Sexy Lingerie: The Fabric of Valentine’s Day?

Veronica Glab will show you the way. | Photo by Nicole Cousins.

If you’re reading this right now, it’s either because you’re scrambling for last minute date ideas or you wanted to watch a video titled “Sexy Underthings.” I certainly hope you don’t get too disappointed when you realize this is the feminism column’s take on lace, padding, and silk.

The terms “feminism” and “sexy lingerie” have rarely been found in the same sentence. So when I decided to write this article, I tried to establish the connection by asking the opinions of some of my girlfriends.

One said the appeal lay in the beauty of the product itself: “I’ve always thought that there’s something beautiful about lace …I would wear it just for fun, not necessarily for someone.”

Another friend also likes to wear fancy underthings for herself. “They make me feel sexy,” she said. “Even if nobody sees them, I like knowing that they’re there.”

I very quickly realized that the connection between my feministka beliefs and push-bras lay in the fact that the idea of beauty or sexiness inherently affects every woman. Especially since some of us will be wearing said lingerie tonight… for at least a few minutes.

Victoria’s Secret, America’s leading lingerie retailer, has promised that “Valentine’s Day seduction begins [with the purchase of our product]”. It’s clever advertising, certainly, but the tagline leads us to believe that a limited range of styles and sizes embodies beauty. When such messages are presented to customers, it begs the question: are women wearing these things for themselves or because it’s simply expected?

The idea that women are simply expected to be feminine and beautiful at all times no matter what is one that is brought up in Naomi Wolf’s The Beauty Myth. Moreover, it assumes a heternormative standard of beauty in a world that questions the gender binary. Wolf wrote her book twenty years ago, and it’s interesting to see what’s changed for women–and what hasn’t. As it turns out, our culture’s oft-criticized obsession with beauty has not changed since the Victorian Era.

Wolf’s main idea is that capital-b Beauty often gets used against women instead of for them. You’ve probably heard people say that our culture’s emphasis on physical attractiveness turns feminine stereotypes into measuring sticks for how much a woman is worth.

The way Wolf depicts it, the legend of The Beauty Myth goes like this: Once upon a time, there was something called Beauty and it was objective, unquestionable and 100 percent universal. Women had to embody Beauty, and men’s job was to possess women who embodied it. Strong men battled for beautiful women, and obviously beautiful women were more reproductively successful.

Happy Valentine's Day, Boston University. Wrap it before you tap it. | Photo by Nicole Cousins.

And everybody lived happily ever after, the end.

Women are often expected to be thin, delicate, and immaculately groomed in a way that does not reflect the diversity and fluidity of an entire gender. In this system, women have to work hard to make themselves presentable, worthy, beautiful, while men get to be the judge. It takes the potential empowerment of beauty almost entirely out of women’s hands, and really, how beautiful does that feel?

Ultimately, the beauty industry and the beauty myth have made something of a monster out of a natural human inclination for grooming and preening. As humans, we’re not really that different from most animals. A little more sophisticated, but some of our rituals are basically the same. A peacock fans its feathers hoping to attract a mate. By extension, our rituals include shaving, working out– and even “tee shirt time.”

But The Beauty Myth purposely ignores that women are by nature beautiful. Which brings me back to how most of us are preparing for Valentine’s Day. Whether those preparations include a simple dinner or  something more extravagant. From basic push-up bras to the new vajazzling trend, it’s all a very good provided that you honestly wear it for you.

So if you’re still looking for last minute Valentine’s Day ideas, follow my friend’s guidelines when you dash off to Newbury Street. Wear what makes you feel confident, not what you think your date might like. Because feeling genuinely good about yourself, now that is a beautiful thing.

Epilogue:  Doing what’s right for you on Valentine’s Day will make your date happy more than anything else.  But if you’re spending the holiday alone, I recommend some v-day guidelines by my editor and dear friend Andrea Abi-Karam:

About Veronica Glab

Veronica Glab (CAS '11) is the Feministka writer for the Quad. "Feministka" means "feminist" in Veronica Glab's native language, Polish. There are few things Veronica loves more than eating pineapple, taking long walks on the beach, and thinking about Rasputin's beard.

View all posts by Veronica Glab →

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