A Malfunction of Common Decency

As we enter a new year, the media bombardment of event coverage is in full swing. Fashion weeks all over the world are taking place, the Golden Globes and the Oscars dazzled us with their red carpet glam, and the Super Bowl dominated every TV in America (and some of the UK). Maroon 5 played at halftime, but the real star of the show was Adam Levine’s heavily tattooed torso on full display. This harkens back to the first time a nipple graced that same stage. Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake were performing, when Timberlake ripped off part of Jackson’s top to expose her breast. Both singers denied that they intended to rip off the full top, maintaining that only her bra was supposed to show. Nevertheless, the result was total pandemonium. The US Federal Communications Commission received over 540,00 complaints, and Jackson suffered a huge hit to her career. Her invitation to the Grammys that year was revoked, and radio stations blacklisted her music. In contrast, Timberlake was barely affected by the ordeal. It became what is now known as the most famous wardrobe malfunction of all time.

So why does the media focus so intently on the dreaded ‘wardrobe malfunction’? And why is the coverage limited almost exclusively to women? There are entire articles dedicated to an actress’s dress going sheer when they hit the bright lights of a paparazzo’s flash. Perhaps with Jackson it was the shock factor of nudity at what is touted as a family-friendly event, but that doesn’t explain articles like these splashing across the tabloids.

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Google celebrity wardrobe malfunction. There might be a man with his bowtie askew, or a jacket misbuttoned, but the majority of the posts (that some people are PAID to write) are about women. I suppose my question really boils down to, what the damn hell entertainment media? Hollywoodlife.com actually has a real life article described as “see celebrity wardrobe malfunctions from nip-slips, SPANX and cameltoes from Kim Kardashian to Selena Gomez and more”. I am not making that up. Why is it not considered creepy, or at the very least rude, to talk about a momentary and unintended bodily reveal? One could draw all kinds of hypotheses from this: that women’s bodies being constantly policed and watched, that the designer outfits women are expected to wear to be fashionable and sexy are so bare that a mslfunction is almost inevitable, and that writing an entire article on a nip slip is a way to create scandal and shame for women, despite Adam Levine being free to jump around on one of the biggest stages in the world totally topless. A nip-slip peice by the Daily Mail is not going to be an endorsement of the Free the Nipple Movement. It’s an example of women being publicly called out for their bodies. So let’s stop sharing articles on facebook of someone’s ‘unfortunate Marilyn Monroe moment’. Let’s stop buying the tabloids with the promise of the ‘most scandalous wardrobe malfunctions’ plastered on the front cover. It’s a malfunction of common decency, and it needs to stop. Let the girls live, nipples out or not.    

-Isabel Quattlebaum


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