convention or in my personal experience the answer is x'"

Sure, there are people who will read such responses defensively. The problem, though, is that a whole hell of a lot of people who answer such questions don't answer them the way you describe, but rather answer them with explicit normative judgments. And you can't blame people for being upset about that; and, furthermore, in a context where many answers are explicitly judgmental, you can't blame people for being over-sensitive about the answers which aren't explicitly judgmental.

"I'm a guy, and some of the responses by men in that thread had me going 'uh guys, GUYS, can we not do this?' in my head."

I don't think all of those answers are comparable. The first guy that mentioned his response to visible nipples heavily qualified his answer as being his own attested reaction and that of other men he knew and made it clear that this reaction didnt and shouldn't make it the OP's problem. I think he offered a quite true and relevant bit of data to the OP and in a way that explicitly repudiated the "my male gaze is your problem" argument.

On the other hand, another guy did emphatically make the "my male gaze is your problem argument". And that was infuriating.

That said, I think it's a really good example of how deep and prevalent this cluelessness still is. The underlying argument is that women must police themselves to avoid inciting male sexuality (with the corollary that women are responsible for male transgression when they fail to do so) which most (god, I hope) people these days know is horrifying bullshit within the context of sexual violence and yet can casually offer the same argument in this context.

"But the unasked question is 'Is this social more reasonable?'"

Yes. This sort of thing is always a problem in these sorts of questions but, unfortunately, the OP in this case herself strongly brought this to the table, just shy of doing so explicitly. Given that, I think it's inevitable that people will be answering both the etiquette and the large social justice questions ... both of which are contentious. It's no surprise there's a lot of grar.

Anyway, I know I've mentioned this repeatedly in the past, but this sort of thing is why I, personally, find AskMe more contentious and disturbing than I do either MeFi or MeTa, and that's why I don't regularly read it. All the etiquette and relationship questions, as well as some notable other categories, seem to deeply involve people making strongly normative and implicitly/explicitly judgmental arguments, often passive-aggressively, often with little introspection, and I just don't understand why it is that (some?) people who find the rest of MeFi too fighty prefer AskMe, which seems backward to me.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 4:23 PM on April 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Is the question "is this social more reasonable" actually an appropriate question for AskMe? As I alluded to earlier, I should think the answer to that is "not really." But maybe I'm wrong?
posted by Justinian at 4:27 PM on April 25, 2013


Oddly enough the other day, me and co-worker were shelving Sue Grafton (M is for Murder etc) and we realized she was running out of letters. I said she'd go to double letters. "AA is for?" my coworker asked "alcoholic." BB? Gun. CC? Canadian Club. DD? Bra.
posted by jonmc at 4:34 PM on April 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


I see where you're coming from but we felt it was qualified just enough to squeeze in (in the US, tell me if there are for example some jobs where it's okay and some not, to help me gauge how this will be perceived).

We do have questions like this from time to time; to my mind, the most useful answers are ones that explain the social context for which their answer is applicable.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 4:34 PM on April 25, 2013


Er, that is why the question stood, because it has the part which is "help me to get a handle on what the parameters of this social norm are". A question of simply "is this social norm reasonable" would probably not stand.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 4:36 PM on April 25, 2013


Thanks.
posted by Justinian at 4:38 PM on April 25, 2013


Ivan Fyodorovich: "All the etiquette and relationship questions, as well as some notable other categories, seem to deeply involve people making strongly normative and implicitly/explicitly judgmental arguments, often passive-aggressively, often with little introspection, and I just don't understand why it is that (some?) people who find the rest of MeFi too fighty prefer AskMe, which seems backward to me."

If I had to guess, I'd say it's that discussions on topics that people regularly participate in or hear don't come off as fighty while discussions on topics people are less familiar with come off as much more so. If you're used to having arguments about politics but not etiquette/relationship issues, the politics stuff makes sense and doesn't necessarily seem angry to you, but the etiquette/relationship stuff, being less familiar, comes off as more hostile and judgey.
posted by Copronymus at 4:56 PM on April 25, 2013


"If you're used to having arguments about politics but not etiquette/relationship issues, the politics stuff makes sense and doesn't necessarily seem angry to you, but the etiquette/relationship stuff, being less familiar, comes off as more hostile and judgey."

That's a pretty good hypothesis. I'll have to think about that.

However, from my perspective the AskMe stuff (etiquette/relationship) is more personal than the more abstract political stuff.

