Image: pixabay/kheinz46

The New York Times has just recently published a piece in their Fashion and Style section, on the topic of thongs versus full-bottom lingerie (yes, it is women we’re talking about). Thongs are deemed passé, so as the article says, with seven per cent sales’ decreases within the past year, at the cost of boy shorts, high-waist briefs and overall everything that would go under the label of full-bottom bikinis.

The article got high circulation under the all-common “feminist” hash-tags. Probably la réaction toute naturelle, since it was accompanied by a full-bottom underwear photo of two lovely white ladies who have certainly passed the thong stage and have managed to red-ink feminism all over their fuller styled purchases.

And here is what I learned: The full-bottom underwear aims to: a) subvert the idea that lingerie is strictly designed to appeal to men — although if this happens as a side effect it is totally fine and perhaps even (subconsciously) desirable; b) counter the misconception that men are not enjoying girls in T-shirts and white underwear (because this what they are actually after, you know, the high-prized, all good and preferably next-door woman –I mean “girl,” pardonnez moi — that you need to conquer and possess like an absolute object); c) reaffirm that, despite all there is to say on the topic, it is still ok to be stuck in “traditional sexy” (implied as sexist) roles; and finally concluding that d) at the end of the day, women should still wear whatever they want to wear.

Like this is exactly what’s going to happen once the lingerie topic gets debated publically in the New York Times. So here are my thoughts: These implied dialects of equating women’ dominance with the thongs and women’ emancipation with the full-bottom bikinis — and the dialects are there as long as thongs are referred to as “traditional sexy” garments — are just re-regulating women in a place of normativity, in terms of what feminism looks like and what feminism should look like, without actually contesting or subverting the very kernel spiralling out such gendered dominance- subalterness relationships.

Sort of like what Marx overlooked in relation to capitalism. I would argue that full-bottom underwear is a fantasy inherent to sexism itself, in line with what the Slovene philosopher, Slavoj Žižek, stated, that Marxian Communism was a fantasy inherent to capitalism. Just like the Communism project constructed its alternativeness on the very kernel/essence of capitalism (i.e. productivity), the full-bottom underwear constructs its emancipatory potential on the very kernel/essence of sexism itself (i.e. the notion/idea/ concept of men).

I would have personally liked to read about the choice and matching of underwear in relation to women’s outfits for example. Size, colour, thong or full-bottoms, are clearly selected based on the outfit. While full-bottom might work better with summer dresses, thongs are an easy selection for jeans. Who the hell cares about including men in the equation?

And if underwear always gets juxtaposed to what men want, like, or care about, we are still bringing the concept of men as the reinforced marker to regulate the women’s lingerie selection. I am not saying that I want men erased from the discussion (erasing still implies some attention to what you’re erasing). I am saying that I want them to be a conversational void on the subject matter.

And if the concept of men is still relevant for women’s underwear topics, I would be cautious in plastering a red inked feminism text on any feminine garments.

Until then, I’ll stick with the thongs.  


Image: pixabay/kheinz46

Raluca Bejan

Raluca Bejan is an assistant professor of social work at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Canada. She has a PhD and a MSW from the University of Toronto, and a BA in political sciences from Lucian Blaga...