What’s so wrong with going topless?


Lauren Gherman , Staff Writer

On February 1, 2004, Justin Timberlake accidentally ripped off part of Janet Jackson’s top, specifically the part that was covering her breasts. This moment in Super Bowl XXXXVIII history shocked millions of viewers around the country, sparking hatred across NFL fan pages and the YouTube comment section. News sites like USA Today claimed that the “Nipplegate” controversy was part of a larger conspiracy, citing testimonials from Super Bowl viewers:

“She asked him to do that, pull [her] shirt off.”

“And why did he agree to it?’’

But when a similar event happened this past Super Bowl with Adam Levine taking off his shirt while performing, audiences had a very different reaction. Instead of getting hate for his actions, Twitter fan pages responded with resounding support and love for the singer, like @davidubben saying, “And yet you have to respect it. The predictable audacity is what really pushes it to new levels!” and @johpeters1967 saying, “If i’m being honest, i’m slightly envious of his pecs.” This is just one example of how double standards in gender expression have taken a new form in today’s society.  

Those of us who attended middle school at SSFS were required to comply with specific dress code rules, some of which were reasonable, but most of which were targeted towards girls’ clothing. For instance, there was the three-finger rule which stated that all tank tops had to be at least three finger widths or girls would get dress coded and possibly forced to change; and the finger-length rule that said that all shorts should be the length or longer than your fingertips when they are at your side. These rules were vigorously enforced, and while they say “all students,” these rules really only applied to girls. Most girls’ tops and shorts simply don’t fit the requirements, while all boys’ clothing follows these rules. I remember in 7th grade, on the first day of spring, one teacher made the entire class get up and hold their arms down to “inspect” everyone’s clothing. She proceeded to tell all the girls that their shorts were too short, even though some of the boys’ pants were the same length as ours. This inconsistent judgment of compliance with the SSFS handbook was solely based off of sexist interpretations of style because women’s bodies are viewed as “tempting.” Thankfully these rules are no longer in place in the middle school.

This obsession with the female body has also carried over into Hollywood. The MPAA, the parent association that gives movies ratings, is known to give movies with female nudity higher age restrictions than movies with male nudity. Following this trend, these movies that express female sexuality are also graded harder than movies with the same ideas, but featuring male actors. These judgmental attitudes towards women’s bodies only support the belief that women’s bodies are inappropriate, even when they do the same actions as their male counterparts. It also sends the message to little girls that their bodies are shameful and should be hidden, but tells boys the exact opposite.

Though people like to say that society has made huge strides in gender equality, we haven’t done nearly enough. These double standards in the perception of men and women’s bodies are defining in young girls’ lives and are reinforced in national consciousness through “scandals” like Janet Jackson’s.