Or, put differently, arguments on MeFi and MeTa tend to go badly, quickly, when differences of opinion are conflated with character flaws. But, in my observation, discussions about etiquette and relationships go right to character flaws in a heartbeat.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 5:17 PM on April 25, 2013


I'd answer the question, but I am correct on this one and can't deal with idiots who will disagree, so I'll have to leave people in ignorance to avoid conflict.
posted by cjorgensen at 5:46 PM on April 25, 2013


I have two bras. Both strapless. One, I wear only on Halloween, when I do drag, and the other goes on the front of my car. It's classy, faux leather, with the French name of Le Bra. I highly recommend them. They keep my headlights held up real nice. Never any nipples.
posted by QueerAngel28 at 5:50 PM on April 25, 2013


Seeing someone's breasts bounce or nipples tenting her shirt doesn't bother me in the least, but oh god, the mere fact that they call it a "bra" on a car makes me grit my teeth and want to spit. It feels really offensive to me somehow.
posted by heyho at 6:23 PM on April 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


yea it reminds me of the whole "a beautiful car is like a beautiful woman" blah blah crap
posted by sweetkid at 6:24 PM on April 25, 2013


Well, now I know what a car bra is. The world is a weird place.
posted by k8lin at 7:13 PM on April 25, 2013


Man, I bet the guys I see trotting around my neighborhood in shiny white track pants (or better yet, shiny white basketball shorts) who are visibly free-ballin' it don't agonize over whether Society thinks they should tape that shit down.

Thank god they don't, tbh. BTW where do u live?
posted by en forme de poire at 7:23 PM on April 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


there's also carlashes, which at least isn't boob centric, but still weird i think.
posted by nadawi at 7:27 PM on April 25, 2013


What is this car bra business? Is it functional or purely decorative?
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:29 PM on April 25, 2013


Keeps the bugs and other stuff off of your nice car front. Wikipedia is your go-to.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:31 PM on April 25, 2013


CarBras.com (real website!) was far less informative.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:32 PM on April 25, 2013


Except, of course, then you have a dirty bug-smeared scrap of fake leather on the front of your car, which is equally gross in my opinion.

I have never understood the point of the car bra.

Do dead bugs gradually seep into the engine if left to their own devices? Do people run the bras through the wash (BUT NEVER THE DRYER, right, Hedwig?) periodically?
posted by Sara C. at 7:34 PM on April 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


I just don't understand why it is that (some?) people who find the rest of MeFi too fighty prefer AskMe, which seems backward to me.

Mostly because there is really no room for arguing with other posters in Ask. It happens and is allowed a little bit sometimes, but you do need to be moving toward answering the question even if you are disagreeing with another poster.

I spent four years on Ask without ever venturing to Metafilter because I was skeered of it.
posted by sweetkid at 7:38 PM on April 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Car bras also deflect radar, keeping the cops at bay, just like bras for women. next question?
posted by Ideefixe at 7:39 PM on April 25, 2013


Thank god they don't, tbh. BTW where do u live?

I live in a magical place where it's not unusual to see a gent wearing a pair of canary-yellow budgie-smugglers (and nothing else) tootling down the street on an adult trike.

I wouldn't have it any other way.

Please help me come up with the mixology for a drink named Harry Nipples in his honor.
posted by nacho fries at 7:56 PM on April 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


I feel like there's an interesting disconnect in how some people are talking about this braless thing. On the one hand, there are some dismissive comments about how Americans/men/lots of people are afraid of boobs and sex and bodies and this is their hang up and we should all be over it.

Then on the other hand, it seems like the size of the OP's boobs has a huge effect on the answers on appropriateness. So like if they're small boobs, it's socially acceptable to some people, but if they're large boobs, they're not to just about everyone, but if you have issues having your own boobs braless or issues seeing braless boobs on others, you're uncomfortable with sexuality/don't like bodies?

Some people got bigger breasts at the age of like 11 and for some reason, in America anyway, lots of other little kids seem to get the message that the size of your boobs is directly proportionate to your desire for sex, so if you have big boobs as a young girl kids will immediately start calling you a "slut" and such and pull on your bra to make fun of you for wearing one and all of that.

Then you're older and people say that small boobs aren't so sexual (also 20-year old boobs) but bigger and/or older boobs are less appropriate.

And then it's a weird thing that people are uncomfortable about breasts/bodies when there is so much lifelong messaging about them?
posted by sweetkid at 7:56 PM on April 25, 2013 [8 favorites]


and now i'm singing blood in the boardroom."

