So You Think You Can Dance Nudity Parity Watch, Season 11, Episode 9


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.)

Before I get into this particular episode, though, I want to address a question that’s been asked a couple of times about this project — namely, whether a lack of nudity parity, even a consistent lack of nudity parity, necessarily implies sexism.

No, the fact that, in any given situation, women are showing more skin than men does not automatically imply that women are expected to show more skin than men — either in general, or in that particular situation. This trope isn’t even universally true: in Islamist theocracies, for instance, women’s subjugation and objectification is marked by the expectation that they cover up, not the expectation that they show skin. And of course, none of this implies that showing skin is bad or wrong.

But when you see a consistent and repeated pattern of women showing more skin than men, it makes you wonder if this isn’t just random chance or a random cultural quirk. That’s even more true given that there are places and situations where this pressure or expectation is made explicit (fashion magazines, dress codes, mothers — other examples welcome in the comments). It’s even more true given all the other evidence we have of the ways that women are routinely expected to be ornamental and to fit conventional standards of attractiveness, and are primarily or largely valued for our value as ornaments and sex objects. And it’s even more true in a situation like SYTYCD, where the dancers’ costume choices are being made for them and are the product of the producers’ and costumers’ conscious choice (influenced by unconscious cultural stuff, of course).

There’s an interesting Catch-22 about talking about sexism, racism, classism, homophobia, etc. If you talk about the phenomenon in general, and talk about broad trends and tropes, people will say, “Give me examples! I don’t see what you’re talking about!” But if you point to specific examples, people will say, “That’s just one example! One example doesn’t prove that there’s a pattern! Besides, that example is special, it’s an exception because (reasons)!”

So no. The fact that on SYTYCD, week after week, the female dancers consistently have more skin shown than the male dancers, with very few instances of nudity parity and virtually no examples (none at all so far this season) of male dancers showing more skin than the women — this does not, by itself, prove that women’s bodies are treated as display objects by our culture.

It’s just one small example of it.

So now, to this week’s data.

so-you-think-you-can-dance-s11-e9 opening group number mandy mooreOpening number, Mandy Moore, jazz (or maybe contemporary — I’m not an expert, and I sometimes have a hard time distinguishing between them)
Women are more naked than men (women have bare legs, bare arms, bare midriffs, mostly bare backs, men have either bare arms or short sleeves, some have scoop necklines).

so-you-think-you-can-dance-s11-e9 valerie rickyValerie & Ricky, Bollywood
Woman is more naked than man (woman has bare arms, bare shins, bare midriff, mostly bare back, V-neck, man is completely covered).

so-you-think-you-can-dance-s11-e9 bridget emilioBridget & Emilio, contemporary
Technically, they have rough nudity parity (woman has bare legs, man has bare forearms and open-necked shirt). However, her upper body is covered by a skin-tight, mostly flesh-toned leotard/ bodysuit thing that’s intended to look like she’s largely nude, with non-flesh-tone just on her skirt and bosom.

so-you-think-you-can-dance-s11-e9 tanisha rudyTanisha & Rudy, hip-hop
Woman is more naked than man (woman has bare back, sheer netting on sides down to sides of calves, midriff, sternum, man is completely covered). Also, her outfit is skin-tight, while his is a regular-fitting suit, maybe somewhat more snug than usual.

so-you-think-you-can-dance-s11-e9 jessica marcquetJessica & Marcquet, foxtrot
Woman is more naked than man (woman has bare back, bare sides, arms covered on top and bare on bottom, long skirt that twirls up to show legs, man is completely covered).

so-you-think-you-can-dance-s11-e9 carly sergeCarly & Serge, contemporary
Woman is more naked than man (woman has bare legs, bare arms, deep scoop neckline, man has bare forearms (wrists, really) and slightly dipped neckline).

so-you-think-you-can-dance-s11-e9 emily teddyEmily & Teddy, salsa
Woman is more naked than man (woman has bare legs, bare arms, bare midriff, bare sternum, largely bare back, man has bare forearms, shirt open to deep V-neck).

so-you-think-you-can-dance-s11-e9 jacque zackJacque & Zack, jazz
Woman is more naked than man (woman has mostly bare legs decorated with stockings and garters, bare arms, deep scoop neckline, bare back, man has bare arms, V-neck).

