Aug 26 2006

Sports, Corsetry, and the Empowerful Woman


This modern preoccupation with the Empowerful Woman was funny for a while, but it begins to wear thin. I predict that if a post-patriarchal social history of the New Millennium ever gets written there will be a hilarious chapter on this bizarre, buffoonish construct.

I allude to the confident, photogenic, entirely fictitious female who inhabits TV ads, “Sex in the City,” Oprah, and the popular imagination. Today’s woman isn’t a feminist. She doesn’t need to be, because she’s empowered.

She may only earn 3/4 of what a man earns, but she damn well has the empower to look sexy doing it in her cheapcrap push-up bra from Victoria’s Secret. She has the empower to demand pink products from manufacturers. She has the empower to cry out ‘I did it for me!’ when she gets her boob job; maybe she even has the empower to believe it. The empowerful woman is saucy, yet feminine. Clever, yet feminine. In her early thirties, yet feminine. Heterosexual, yet feminine. Stays in shape eating Lean Cuisine and sweating blue Gatorade while kickboxing in slow motion, yet feminine. Yes, the empowerful woman is many things. Too bad powerful isn’t one of them. That’s because feminine is all of them.

It’s no accident that the empowerful woman has stepped into the void left by the absence of any actual, fully-realized women. She was invented for precisely that purpose by the global corporatocracy, without whose tireless sponsorship of consumer feminine consciousness real-life women might have no clue how ugly and unfeminine they are. Femininity—that set of self-absorbed, self-defeating behaviors required of women by the dominant culture to ensure a ready-steady supply of submissive sexbot availability—is central to the empowerful woman narrative. Because there was never so hideous an abomination as a woman who can’t prove, through word, deed, and sportcorset, that she has successfully internalized the patriarchal message and is conversant in fulfilling male fantasy.

But dang it, I keep forgetting: the subject of today’s essay is Nike, the sportswear company. Nike is currently running an ad campaign for their women’s line featuring whup-ass tennis stars and the slogan “I Feel Pretty.” On TV they play the song over footage of Maria Sharapova, who is supermodel foxy, looking surly on her way to the US Open. The juxtaposition of the cutesy song and the take-no-prisoners expression on Sharapova’s face supposed to be edgy-ironic. We women are empowerful enough to be pretty and pretty good at tennis!

NIke has also bought itself a spokes-thlete with actual power, the magnificent Serena Williams. Now, you could pile the earth’s entire supply of pink lace on Serena Williams and she would still, I am happy to say, exist well beyond the bounds of ‘feminine’. But in order to sell overpriced sportswear made by Asian slave labor, Nike dilutes the terrifying spectre of Williams’ threatening prowess; a catalog arriving in the Twisty mailbox yesterday describes her with this howler: “Powerful, feminine, unexpected.”

But wait—while you’re deciding whether to laugh or cry—there’s more: Nike, in an apparent bid to position itself as outfitter to the tragically empowerful, has come up with a thing called a ‘sport corset.’ It’s sort of a pink sports bra, but—no joke—it has boning and laces. God forbid you should fail to look like a Hustler centerfold when you’re out on the court. At last, a way to show the world you’re empowerful enough to be a complete moron.


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  1. Twisty,
    May I just say that you, and this essay, rock?

  2. “Dogs Playing Poker” and leg decorseting (for however long) = Yay, coolness!

    Boning and laces while playing sports, via misogynistic fashion designers with heads up their rear-ends again = Epic moronicness, indeed.

  3. hedonisticpleasureseeker.wordpress.com

    Rockin post. I’m just baffled. How can a woman breathe while working out in a corset? Is Nike high? Maybe not. Maybe the company knows exactly what it’s doing. Sure she can beat the crap out of you, but so long as she LOOKS like she might tip on to a fainting couch at any moment, she’s still a GIRL, and the guys can feel safe and dominant. It’ll make them feel better when she whups their asses playing tennis.