Reading that thread an' this one got Boob Scotch (nsf most jobs outside of particularly liberal bars) stuck in my head.
posted by klangklangston at 8:31 PM on April 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


I answered the question from my perspective (because I barely understand my personal contribution to social norms, much less the whole thing.) I didn't expand on my personal contribution to body policing, but if anyone wants to try to make sense of it, in addition to not wanting to see strangers' nipples, I don't want to see their armpit hair, thong straps, butt dimples, or navels. I don't want to see the specifics of any stranger's genitalia, either. Not at work or the grocery store or on the bus.
Nudity taboos are stupid but until they're abolished for everyone and we can all enjoy a pleasant indifference, i would be happier if you'd keep your parts to yourself in public. Or at least show willing, y'know?
posted by gingerest at 9:09 PM on April 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Do you think a dragon could take a car bra off with one claw? Goodnite everybody!!
posted by Potomac Avenue at 9:25 PM on April 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


I was too busy with work stuff today to spend much time here, but man I am so glad elizardbits is back and will be the AU grary jessamyn of my dreams.
posted by rtha at 9:51 PM on April 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


"Nudity taboos are stupid but until they're abolished for everyone and we can all enjoy a pleasant indifference, i would be happier if you'd keep your parts to yourself in public."

You're trying to equate this with the blanket nudity taboo. But it isn't even about nudity! People are objecting to being able to see the shape of nipples or, more amazingly, that breasts are bouncy. Under clothing!

When I start hearing from other men about how they use band-aids or special-purpose adhesives to hide their nipples under their clothes, I'll take seriously the idea that this is just some form of a culture-wide nudity taboo. Until then, I'll believe that it's about female sexual objectification. And remain suspicious of arguments in the form of "this is just how it is".

That's not to say that I'd advise anyone in particular to flaunt the convention. Those of us who do flaunt unjust social conventions each make our decision in light of how much we are willing to pay in social sanction versus our principles and hope to be part of a change for the better. That's something each person has to decide for themselves, in one direction or another. People arguing for others to be transgressive are arguing for costs they won't personally bear, while those arguing for others to conform are basically operating as part of peer coercion.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 10:04 PM on April 25, 2013 [20 favorites]


Until then, I'll believe that it's about female sexual objectification.

I have no idea what "sexual objectification" is supposed to mean, but are you really confused about whether or not their is a sexual aspect of women's breasts as compared to other parts of the body? Try this experiment: ask women about town if they would be willing to show you their hands. Then, ask if they would show you their breasts. Be sure that one group of interviewees are accompanied by burly boyfriends/husbands. Report your findings here.
posted by Tanizaki at 10:21 PM on April 25, 2013


"I have no idea what 'sexual objectification' is supposed to mean..."

Oh, I suspect you do know, you just don't want to be ostentatious in your knowledge, right? I can tell because...

"...but are you really confused about whether or not their is a sexual aspect of women's breasts as compared to other parts of the body?"

No, and you're exactly correct in your implication! You seem to understand this quite well.

I really like how your thought experiment proves that this taboo is all about the "sexual aspect of women's breasts", which was my point. And that, by implication, it's a social taboo that functions as a means of culturally emphasizing that women's bodies are primarily sex objects for male purposes (that last bit about "accompanied by burly boyfriends/husbands" really brought that point home, good job) and is therefore an aspect of the injustice of sexism.

Thanks for distilling my argument into such a concise, punchy form!
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 10:49 PM on April 25, 2013 [21 favorites]


Well I learnt that a man showing chest hair is unusual in a professional setting in the US, which is just plain bizarre to my mind. What are you supposed to do if you are a more hirsute gentleman like myself? Shave it off? No thanks.

Hairy and and happy!
posted by deadwax at 12:17 AM on April 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


a pox on the shaving of body hair, and I'd rather be dead than waxed (heh) especially in my chest region
posted by lordaych at 1:12 AM on April 26, 2013


Tanizaki, why do you have to troll up every MeTa? This isn't the first, or even third time I've seen this. You just seem to roll in here always wanting to start some kind of argument. This isn't my first rodeo on here, and I've definitely seen this before. It's like you wait for the perfect moment and then spit in someone's face to start a fight. What the hell?

