Diversity in Lingerie: Gender

I’ve been thinking about writing a post on gender for a while now, and #DiversityInLingerie seems like the perfect opportunity to talk about this:

I am transgender*. The asterisk there signifies that “transgender”, as used here, refers not just to binary trans persons, but also to genderqueer and agender individuals. More specifically, I am agender. That means that I don’t identify as female… or male… or genderfluid… or anything gendered at all. I am not a woman- I’m just a person.

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In the realm of lingerie, there’s a lot of pressure to conform to traditional gender roles… a few months ago, I was even afraid to post photos that showed my armpit hair.  Over the past few years, I’ve seen a lot of transphobia in the realm of lingerie, and it makes me really sad.  I’ll talk about a few things here:

1) I wear lace and frilly things. I cannot for the life of me understand what lace and frills have to do with “womanhood”. But I’ve had countless people tell me that clearly I am female because I like to wear dresses and velvet and lace. Or that I have large breasts and don’t try to minimize them means that I identify as female.

Nope. I like lace and velvet and dresses because I like the way they look. It’s as simple as that.

2) Lots of bra forums and related websites are “for women only”. I know the intent is to keep out fetishists**, but what about people female-bodied persons who are not women?

3) Related to the last point: a lot of hate spouted at transwomen. My hunch here is that people just don’t get that there is a difference between people who wear bras or who post on bra forums because they find it sexually arousing** and transwomen (non-female-bodied women). Transwomen aren’t “sort or women” or “men pretending to be women”… transwomen are women.

(**I’m bringing this up not because fetishes are “icky” or “perverted”, but because there is a big difference between crossdressing and being transgender. When you’re involving sexual things (fetishes), you need to make sure all involved parties are consenting… which isn’t the case on forums for bra-fitting, which isn’t a sexual subject.)

I haven’t nearly exhausted my thoughts on this subject, but I think this is a good place to start.

MILF?

True & Co., you’ve done it! You’re inspired another ranty post from me! I’m not an angry person, so this is truly impressive!

What did you do? You decided that it would be HILARIOUS to have the phrase for your Mother’s Day fitting campaign be “MILF” – “Mom I’d Love to Fit”. That’s hilarious, right? Get it? MILF? Like “mother I’d like to fuck”?

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Yeah, hilarious. And I’ll start by reading it the way you want me to, as “mother I’d like to fit”. What I’m getting from this is that mothers should be fitted for bras because you want to fit them. Not because they deserve well-fitting bras (which they certainly won’t get via True & Co., as the size range is terribly limited and the algorithm tries to fit you in the size range even if it’s 6 cup sizes too small), but because you want to fit them.

Wait, that’s not what you meant? Oh. So then why did you even use the term “MILF”? It isn’t funny and it doesn’t make sense.

Female bodied persons are socialized to believe that their bodies are public property. Why base an advertising campaign on a phrase that perpetuates this?

I was going to try to ignore this ad campaign, but there have been a few responses basically saying that being told that someone would fuck you is a compliment and that those who are offended by this campaign are all misogynists for denying women their own sexuality. Really? Because I’d like to point a few things out:

  • “You look nice” is a compliment.
  • “I’d like to fuck you” is a statement of fact, not a compliment. (And is sometimes very threatening.)
  • “You are a MILF” is objectifying and denies agency.

Since “MILF” is about wanting to fuck someone, I’ll deal with the last two. First, “I’d like to fuck you” is not a compliment. It’s a statement of fact. If you tell someone that, meaning it as a compliment, what you are saying is that their value is (at least partially) based on whether or not you (or anyone) would want to fuck them. It isn’t a compliment. But, while there are many situations in which it comes across as a threat, it also isn’t necessarily offensive. At it’s best, it’s a statement of fact.

But anyway, here is a huge difference between saying that you’d like to fuck someone and calling someone a MILF. I don’t (usually) feel objectified when someone tells me that they’d like to fuck me… but if someone ever called me a “MILF”, I’d feel really violated, since it’s a goddamn noun and I am being told that I am an object defined entirely by their desire to fuck me. Even though, grammatically speaking, “you” is the object in “I’d like to fuck you” and the subject in “you’re a MILF”, there is a difference between saying that you’d like to do something with someone and telling them that they are something. “She is a MILF” is a statement of equivalence. “You are a MILF” makes “you” equivalent to a “mother I’d like to fuck.” It defines the subject in terms of how they are useful to the speaker. The phrase smacks of objectification and (no surprise here) non-consent. If all you want to say is that you’d like to fuck someone, then leave it at that. Don’t make statements about who they are.

You can’t “reclaim” a phrase when objectification lies inherently in its structure.

Is there anything wrong with mothers enjoying sex and being sexual? Nope! But calling someone a “MILF” isn’t giving them license to be sexual… it’s making them into an object for your pleasure.

So, True & Co and “defenders”, here are a few helpful things to remember:

  • Being a woman doesn’t mean that you aren’t a misogynist.
  • Female bodied persons and their bodies are not public property.
  • You can’t be sex-positive and consent-negative- that’s called being rape-positive.
  • If a joke isn’t all that funny, barely makes sense, and is potentially very offensive… don’t use it.