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What Not to Watch

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By Vol-E

This morning my internet was out very briefly. We have the same provider for both TV and internet, and TV is my husband's lifeline to the world when he's home, so making sure we didn't have a cable problem was Priority One.

I switched on the TV at random, just to check, and landed on TLC, where an old episode of "What Not to Wear" was showing.

I used to LOVE that show. Couldn't get enough. I started with the British version -- Trinny and Susannah, whose trademark move was bouncing a woman's breasts with their hands and exclaiming "Tits!" Actually, that was not my favorite part of that show, but I watched anyway, and then they came up with an American version with Stacy London and Clinton Kelly.

I binge-watched that version even more than the BBC one. But when they stopped renewing the show, my attention drifted away. It was odd watching it this morning. And it seems a new chapter opened in my life -- one that does not care for this show or its message.



Even back 10 years ago, my main problem with the show was that it would take someone from, say, Atlanta, and push layers of clothing on them. The show is based in New York, where it is often extremely cold in the fall, winter and spring. However, the capital of Georgia is often known as "Hotlanta," for a reason! People don't go around in turtlenecks and wool blazers all that often. Layering down thisaway means you put on a lightweight shirt and cover it with a North Face jacket when the temps dip. Watching these people walk around in boots and wool jackets made me feel hot, even sitting in my air-conditioned living room.

All in all, the show stresses "form" over "function." It will feature a hard-working, salt-of-the-earth woman who, like most women, is trying to juggle a job, a family, friends, and miscellaneous other necessary life roles. Ever notice, men get to do all this conveniently? Like, if they have to carry a bunch of tools, they have pants with deep pockets, or a utility belt. No one looks twice if they don't carry all their stuff in a bag that they run the risk of losing or snagging on something. But women? Here's a typical example of what's considered "proper attire" under most circumstances:

  • High heels that ruin your feet, make it almost impossible to run, and increase your chances of an ankle sprain;
  • The aforementioned purse that usually isn't designed to hold "real stuff" without a lot of rummaging (which is often ridiculed by men); 
  • Pants with no pockets, or pockets that you can't even get your whole hand into.

Even underwear isn't safe. Bras are supposed to provide support, but a woman gets criticized if her bra can be seen through her blouse and viewed as "army surplus" or too heavy or bulky. The only acceptable bras are these lacy, wispy things that serve no useful purpose whatsoever. And forget about comfortable panties. God forbid. Anything more substantial than a thong is referred to as "granny panties." The entire fashion industry seems to forget that there's a human being under those clothes. If we were unfeeling plastic creatures that stood around posing all day, we'd be Barbie dolls. But news flash -- we're not.

During the last couple of years, I've seen postings on social media that protest this ridiculous inequality. Similarly, people are starting to wake up to the fact that toys marketed to boys are a) more durable, b) more FUN, and c) less expensive than those marketed to girls. You can always tell the girls' toys. They're either fluorescent pink or lavender. And you're not supposed to take them out of the box and get them dirty. Girls are raised to treat themselves that way too.
What Not to Wear promoted that type of sexist fashion mentality.

It wasn't just clothing, either. The hair and makeup stylists often abused the women on the show -- on camera!  In one episode, the makeup artist applied eye liner to the inside of a woman's eye -- the mucous membrane where you get conjunctivitis if you're not careful. Brilliant. And some poor lady from Texas, who had been raised practically from birth to wear her hair in a bleach-blonde bouffant style, got all her hair chopped off and dyed brown. Sure, most viewers were probably relieved to see a more natural 'do, but the fact was, the woman did not like it -- in fact, she cried, and once she got back home, she actually bought a blonde bouffant wig to cover what she considered her "bald" head until her hair could grow out enough to be put back the way it was.

Stacy and Clinton are probably lovely folks off camera, but watching them this week brought home the fact that they were earning a paycheck, not performing a public service. I can think of many more worthwhile shows to spend my time with. Like The Walking Dead. Or My Cat from Hell.

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