I almost believe the objectification comment is willful ignorant, unless you aren't a regular member of this community as you plainly seem to be.
posted by emptythought at 1:24 AM on April 26, 2013 [8 favorites]


Ivan, just to be clear, as I said elsewhere, I'm a middle-aged female, and I've dealt with the nipple thing myself for, um, carry the one, er, call it thirty years. I'm fine with seeing nipples in the context of breastfeeding, although I'll probably be kind of unsure where to put my eyes. But I am not objectifying women when I don't want to look at their nipples, because I really don't want to see guys' nips either, especially not in those floppy tank tops that are open all the way down the sides so I get a big eyeful of sweaty armpit.
Honestly, though, I would sooner slam my head in a door than actually say anything to a stranger about her nipple exposure or other clothing choices. I'm pretty much live-and-let-live. I'm not sure where objectification or policing come in if I'm judging silently - holding that opinion without word, action, or facial expression. Complaining online isn't exactly crushing my sisters' self-expression or policing her sartorial choices.
posted by gingerest at 3:11 AM on April 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


Well I learnt that a man showing chest hair is unusual in a professional setting* in the US, which is just plain bizarre to my mind. What are you supposed to do if you are a more hirsute gentleman like myself? Shave it off? No thanks.

The same way you deal with visible male nipples, undershirts. If you're hairy enough not to be able to tuck it in an undershirt, then you can shave it; it's also not a problem if you wear a tie to work. I don't really care how people dress outside of professional contexts, but men should really be wearing undershirts in offices. Visible nipples or chest hair on people jogging or in the grocery store are whatever, but the office isn't the beach.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 5:00 AM on April 26, 2013


Not just responding to Bulgaroktonos here, because there are a number of other comments meandering off in this direction, but let's not create any whole new clothes-policing derails in this thread, okay?
posted by taz (staff) at 5:06 AM on April 26, 2013


And are we really doing that again?

Yes, of course. Few things are rarely settled, particularly on constantly growing website. Fold in a touchy subject that deals with societal expectations, not personal opinions and there you have it, arguments waiting to happen.

Things would also go a lot smoother if people viewed comments on a website as comments on a website and not attacks against their personal religion/philosophy/beliefs, etc.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:15 AM on April 26, 2013


i'm glad i didn't see that thread before this meta, both for my sake and the sake of the community. the grar i feel at some of the "it gives me a sexual response, so watch it" answers is immense.

* blink *

I have a feeling I should stay out of the thread, so can someone tell me whether someone in there asked something like "if seeing nipples turns you on then did you think Batman And Robin was porn"?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:51 AM on April 26, 2013


Try this experiment: ask women about town if they would be willing to show you their hands. Then, ask if they would show you their breasts.

We're not talking about women flashing you. We're talking about a choice of undergarment. Women who wear shirts without wearing bras underneath are not "showing you their breasts".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:56 AM on April 26, 2013 [8 favorites]


My chest hair runs all the way up to my neck where it merges with my beard. Unless I'm wearing a tie, there's probably going to be some visible chest hair.
posted by octothorpe at 6:11 AM on April 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


Huh. You could just shave it in the form of a bowtie though. I would totally high five you on the street if I saw that.
posted by elizardbits at 6:15 AM on April 26, 2013 [11 favorites]


Hat thread?
posted by 256 at 6:31 AM on April 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


Between the OP and this thread I now feel uncomfortable that both my chest hair and my nipples are visible today in my professional office environment.

I am wearing a polo shirt and it is cold in here, OK?
posted by Aizkolari at 7:14 AM on April 26, 2013


Ah, a polo. I was going to guess you were crew on a SHADO Skydiver.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:29 AM on April 26, 2013


My chest hair stops below my collarbones, but I compensate for this by leaving the first few buttons in my shirt open when I'm in business settings.
posted by Greg Nog at 7:41 AM on April 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


You're basically daring me to post a picture of my self at work, aren't you?
posted by griphus at 7:45 AM on April 26, 2013 [5 favorites]


You're basically daring me to post a picture of my self at work, aren't you?

Did you just change the picture on your profile, or is it just awesomely apropos to the conversation?
posted by zombieflanders at 7:50 AM on April 26, 2013


I am still not used to Beardageddon, griphus.
posted by shakespeherian at 7:53 AM on April 26, 2013


griphus is always talking about his hairiness on Metafilter. Whenever I see a comment that starts "as a very hairy man..." I know it's griphus.

I mean, hair on, griphus, you're cool.
posted by sweetkid at 7:56 AM on April 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


"I don't really care how people dress outside of professional contexts, but men should really be wearing undershirts in offices. "

LOL, no. Undershirts are hot as hell. When it's 80 here, I don't need another layer.

