[How Far We Haven’t Come] National Cleavage Day and How Cracked Did the Best Feminist Piece This Week

The internet can be a pretty sucky place to be female, sometimes, an often constant reminder of how regardless of how intelligent, educated, qualified or awesome at post writing we are, a great swath of men see us only as the sum of several preferably silicone-enhanced or injected parts- witness, for example, National Cleavage Day.

Yes, we covered it already. And it doesn’t make men jerks to acknowledge women are sexually desirable to them- but you don’t have to wander far into any male-dominated area of the web (Fark and Reddit are great examples) before you’re reminded that no matter what your contribution to any discussion is, if you’re in possession of tits or ass, that is part of your weighted score of worth as a human being.

In my profession, the dichotomy is often pretty stark- in our work of scanning news sites, aggregators and other blogs throughout the day, it becomes rapidly clear that when a woman is being discussed, no matter her station, her looks are at the forefront of our assessment of her. Which is how I totally got my mind blown by a column this week on Cracked- yes, that Cracked- that was written… by a dude. (“5 Ways Modern Men Are Trained to Hate Women.”)

I shared it on Facebook, as is my wont, and expressed that the male writer had quite intuitively nailed some issues with male-female relations I’d been agitating about internally for a while but couldn’t put my finger on. (And was rightly called out for assuming men may lack these feelings of self-reflection.) Entitlement. The feeling that you owe men a perfected appearance, impeccable makeup, flattering clothing and a ranking spot on National Cleavage Day or any other day.

The writer, David Wong, points out some notable pop culture examples of the trope of entitlement, saying:

“We were told this by every movie, TV show, novel, comic book, video game and song we encountered. When the Karate Kid wins the tournament, his prize is a trophy and Elisabeth Shue. Neo saves the world and is awarded Trinity. Marty McFly gets his dream girl, John McClane gets his ex-wife back, Keanu “Speed” Reeves gets Sandra Bullock, Shia LaBeouf gets Megan Fox inTransformers, Iron Man gets Pepper Potts, the hero in Avatar gets the hottest Na’vi, Shrek gets Fiona, Bill Murray gets Sigourney Weaver in Ghostbusters, Frodo gets Sam, WALL-E gets EVE … and so on.”

Wong concludes:

“So it’s very frustrating, and I mean frustrating to the point of violence, when we don’t get what we’re owed. A contract has been broken. These women, by exercising their own choices, are denying it to us. It’s why every Nice Guy is shocked to find that buying gifts for a girl and doing her favors won’t win him sex. It’s why we go to “slut” and “whore” as our default insults — we’re not mad that women enjoy sex. We’re mad that women are distributing to other people the sex that they owed us.”

So when Wonderbra’s (the company who created National Cleavage Day to shill more bras in the hope that without their expensive, torturous contraptions, your tits in their natural habitat are inadequate) PR rep describes “National Cleavage Day” as something that gives “women a chance to be beautiful and glow in the furtive, yet appreciative, glances their cleavage evokes from men,” it actually evokes an entirely different feeling in women. No matter how much we may appreciate our own breasts and the pleasure they give us and the men (or women, if that’s your bag) in our lives, the subtext is clear.

“You’re here for our viewing pleasure. Subtly, of course. Display just the correct amount of visible titty-skin to please my eye but not enough to make me think too many sexual things, or you’re a slut. No, I can’t tell you where that line is, but when you’ve crossed it I’ll let you know. Oh, and definitely don’t use them for breastfeeding where I can see or know, because that is disgusting.

And unless you’re intimate with someone or would wish to be, when is a “furtive, yet appreciative glance” something that ever makes you feel anything but a step closer to sexual assault? To be clear, all levels of breast exposure with which a woman is comfortable is fine- but the impetus behind National Cleavage Day is just creepy- both in concept and execution.

Of course, Wonderbra traffics in female body insecurity, but even looking over the list of National Cleavage Day honorees, it was obvious no lovely yet diminutive breasts were ever going to make the list. Message again clearly sent: today is a day to celebrate cleavage! All cleavage! Except everyone with less than a C cup. Have you tried a Wonderbra?

“How Far We Haven’t Come” is a twice-weekly series by Kim LaCapria, examining the sorry state of women’s issues in America in the current political climate.

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