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So You Think You Can Dance, Nudity Parity Watch: Season 11, Episode 8

sytycd logoAs regular readers know, I’m watching the current season of So You Think You Can Dance, the mixed-style dance competition show, and am documenting whether the women are generally expected to show more skin than the men. (I give a more detailed explanation of this project, and why I’m doing it, in my first post in the series.)

I don’t have much analysis of this episode, except to point this out: There was literally just one routine tonight in which there was nudity parity. Every other routine had women more naked than men. And in all but one of those routines, the nudity imbalance was dramatic, with the women very noticeably more naked than the men.

All but one.

I’m just sayin’, is all.

(Also, apologies for the lateness — I was traveling, and only just saw the episode Sunday night.)

so you think you can dance s11e8 opening group numberOpening routine, all 18 dancers, hip-hop
Women are more naked than men, although not dramatically (some women have low necklines and backs, some women are completely covered, all men are completely covered).

so you think you can dance s11e8 jacque zackJacque & Zack, hip-hop
Woman is more naked than man (she has bare legs and short sleeves, he has bare forearms).

so you think you can dance s11e8 jordan marquetJordan & Marcquet, contemporary
Woman is more naked than man (she has bare legs, bare arms, deep scoop neckline, he has bare arms, deep scoop neckline).

so you think you can dance s11e8 jessica stanleyJessica & Stanley, jazz
Woman is more naked than man (she has bare legs, bare arms, scoop neckline, deep scoop back, he has bare arms, open back).

so you think you can dance s11e8 Bridget EmilioBridget & Emilio, jive
Woman is more naked than man (she has mostly bare legs, bare arms, somewhat low neckline, mostly bare back, he has bare forearms).

so you think you can dance s11e8 Emily TeddyEmily & Teddy, contemporary
Woman is more naked than man (she has bare legs, short sleeves, deep scoop neckline, deep scoop back, he has short sleeves).

so you think you can dance s11e8 Brookyln CaseyBrooklyn & Casey, jazz
Woman is more naked than man (she has mostly bare legs, bare arms, low neckline, low back, he has bare forearms, shirt open at neck).

so you think you can dance s11e8 valerie rickyValerie & Ricky, Viennese waltz
Woman is more naked than man (she has bare arms, low neckline slightly covered with flowers, low back, long skirt that covers legs but swirls up in twirls to reveal bare legs, he is completely covered).

so you think you can dance s11e8 carly sergeCarly & Serge, hip-hop
Complete nudity parity (both dancers wearing essentially identical skeleton costumes, both completely covered).

so you think you can dance s11e8 tanisha rudyTanisha & Rudy, Broadway
Woman is more naked than man (she has mostly bare legs, bare arms, low neckline, he is completely covered).

Summary:
See above. In all routines but one, the women are more naked than the men, and in almost all of those routines, that difference was significant.

All but one.

I’m just sayin’.

Comments

  1. Sam Baltimore says

    I don’t even watch the show, but I had your nudity parity watch in mind when I went to see Aladdin on Broadway this weekend, and it was, if anything, skewed the other way! It also had more men than women in general, and far more men than women with actual roles, so it wasn’t exempt from sexism by any means, but it shows, I think, that Broadway is a more women- and gay-men-dominated medium than television, even competitive dance television!

  2. manduca says

    I’m not sure you’re observing anything beyond the difference between men’s and women’s “dress-up” clothes. At a formal function, most of the women wear dresses, usually short and sleeveless, and men wear suits and ties. Dance costumes probably just reflect this cultural norm.

    I notice the difference between women’s and men’s formal dress more when the weather is either very cold or very hot. Usually, it’s just part of the landscape.

  3. Greta Christina says

    I’m not sure you’re observing anything beyond the difference between men’s and women’s “dress-up” clothes. At a formal function, most of the women wear dresses, usually short and sleeveless, and men wear suits and ties. Dance costumes probably just reflect this cultural norm.

    manduca @ #3: Well, I’m not sure why dance costumes would reflect formal dress, since many (if not most) of the scenarios being enacted in the dance routines are not formal dress ones.

    But yes, I agree that this trend reflects the cultural norm. That’s my point. My point has to do with the ways that female bodies are sexualized, in pop culture and in non-pop-culture. This particular TV show is just one facet of it.

  4. says

    Indeed, Manduca, you should read Greta and my exchanges in comments on her last two posts in this series. We covered a lot of ground on just that subject.

    Greta, I personally think even the one case of nudity parity this time fails. Jen and I noted rather quickly that even though there is nudity parity, she was in a skin right body suit that definitely showed off her excellent (and attractive) physique, while he was in a dumpy shirt and baggy pants. This is most startling because it is weird that they are given the same costume, specifically to look the same, yet weren’t really. Why? She was more sexualized than him as a result. Yet they were supposed to be playing skeletons. Would putting him in a body suit like hers have been offensive or shocking in some way? Or putting her in a dumpy shirt and baggy pants? I had to wonder. Because this was clearly a conscious decision…it wasn’t a culturally-dictated accident. Or at least I can’t think of how it could be.