I only know one guy who owns or wears undershirts, and he's actually a MeFite, so it's not the norm anywhere I've ever worked, even the place with the "no sneakers" rule for men.
posted by klangklangston at 8:01 AM on April 26, 2013


griphus' beard is majestic and luxurious and provides a safe and comfortable habitat for many friendly woodland creatures
posted by elizardbits at 8:01 AM on April 26, 2013 [5 favorites]


Truly, his beard is an Ark unto itself.
posted by zombieflanders at 8:04 AM on April 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


Jon Hamm: Quit joking about my junk! (Salon.com) NSWF/language
But after a particularly revealing photo of Hamm and girlfriend Jennifer Westfeldt walking down Madison Avenue went viral last year, Hamm’s distinctive bulge became a full-fledged Internet meme. In response to the photo, a “Mad Men” insider told the Huffington Post: “He doesn’t know this, but we used to have to airbrush it out of pics sometimes,” adding, “Jon is a big boy but sometimes it can be distracting.”
Let's just make ALL THE AREAS smooth.
posted by Room 641-A at 8:12 AM on April 26, 2013


Man, The Onion headlines just write themselves, don't they: "Attractive Wealthy White Man Angry Because His Penis Is Large And People Like It"
posted by elizardbits at 8:15 AM on April 26, 2013 [4 favorites]


I dunno, that seems unfair. Jon Hamm is allowed to complain about this if he doesn't like it.
posted by sweetkid at 8:18 AM on April 26, 2013 [8 favorites]


oh poor jon hamm - treated for about 2 minutes like any actress in hollywood and it's just plain intolerable to him.
posted by nadawi at 8:18 AM on April 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


meh. I don't see what's helpful about that attitude.
posted by sweetkid at 8:21 AM on April 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


I wish my chest hair stopped at my collarbone. Instead it climbs vertically up my neck, like it's reaching up to grab my face or something.
posted by Aizkolari at 8:22 AM on April 26, 2013


oh poor jon hamm - treated for about 2 minutes like any actress in hollywood and it's just plain intolerable to him.

And he has a right to be upset by it. And maybe him being upset will make him realize that this is the same thing for women and he may speak out on their behalf now as well too. I see no problem with any of this.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:24 AM on April 26, 2013 [13 favorites]


From everything I've seen Jon Hamm is a pretty Sensitive Guy(tm) and is aware that women face this kind of scrutiny constantly. Jennifer Westfeldt is one of my feminist superheroines too so I'm sure he gets a fair bit of discussion at home, too.

I just don't think he's a good target for check your privilege snark. Especially not because he doesn't like people drawing attention in online articles about his penis. How can complaining about that be so objectionable? Weird.
posted by sweetkid at 8:27 AM on April 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


sure, he's allowed to complain. but, seeming like he understands his costars like christina hendricks have been dealing with this sort of attention their whole career would be nice. the women in hollywood are coming up against the idea that if a guy lays in a gutter on your 18th birthday and gets a picture of your sheer panties then it's free game. his breathless "they're called privates for a reason!" seems almost quaint, and the only reason it's news is because he's a man who has objected.

maybe i've just missed all the times he's objected to women receiving the same (and often worse) treatment - but to me (and to others) his objections seemed pretty tone deaf, especially since they happened the same week anne hathaway was asked about her nipples during interviews about winning an oscar.
posted by nadawi at 8:30 AM on April 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


In a age when men who aren't professional swimmers wax their bodies out of some concept of propriety, sweat through undershirts because they can't daren't show a smidgen of chest hair, and are generally ashamed of the gifts hirsute god has bestowed upon them...

I will be there.

wait are we talking about john hamm now? dammit, work
posted by griphus at 8:31 AM on April 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


It was also the same week she was told by some cretinous interviewer that everyone was breathlessly thrilled about how she lost so much weight for her role in les miz, and she had to tersely explain that this was because she was portraying a character that was LITERALLY FUCKING STARVING TO DEATH.
posted by elizardbits at 8:32 AM on April 26, 2013 [11 favorites]


(but yes, he is totally allowed to complain about it. just as we are all allowed to hope that he is aware of the irony of doing so.)
posted by elizardbits at 8:36 AM on April 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yeah, but he wasn't like 'oh by the way this problem is much more important than Anne Hathaway's or Christina Hendricks' so listen to me more.' And yes it's news because it's a man who objected but that's not really his fault.