    I was just over at Bitch Lab and Feministe this week and caught essays pertaining to the marketing of gender. Of course I was another one of the choir being preached at, but while reading it a new light bulb went off in my head: To be properly feminine, we have to BUY STUFF, and lots of it. Because without all this purchased shit we put on our bodies, I guess no one will be able to tell we’re GIRLS.

  4. xanga.com/santefedreams

    I guess that answers the question of what to wear when doing Carmen Electra’s Aerobic Striptease Workout Video…

  5. Superb! The durgs must be gooood. I can just see where this new piece of sports gear is going to show up: the empowerment of pole dancing. http://sparklematrix.wordpress.com/2006/08/21/international-pole-dancing-day/

  6. Twisty

    Hedonistic hits nail on head.

  7. denise.vox.com

    I’m sad to say that I’ve worn corsets, and some of them you can breathe in. But you can’t bend, for gods’ sake! How can you play sports if you can’t bend?? If you even try to bend, the boning spears your ribcage or your belly, depending on how you bend.


  8. Hed is an accomplished seamstress. Bet she can re-corset this into something cagey for ‘nads.

  9. faultline.org/place/toad

    Ahhh, that was like a cold beer after a hot hike. “Empowerful.” Thank you! I love having Twistified words to play with.

    Sports corset. Who needs a chador? We can be all hemmed in and let it all hang out! Just so long as none of it actually hangs of course.

  10. members.cox.net/thevixen/Cayenne/1.html

    I am so weary of our culture of stripper poles and corsets and women as sluts. Don’t women want to be taken seriously, hope to be taken seriously? OTOH I am not tired of Coolidge art. I’m not sure dogs were meant to play poker but I confess to Photoshopping my dogs’ heads onto one of those paintings. Women should not wear corsets but dogs should play poker and Twisty should wear her surgical stockings unless it curbs her blaming. If that’s the case take them off only long enough to vent.

  11. I caught the Sharapova ad in passing last night, and even in my liquor-addled state, I was miffed. I may have even snorted out loud. (Besides, what was the whole point of the ad? Was the “feel[ing] pretty” supposed to be her inner monologue? Which random passers-by felt necessary to comment on, in song? I still don’t get it, even though I’m sober now.)

    And the sports corset is just another little dig at all of us sporty women who actually have, y’know, woman-shapes. If you’re over a C-cup, you don’t exist in sports-world; either you’re so in shape you’ve lost your boobs (and therefore don’t need support), or you’re a couch potato who doesn’t move very fast or far (and therefore doesn’t need support).

    My little sis and I went sports-bra shopping for her a couple weeks ago, and all they seemed to have were tank tops with shelf bras. Yeah, that’s not going to cut it, large sports-retailer. Unless you want lots of droopy breasts in the future. Cooper’s ligaments don’t snap back, you know.

  12. You have your poor foot in the air and you are flat on your back but you and the posters above are in fine form today (uncorseted ‘course).

    This is why I have to have my morning dose of blame, need to start out the day with a good laugh at the patriarchy, whichs fears nothing as much as it fears being ridiculed by women. You make patriarchy quake, Twisty, et al.

  13. norbizness.com

    Heaven forfend that they should use the most successful tennis player, male or female, of all time in one of those ads… someone who was able to play competitive doubles into her early 50s without whalebone digging into her back. I wonder what the ad revenue breakdown was for Martina Navratilova vs. Chris Evert back in the day… 20 to 1?

    And if Justine Henin-Hardenne wanted to make some money on the side, she should grow about 6 inches, get some implants, and stop winning lots of major tournaments.

  14. I shall never forget the day in 1971 I was trying on a dress at an upscale shop in the hotel where I worked when the sales clerk/shop owner asked in a horrified tone if I ever wore foundation garments. I did not laugh my ass entirely off however it did jiggle a good bit. This post brought back that memory and made me smile in my heart. I love you, Twisty.
    I resent that shopping is considered a feminine sport. I think the motives of both companies and their advertisers should always be closely questioned. This ad is absurd, and will probably be used to demonstrate how absurd women are. Cuz, you know, they wouldn’t sell it if we didn’t want it.

