The Modesty Police of D.C.

What Women Really Think
May 26 2010 2:43 PM

The Modesty Police of D.C.

Going in front of the cameras while in Washington, D.C., while having lady parts is seeming incredibly fraught these days. As has been thoroughly discussed here , whether a woman crosses her legs when she sits down seems to have become a major issue overnight. Now you have Matt Drudge and Glenn Beck getting the vapors because Michelle Obama had a modest amount of cleavage showing in an evening dress. If the trend continues in this direction, within a few years, there will be a national scandal when one of the first daughters dares to show a bit of ankle.

Criticizing Elena Kagan for not crossing her legs particularly annoyed me, because I've literally spent years of my life trying to break the habit of crossing my legs when I sit, because I always thought it looked stupid and defensive. Plus, I've heard it gives you varicose veins and just can't be good for you. It puts me in mind of those airline pamphlets about deep vein thrombosis. From a strictly practical viewpoint, it's less modest than not crossing your legs, especially in a skirt above the knee, since when you cross your legs you run the risk of flashing your underwear and definitely show off more leg. It's only "modest" in the symbolic sense, a small gesture to signal that you're properly ashamed of that not-penis lurking so many inches north of the crossing point.


And that's what this this is all about, isn't it? The modesty police here or in Saudi Arabia use sex as cover to shame women for having the temerity to walk around in public while possessing lady parts. Creating a situation in which everyone is staring at your crotch or boobs in hopes of finding some transgression from arbitrary modesty standards is just a way to pick on women for being women. I've often been tempted to take pictures of what I was wearing when some guy on the street harassed me, just to point out that if your harasser is determined enough, a hoodie sweatshirt and a pair of jeans can be considered hoochie-mama clothes that somehow demand harassment.

Amanda Marcotte is a Brooklyn-based writer and DoubleX contributor. She also writes regularly for the Daily Beast, AlterNet, and USA Today. Follow her on Twitter.



The Democrats’ War at Home

How can the president’s party defend itself from the president’s foreign policy blunders?

Congress’ Public Shaming of the Secret Service Was Political Grandstanding at Its Best

Michigan’s Tradition of Football “Toughness” Needs to Go—Starting With Coach Hoke

A Plentiful, Renewable Resource That America Keeps Overlooking

Animal manure.

Windows 8 Was So Bad That Microsoft Will Skip Straight to Windows 10


Cringing. Ducking. Mumbling.

How GOP candidates react whenever someone brings up reproductive rights or gay marriage.

Building a Better Workplace

You Deserve a Pre-cation

The smartest job perk you’ve never heard of.

Hasbro Is Cracking Down on Scrabble Players Who Turn Its Official Word List Into Popular Apps

Florida State’s New President Is Underqualified and Mistrusted. He Just Might Save the University.

  News & Politics
Sept. 30 2014 9:33 PM Political Theater With a Purpose Darrell Issa’s public shaming of the head of the Secret Service was congressional grandstanding at its best.
Sept. 30 2014 7:02 PM At Long Last, eBay Sets PayPal Free
Sept. 30 2014 7:35 PM Who Owns Scrabble’s Word List? Hasbro says the list of playable words belongs to the company. Players beg to differ.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 30 2014 12:34 PM Parents, Get Your Teenage Daughters the IUD
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Sept. 30 2014 3:21 PM Meet Jordan Weissmann Five questions with Slate’s senior business and economics correspondent.
Brow Beat
Sept. 30 2014 8:54 PM Bette Davis Talks Gender Roles in a Delightful, Animated Interview From 1963
Future Tense
Sept. 30 2014 7:00 PM There’s Going to Be a Live-Action Tetris Movie for Some Reason
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 30 2014 11:51 PM Should You Freeze Your Eggs? An egg freezing party is not a great place to find answers to this or other questions.
Sports Nut
Sept. 30 2014 5:54 PM Goodbye, Tough Guy It’s time for Michigan to fire its toughness-obsessed coach, Brady Hoke.