Whatever this is kind of a derail, I just think there are better/more clueless targets out there.
posted by sweetkid at 8:40 AM on April 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


There's a reason I didn't choose a quote of Jon Hamm complaining. I chose the quote explaining that, unbeknownst to him, his junk was being airbrushed out for being "distracting" because I felt it was apropos considering the conversation we were having about about evidence of nipples.
posted by Room 641-A at 8:51 AM on April 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


My favorite high school English teacher had, uhhhh, let's call it "persistent nipples". She was a middle aged woman, dressed the part, and was an amazing teacher whose class I looked forward to every day.

I pretty much got over my "OMG NEVER LET NIPPLES HAPPEN" body horror right there, because honestly I would rather get ready to talk about Chinua Achebe than contemplate whether my 50 year old English teacher wears a bra or what.

At this point I sort of feel like people who worry too much about this are the inappropriate ones. Do you really think about other people's bodies that much? It's like the time I typed "Counselor Troi" into google and it auto-completed to "Counselor Troi Camel Toe". I have a feeling it wasn't Emily Post or the collective hosts of "What Not To Wear" making that happen.
posted by Sara C. at 9:23 AM on April 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


Aww man I should have read all the way to the bottom before posting.

CELEBRITY JUNK DEATHMATCH: JON HAMM VS. ANNE HATHAWAY. go.
posted by Sara C. at 9:30 AM on April 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


Hey griphus's account is disabled. What happened?
posted by small_ruminant at 9:37 AM on April 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


He's dead, man. Miss him, miss him.
posted by shakespeherian at 9:38 AM on April 26, 2013


He was just the latest victim of Jon Hamm's immense penis, crushed tragically beneath its enormity.
posted by elizardbits at 9:41 AM on April 26, 2013 [6 favorites]


ah man, that sucks...
posted by nadawi at 9:49 AM on April 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


Unlike his female costars, Jon Hamm could end this all with UNDERPANTS.

Perhaps I shall take up a collection of magical boxer briefs for Jon Hamm's magnificent wang, so magnificent that it can not be contained with the undergarments of mere mortals.
posted by sonika at 11:23 AM on April 26, 2013


griphus is busy producing my album, he'll be back when the record drops
posted by Eideteker at 11:38 AM on April 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


Hey guys this is griphus I hacked into shakespeherian's account. Did you know that 80s video games
posted by shakespeherian at 12:42 PM on April 26, 2013 [10 favorites]


dramatic gasp
posted by elizardbits at 12:46 PM on April 26, 2013


classical gasp
posted by Eideteker at 12:49 PM on April 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


pragmatic sad
posted by MCMikeNamara at 12:52 PM on April 26, 2013


"I'm pretty much live-and-let-live. I'm not sure where objectification or policing come in if I'm judging silently - holding that opinion without word, action, or facial expression. Complaining online isn't exactly crushing my sisters' self-expression or policing her sartorial choices."

Yeah, I feel bad that I was a bit harsh in my comment — the harshness wasn't intended to be directed your way. I mean, I disagree with your rationale and did intend to strongly question your equivalence of this to the general nudity taboo. But the implicit annoyance/anger was more general. Although as a man I can only have a dim secondhand idea of the extent and depth of body policing of women, I've personally witnessed it many times with someone who was non-conforming and it made an impression on me.

And this particular example is particularly irksome because of the sexuality aspect that is so well illustrated by some comments in the AskMe thread and in this one. You say you don't like seeing male nipples, and I believe you; but I don't believe that your discomfort at male nipples is truly comparable to your discomfort at female nipples, either in intensity or character. Male nipples are, at most, intimate and in this sense taboo to a mild extent because of the general nudity taboo. But female nipples are intensely sexualized in our culture, which is where the objectification comes in.

Men in that thread attested that their primary discomfort was sexual in nature and women attested to how the male sexual attention makes them uncomfortable (as a reason for why they follow the taboo, or why they are uncomfortable when other women don't follow the taboo). I'm not saying that's the only reason that anyone ever objects or is uncomfortable with visible nipples, but that it's extremely common and I suspect (but can't know) that it's an unconscious motivation to some degree for most of those who don't think it is.

Well, I do think that pretty much all of this body policing of women's bodies comes from women's sexual objectification in our culture. But most of the other stuff is more ambiguous and subsumed into beauty culture and such where it's difficult to tease out all the complicated interactions. But this taboo against not wearing bras and the visible presence of nipples and that breasts are, well, breasts and not immobile foam protrusions? That's immediately, directly connected to the male gaze.