  15. wendyhome.com

    Outstanding. My distaste for ‘sex in the city’ has finally fallen into an understandable space.

  16. urban-hills.blogspot.com

    I sorted through my cerebral cortex to think about something that a sports-corset with boning would actually be useful for (disclaimer: I’ve never worn anything corseted or boned) and I thought of something!

    The queen of exercises: the Squat. If you’re in the free-weights area of the gym (as I frequently am) and you’ve batted away all those men squatting with really bad form and getting down oooh, a whole 6 inches towards the floor with their 150kg weights, long enough to rack up your 35kg (yes, I’m proud of that: it took me ages to get there) squat weight and hike it on to your shoulders and then complete a few sets of legs-to-parallel squats as I do, you’ll notice that the men are all staring at you. Why? Because of course, you’re a woman, and you are grunting as your back muscles kick in to maintain the proper form.

    The answer? Of course! The boned sports-corset with added frill! Genius, I thought: Nike have got it! No longer do my back muscles need to struggle. I can strap on one of these babies and maintain myself a rigid back posture so the danger of curving my back and snapping my spine in two is reduced. It will even disguise the unsightly stomach flab which I am really not focussing on but is causing all those men to find me less attractive. Yay!

    And then I remembered: such a device already exists. It’s called a weightlifting belt, and you’ll find them in many a freeweight area. Of course, they are all three belt-notches too big for many women’s waists, because [slap hand to forehead] the gym has purchased the ones for men: let women worry about their own corsetry because hey, women don’t lift enough weight to warrant a belt lest they turn into ah-nold overnight. No: just a sports corset! Just like the fact that the bench press rack they have is also not designed for people with arms less than 5ft long, and of course it can’t be adjustable because WOMEN don’t ever need to bench such a weight so let’s just concern ourselves with the gorilla arms of alpha males.

    Ack. Rant veering off into dangerously-annoyed territory.

    Great post, Twisty. My heart rejoices that you are back on such fine blaming form.

  17. Can it be long before we see the sport crinoline and the sport bustle too? I can’t wait.

  18. hedonisticpleasureseeker.wordpress.com

    Delphyne, I literally spit all over my screen at your comment.

    All the time I read about other people spitting their coffee on their keyboards, and this time, finally, I’ve done it myself. Hah!

  19. CaffeinatedGeekGirl.typepad.com

    What I despise most is consumerism as empowerment.

  20. Why corsets, why? Even squeezy bras limit lung capacity. That ad, why why why would you wear those dangly ass earings if you were planning on playing tennis hard enough to make everyone simultaneously shut up about how pretty you feel?

  21. I wouldn’t have believed it if you hadn’t shown us this horror here. Actually, yes, I would’ve believed it, but I wouldn’t have had a specific image shocked into my brain giving me, no doubt, very specific tennis-cum-Victoria(‘s)(n) nightmares tonight, or rather, this second. I am scared of sleeping.

  22. serovy.org/users/bserovy

    The ability to define power makes it easy to retain it. The Patriarchy creates false definitions in order to divert energy into pursuit of false power, and too often it works. Define power as what you are, what you have that the Patriarchy cannot take away, and you can begin to solve the problem. As long as It defines the rules of the game you will lose.

  23. I miss Martina. Tennis sucks now.

    I say we all start shopping at Goodwill and other 2nd hand stores….we’ll bring corporatocracy to its knees.

  24. I’m not surprised that this sportcorset exists. It makes perfect sense. Look hot, play hot, rupture something trying to breath. I’m sure someone will start screaming about how the article of clothing is actually stretchy and so very comfortable so it only looks restrictive. I ask you, is that any better by some wave of the fairy wand?

    Anyway, the empowerful woman is a pet peeve of mine. I’ve had to sit friends down and ask them if they’ve ever known a stripper or a prostituted woman personally and if so, did they seem empowered (because my mom the social worker can tell you fifteen stories before breakfast that will make your hair stand on end about women she met last week alone). And yet the rest of us are supposed to aspire to the stripper ideal or risk social censure.