  5. ragdish says

    Unequal attire is the cultural norm but does it necessarily lead to objectification? As an example, I was recently at a faculty dinner. I wore a suit and my colleague who was senior to me wore a skirt and a sleeveless blouse. She was showing more skin. My conversation with her was about how to advance in the academic world and face rejection as grant proposals are trashed. We discussed how very few researchers these days are receiving NIH awards. And by and large, those were the discussions among the entire group of 30 some odd people. Of course we interjected briefly about our kids and how piano lessons are going and other boring stuff. Yes, to most we are a very boring lot but I digress. And yes just like my supervisor, all the women showed more skin than men. Indeed our attire is likely the manifestation of historically socially constructed patriarchal cultural norms of how men and women should dress at such parties. But in the end does this matter? If we are treating each other as intellectual human beings and not objects, why does it matter if there is an inequality in attire? Why would it be progress if we all showed the exact same percentage of skin?

    I get your point about SYTYCD but I am not seeing it in the broader non-pop-culture in all contexts. Or maybe I’m totally misinterpreting your thesis. That is possible given my state of mind after eating a salad covered in ancient ranch dressing. Oh the lovely runs……..

  6. Greta Christina says

    Unequal attire is the cultural norm but does it necessarily lead to objectification?

    ragdish @ #6: Necessarily? No. I’m not talking about individual examples of this. I’m talking about an overall cultural trend. I’m saying that the perception of women as sex objects primarily or solely valued for our appearance or sexual attractiveness, and the expectation and pressure on us to dress accordingly, makes it more difficult to treat each other as equals. It makes it more difficult for men to see us as something other than objects and ornaments, and it makes it more difficult for us to see ourselves that way.

    You describe your conversation at this faculty dinner as one of intellectual equality. I would bet you dollars to donuts that men talked more than women; that men interrupted women more than they interrupted men and more than women interrupted men; that women’s ideas got ignored and then listened to when repeated by men; etc. These trends in conversation have been extensively documented. And I bet you dollars to donuts that women are under-represented in that faculty, especially at the higher levels, and especially in administration. Again, these trends have been extensively documented: if it isn’t happening in this faculty, it is a rare exception.

    Inequality in attire is far from the only thing contributing to sexism, and it’s far from the only sign of it. But it’s one of the things, and it’s worth documenting.

  7. says

    Hmm. There is the cultural expectation that women should make themselves attractive, but that, for most cases, men just don’t have to. In less formal situations, like a beach, unless you go some place where full on nudity is allowed, men are “allowed” to be just about as undressed as you can get, while women have to cover (and, yes, that includes men’s “speedos”, or the like, vs. bikinis). The rules are all over the damn map, and all of them are based on the guys not needing to give a damn, or not as much of one, about their appearance, nor being harassed for breaking the rules, what ever those rules actually are, given the situation. But, for me, even “topless”, by itself, isn’t “nude”, which makes talking about how much more “naked” someone is than someone else just… not making sense to me.

    But, yeah, I do get that there it a sort of idiocy in society where by showing too much arm, or ankle, or something still qualifies are “more nude” somehow, and thus more sexual, I just think its idiocy, personally, and doesn’t much help when discussing actual nudity. But, then, its not about the nudity, its about the sex, which is the whole problem really, unless the choice is to show that off, then.. its only a problem when its “expected” by society, instead of a choice. But, frankly, its nearly impossible to not have people attacked for “choosing” to do so, for their own reasons, vs. doing so because its “expected”. And, that one really frustrates me. Because.. every time the issue crops up I wonder how, with things as they are, you get to where there is only one side of the issue – that people get to do what they feel comfortable with, and want to use to express themselves, without people on **both sides** making assumptions about why the other side is making those choices. How do you win that battle? How do you get people to both recognize that some people are being exploited, and not, if you push to hard, also cause problems for the ones that just want to do certain things, and either don’t see themselves as exploited, or don’t care (like the ones who comment that they would rather have fun doing things other people disapprove of, rather than being even more exploited by wearing some crappy uniform and saying, “Would you life fries with that?”)

    This is why I am much less certain, frankly, of the solidity of any ground I might try standing on, if I talked about “nudity parity” in how dancers dressed. Is anyone asking them why they thought to dress that way, or if they did so because someone expected it?

  8. Greta Christina says

    This is why I am much less certain, frankly, of the solidity of any ground I might try standing on, if I talked about “nudity parity” in how dancers dressed. Is anyone asking them why they thought to dress that way, or if they did so because someone expected it?

    Kagehi @ #8: This is exactly why I’m writing this series about SYTYCD, as opposed to simply making observations about how people in certain situations choose to dress. In this situation, they absolutely dressed this way because someone expected it. They dressed this way because the costume director expected it. The dancers do not choose their own costumes — their costumes are chosen for them, by employees of the Fox Corporation. The “choices” here are, in this case, a direct representation of expectations — expectations of the costume designers, the costume directors, the show’s producers, and (less directly, but at least to some extent) the corporate overlords.

    Yes, these expectations vary depending on situation (Islamist theocracies being the most obvious example of a culture where the sexist and objectifying expectation is not that women expose themselves, but that women cover up). And yes, individual people make individual choices about how to deal with these expectations, and I’m the last person to attack or even criticize people, especially women, for how they make those choices. But that’s not what I’m talking about here. I’m not talking about a situation where people are presented with unspoken or indirect pressure to dress a certain way (although even in general culture, sometimes these expectations are very direct and very blatant). I’m talking about a situation where people are explicitly given instructions about how to dress.

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