As for whether expressing your view online and whether that's policing, while I understand that kinda the whole point in that thread and this one, and this site in general, is to express one's views (and I think that's a good thing!), I don't think you can really argue that this particular social context is somehow exempt from those where policing occurs. It occurs where it can occur, and this is a social environment like any other where normative messages are promulgated as they are in other social environments.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 12:54 PM on April 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


Hey griphus's account is disabled. What happened?

He just got engaged - maybe he wants some privacy, people.

Or maybe Vowelzebub ate him.
posted by soundguy99 at 5:42 PM on April 26, 2013


Ivan: okay, fair enough. I still want everyone to put their sexy away at work, though, and ideally people would rein it in in the general public sphere (buses and pharmacies, not restaurants and nightclubs). Not for the children, for me. But obviously that stricture applies disproportionately to people who are socially mandated to trade on their sexuality via gaze, right, so it's unfair.
posted by gingerest at 5:59 PM on April 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


Whenever I see a comment that starts "as a very hairy man..." I know it's griphus.

"But I, but I am a smooth man."
posted by in278s at 12:09 AM on April 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


I still want everyone to put their sexy away at work, though, and ideally people would rein it in in the general public sphere (buses and pharmacies, not restaurants and nightclubs). Not for the children, for me. But obviously that stricture applies disproportionately to people who are socially mandated to trade on their sexuality via gaze, right, so it's unfair.

Not to mention that everyone draws the line between "modest" and "sexy" in very, very different places, depending on culture, upbringing, and personal comfort. For you, "putting your sexy away" may refer to cleavage - for others, it may refer to elbows. So wishing everyone would adhere to your "sexy" standards is really, really expecting a bit too much.

Also - you say you want them to "put their sexy away" for "you". Why is that? Are you afraid you'd be encouraged to do something you otherwise wouldn't?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:50 AM on April 27, 2013


Hey, did you know that bra-burning never really happened?
posted by Sys Rq at 12:24 PM on April 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


I always found that fascinating, that and the largely mythical idea of Vietnam vets being spit on and called "baby killer."
posted by klangklangston at 6:36 PM on April 27, 2013


Empress, no, I am not worried I'll be tempted into some inappropriate behavior by the sight of someone's ass-crack on the train. I worry about everything, and that doesn't even make the top ten thousand. Crushed by a meteor comes before that.
I don't know what drives my discomfort with the intentional sexiness out of context. (The possibly unintentional slip is just sympathetic embarrassment.) I think it's mostly because I feel dragged into a transaction I don't want any part of. "Here is my sexuality, look at it." "But I am just trying to choose a loaf of bread! And you're not looking for me anyway." (Again, I would never actually say that, and I would school my face and eyes. But I would be irritated I had to do that.)
posted by gingerest at 10:56 PM on April 27, 2013


Ah, I see what you're getting at, Empress - that my logic is the same as that of men who would regulate the behavior of women on the grounds that women's lusciousness drives men to sin.

Jesus. I don't know where to go with that, except to say that as the possessor of a female gaze I worry that my social slip will be to make someone who has dressed in a way they think is sexy and I think is inappropriate *feel bad*. I am looking at the floor because I disapprove of the transparent shirt or exposed ass-crack but I don't want the person to know I've even noticed they exist.
I am pretty uncomfortable with trying to figure out what to do when someone clearly wants attention but not necessarily my attention. Especially in a setting where there's a social contract that we all try to ignore each other as best as possible, like on the train. I also can see that my responses lead straight to the demand that everyone conform lest I be discomfited, but this is why I am an introvert who gets into fights on the internet, because navigating the public sphere sucks.
posted by gingerest at 11:32 PM on April 27, 2013


Although I'm not in the US I answered to give a counterbalance as it felt like the OP was angling towards is this a US thing or a general thing (which she later confirmed). I also didn't mean the "society" I was pissed off at to mean US society, rather Western culture. I'm so very tired of seeing boobs on TV (is it, like, the law to have at least one lapdancing club scene in every good TV show?) while at the same time normal people freak out about rogue nips. But I get that was being a bit personally indignant rather than just answering the question.

I don't think you can have a question dealing with something that sails so close to the wind in terms of gender/body image/sexual politics without the answers getting a bit passionate (I'd rather that word than 'fighty') but I'm newish here so I didn't realise that was a Bad Thing.
posted by billiebee at 5:21 AM on April 28, 2013


"I am pretty uncomfortable with trying to figure out what to do when someone clearly wants attention but not necessarily my attention."