    The idea that we can own our sexuality or be powerful by looking, acting, and thinking like whores is absurd to the point of surrealism.

    P.s. I would like to see more football players in g-strings and sportcorsets since it is obvious that these articles of clothing have enhanced aerodynamic capabilities. They only make it in women’s sizes? What? Must be another instance of women oppressing men!! Somebody start a boycott!

  25. unsanesafe.blogspot.com

    I feel pretty
    oh so shitty
    it’s a ditty
    I’m willing to try!
    And I pity
    Anyone who has to
    hear me cry!

  26. buttercupia.blogspot.com

    Anyone old enough to remember those “easy spirit” shoe ads where they had the women playing basketball in heels?

    Um, I think they meant it.

    Twisty, fabulous essay. Hope your ankle’s healing well.

  27. grannyvibe.blogspot.com

    My dogs never play poker but they’ve had one of those interminable Monopoly games going for about three years now, the kind where you make up the rules as you go along. “Whoever lands on Marvin Gardens gets to own Boardwalk for free.” “Ok, but only the iron and the top hat, everybody else has to go to jail.”

  28. 27july1869.blogspot.com

    Alecto, I don’t wear bras, and I have a hard time finding “sports bras’ that fit properly (not a lot of boobage, but a fair amount of back, shoulder, and chest muscle, so fitting anything made for women onto my torso is a bit of an adventure), BUT: title9sports has a lot of sports bras, including a bunch made for women with abundant boobage. i can’t testify to the goodness or fitness of said garments, but it’s a place to try.

    but back to twisty’s original post: a sports corset? wtf? it’s a good thing twisty’s so focused, because, really, i’m just still sputtering here.

  29. redneckmother.blogspot.com

    Can it be long before we see the sport crinoline and the sport bustle too? I can’t wait.

    As a fashion-victim teenager during the 80s in the great fashion-forward state of Texas, I both went to the prom in a hoopskirt and took my SA-fucking-Ts while wearing a crinoline. Why did I do these things? Because my hardass best friend and I decided that we’d get more dates wearing frilly shit than the combat boots we were used to. And we did. Bleargh. Would we have worn sport corsets had they been invented? Probably. We really did think, as hedonistic commented, that girliness was something you bought at the mall. Grrrr.

  30. Jeeze. I went shopping for a new sports bra yesterday, and came home with a piece of cantilevered engineering which looks both vast and fiercesome, and could probably double as a pup tent if I’m ever caught in a storm.

    Silly me. I should’ve gone for the ultra-feminine CORSET. What was I thinking?

  31. I would just like to say that nouning “empower” is ingenious.

    And that sport corset looks hideous as well as constricting. It’s difficult to believe that anyone would wear it.

  32. oldmdgirl.blogspot.com

    Silly girls, the corset is to push your BOOBS up while you pedal away on the eliptical trainer. You can watch the boys lift the HEAVY weights, while they can watch your heaving bosom (and hopefully the bottom half is covered with generic-I-don’t-ever-sweat-at-the-gym-black-dance-club-pants — without VPL of course). Then your dashing potential suitor can run over to catch you when you pass out from lack of Oxygen caused by corset constriction. Who could imagine a more perfect scenario for man-catching than that?

  33. I hate bras because the fact is that the physics just don’t work. How can a horizontal strap around the chest hold anything up? Especially when the supporting vertical straps attached to it are made of elastic (d’uh!) The whole thing just rides further down in front and further up in back, and the only logical key to adding any support is to tighten the horizontal band. BRAS MAKE NO SENSE.

    I finally resorted to making my own, purely functional stays circa 1802 for some real support. The garment uses the hips as the vertical support, which makes sense because they are (a) bone, not flesh, and are therefore capable of supporting something, and (b) they are a horizontal ledge off which to build a support structure, unlike the human chest and back area which can’t serve as a proper anchor.