so-you-think-you-can-dance-s11-e9 brooklyn caseyBrooklyn & Casey, hip-hop
Woman is more naked than man, but not much (woman has bare arms, slightly bare midriff, slightly open neckline (more open than his), man has bare arms). However, she has skin-tight leggings, while he has skin-tight leggings covered by loose long shorts.

so-you-think-you-can-dance-s11-e9 group routine 1 sonjaGroup routine 1, contemporary (Sonja)
Women are more naked than men (women have bare legs, bare arms, men have bare arms).

so-you-think-you-can-dance-s11-e9 group routine 2 travisGroup routine 2, contemporary (Travis)
Women are slightly more naked than men (women have wide, deep scoop necklines, men have somewhat deep V-necklines). However, women have skin-tight leggings, while men have looser dance slacks.

Summary:
Just as was the case last week, in all routines but one, the women are more naked than the men. In most cases, that difference is significant. And even in the cases of rough nudity parity or the cases where nudity imbalance is not dramatic, the woman’s body is revealed more than the man’s, with more skin-tight outfits.

Comments

  1. Pen says

    To take it a step further, it would be useful to look at the process of costume design and approval, and what sort of history of gender differentiated costume design it’s rooted in. When people begin to learn to dance, how quickly are their costumes differentiated?

    Also, and I admit I know very little about dance, do these dance traditions include a tendency to treat women as ornaments in the movements themselves, with the men often acting as a kind of scaffolding and display/lifting apparatus, as ballet sometimes does? Do they relate to larger contexts where dance is used in a sexualised way – e.g tango.

    Here’s another thought – sometimes it looks like the clothing/nakedness thing is done to emphasize the color contrast between white partners with the male appearing dark and the more naked female light. How does this also play into gender expectations and why wouldn’t we achieve the same effect with a dark (dressed) female and a light (naked) male. And why are so many of the dancers light-skinned, anyway?

  2. jd142 says

    I was thinking of this series as I was watching an old Thin Man movie last night. There’s a scene in a Cuban nightclub — this was way back when Cuba was the place for rich white folks to party — and the dancers are wearing what passed as traditional outfits. The great big feathery shirts and pants. My wife commented that it is hard to look sexy when you are dressed like Big Bird. But until she spun around, it looked like the woman was wearing more clothes than the man. Her dress was semi-backless, but you rarely saw her back and that was what fooled me. So she was technically showing more skin.

    Her big flouncy dress was full length. His pants however, while not tight, were tailored to nicely show off his figure. Man was he thin. And given the way her dress was shaped, he was definitely sexier.

    I thought you might find that interesting from a historical perspective to compare that dance seen to something today. Plus it is a very cool dance. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jz5NeIs3nkQ for a video. And it is surprisingly non-stereotyped too.

  3. qwints says

    There’s an interesting Catch-22 about talking about sexism, racism, classism, homophobia, etc. If you talk about the phenomenon in general, and talk about broad trends and tropes, people will say, “Give me examples! I don’t see what you’re talking about!” But if you point to specific examples, people will say, “That’s just one example! One example doesn’t prove that there’s a pattern! Besides, that example is special, it’s an exception because (reasons)!”

    That’s the best phrasing I’ve heard of that double bind yet.

  4. belcat says

    My mother complained to me once, “The girls these days are so sexed, wearing so little clothes! This is complete reversal of the feminism…”. My counter was that so were the boys; it is possible to see boys wearing only a speedo sized piece of clothing. I can’t say I have been keeping track which is wearing less since I’m mostly looking at the boys.

    However, these pictures, despite being tiny, definitely don’t give me that impression. I fact, I think I would overall be disappointed in the amount of nudity in them, especially when you compare it to the amount of some of the women are showing. You’d think they would expose a little more for some of their demographics, which must include some women (especially younger?) and gay men…

  5. says

    You know what I found odd about the opening number? How clothed the men were. (I’m not just being opportunistic. Although that too.) It seemed pretty clearly to be swimming-themed, with the women in costumes suggestive of swimwear, so… why were the men in full trousers and vests/t-shirts, as opposed to just shorts?

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