I sort of sympathize with you in cases where it's true that someone "clearly wants attention", but from your comments, forgive me, but I've gotten the impression that you may tend to assume this about everything that you consider everyone's "sexiness". And that's the problem. For example:

"I'm so very tired of seeing boobs on TV (is it, like, the law to have at least one lapdancing club scene in every good TV show?) while at the same time normal people freak out about rogue nips."

...shows how breasts are intensely sexualized in our culture. Intensely.

And so I can see how it can be hard to accept the possibility that someone allowing the existence of their nipples (under clothing!) to be apparent might seem as if it's self-evidently a deliberate display of "sexiness".

But you can surely understand how that is not the case with regard to nursing in public? Yeah, a lot of people will say, well, that's different, which is what people always say about every particular place that a culture decides to draw a particular line, that the line reflects some qualitative division and not a somewhat arbitrary quantitative limit. But that's what this kind of thing is, and while public nursing is still controversial, it's only been recently that it was almost universally thought to be unacceptable because breasts were sexual, full stop.

Now, my quantitative argument can work against me as well as for me. If braless should be acceptable, then why not topless? Personally, that would actually be my preference, or (less desirable) a universal no-topless standard for both sexes. Whatever takes it out of an unequal burden on women that is directly related to the male gaze.

But that's not likely to happen anytime soon. I'm okay with that. I and others are just advocating that the line be drawn a bit farther in that direction. Lots of women don't need to wear bras all the time and find them uncomfortable, and either do to hide their nipples or use the adhesive things to do so, or layered clothing, or whatever. And it's just silly. Being reminded of the existence of female nipples is only notably sexual when it's the exception. If this wasn't a taboo, then it wouldn't seem uncomfortably sexual.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 6:44 AM on April 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


gingerest, I think what I said came out a bit harsher than I feel now, so I apologize for that. It was coming from being a woman and thus having a history of hearing that I risk assault if I dress a certain way - a message that firstly, doesn't match my experience (I've gotten unwanted male attention no matter HOW I've been dressed, and one time - because it was over the phone - the way I looked didn't even enter into it), and secondly, absolves men of any responsibility for self-control in that particular arena. It's also the argument that gets used to compel women into certain forms of dress elsewhere in the world.

But what you say about being personally uncomfortable at the site of someone who's showing you something you don't necessarily want to see is valid too (I've also been confronted with that as well - although it was a full-on dick-flash in my own case). I don't have a good answer for that myself, either; you say that this is hard for you to negotiate in the social sphere, but I think it's hard for everyone. It's just that women have unfortunately faced social pressure as a result of some mens' own similar discomfort, and I think that's where I wasn't sure where you fell on that spectrum.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:53 AM on April 28, 2013


"I don't know where to go with that, except to say that as the possessor of a female gaze I worry that my social slip will be to make someone who has dressed in a way they think is sexy and I think is inappropriate *feel bad*. I am looking at the floor because I disapprove of the transparent shirt or exposed ass-crack but I don't want the person to know I've even noticed they exist."

Incidentally, that's not the female gaze, it's the male gaze. That is, within the context of what the male gaze is and how it works in our culture, when women look at other women in the way you're describing, they're using the male gaze. That this is the case is the defining characteristic of the male gaze: it's the heterosexual male sexual objectification of women expressed culture-wide, where both men and women and modes of cultural expression all take that viewpoint.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 6:55 AM on April 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Ivan, you're doing that thing where a man lectures a woman as if she doesn't know her own mind, or understand the cultural context she operates within. gingerest characterized her gaze as being female; she (and the rest of us women reading along) really don't need a guy to come in and say, "Oh, but here's what's REALLY going on in your head."

Please don't tell us women how we see the world.
posted by nacho fries at 1:42 PM on April 28, 2013 [5 favorites]


I had no idea professional people were so concerned with nipples.
posted by owhydididoit at 5:04 PM on April 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


As a rule of thumb, whatever amount of body policing you can imagine is half of what women actually experience.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 5:13 PM on April 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


"Please don't tell us women how we see the world."

Yeah, I was a little worried about that after I wrote the comment. But "male gaze" is a technical term, it's intimately related to body policing, where women themselves are the primary enforcers. At any rate, I apologize for my insufficient care and sensitivity.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 8:30 PM on April 28, 2013


Yeah, I was being careless with a term of art. I will give this some more thought but I am basically all debated out. I hope I didn't make anyone feel too policed - it wasn't my intention.
posted by gingerest at 9:58 PM on April 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


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