    Before anyone jumps on me for reverting to this very functional undergarment circa 1802, let me be clear, this is not a corset (!!!!). The garment I use is known as STAYS which pre-date the wasp-waisted corset nonsense of the Victorian era. They aren’t supposed to pinch your waist in. But they do an excellent job of preventing painful flopping and also eliminate under-breast issues and pinching entirely BECAUSE THE PHYSICS IS DIFFERENT. They are vastly more comfortable than a nasty, suffocating, horrid, wiry, sweatband-fungus-inducing, yet ultimately non-supportive BRA.

    My only regret about resorting to stays is that I’m just sorry I had to spend all these hours sewing the things myself, but I was desperate to get out of that damned brassiere.

    Sorry for the argumentum ad allcaps. I get exercised about this issue – – so to speak.

  34. Oh, emma goldman, thanks for the rec, but I do shop at Title IX — the five-barbell bras are the best! They do a fair amount of boobal compression, but they’re pain-free and snap in the back, so they don’t stretch out. Probably the best money I’ve spent on a garment, under or outer.

    (The only problem for my poor sister is that they’re at least $40 apiece, and if the rest of our family is any indication, she hasn’t stopped growing yet. So, unable to invest that much, she has to scrounge around for decent, cheaper bras. That seem to come most often in pink. All of this, save the genetics, I obviously B on tP.)

    On further consideration, even the pink and girly-colored sports bras are ostensibly under garments, and not particularly meant to be ogled (though I do support every woman’s right to go shirtless while exerting herself, just as every man does — only unlike in men, the bra is necessary for limiting pain rather than “indecency”). However, this corset is definitely for ogling. Like the itsy skirts the female tennis players wear, coincidentally. Or the two-pieces beach volleyball players (female again) wear.

    I can’t wait for the first female tennis player to wear a t-shirt and basketball shorts. Or the volleyball players to wear jams with the sports bra. Wishful thinking, I know. Do you think we have a better chance convincing the men to don speedos?

  35. Holy crap. One of your best posts yet. Damn, you can turn a phrase.

  36. If I remember correctly, didn’t Serena Williams go through a phase where she was designing her own tennis outfits? Because I distinctly remember her wearing corseted stuff. And they were laced TIGHT too–I noticed my husband watching her matches avidly because “I know one’s gonna pop out.” This one looks relatively loose–suitable for yoga or something where it gives the appearance that you’re exercising but actually just trolling in the gym meat market.

  37. tonypatti.com

    “We really did think, as hedonistic commented, that girliness was something you bought at the mall. Grrrr.”

    Well, isn’t it? In this fucked-up culture of ours, doesn’t it feed the corporate maw to define girliness as something you have to buy and pay for? The rules to being a girl are endless, and have only the common thread of being dehumanizing to hold them together, otherwise they seem like random aggressions against teenaged girls.

    We need pubic rites to sort out the true meanings of sex and love for our teenagers. We’re all somewhat clueless even now as to what and why these things are and are for.

  38. buttercupia.blogspot.com

    “. Who could imagine a more perfect scenario for man-catching than that? ”

    I dunno, Sydney. Most of the men I’ve caught, I’ve had to throw back. Turned out I was using the wrong kind of bait.


  39. eugeniaandino.com

    I think Nike has not done a sports corset so that women play sports in them. They know that loads of people like to use sports clothes, or clothes from sports brands, just because it’s fashionable. I think the market they have in mind is women who like to look sexy while they are lazying around in logoed garments”

  40. ‘Anyone old enough to remember those “easy spirit” shoe ads where they had the women playing basketball in heels?’

    I used to work for ES, I had to watch that commercial as part of my training (it had long since run) so I knew what customers were talking about. They ran ads during my tenure that showed empowerful women doing light workouts to light rock without even breaking a light sweat. This was for their athletic shoes, their reasoning was women didn’t want to see other women actually working out like in the Nike ads. This didn’t really go over well, their shoes were the same prices as Nike with all the sweatshop and none of the brand recognition. I say they should have just shown women slamming volleyballs over the net and sweating buckets, at least then we might have had a few customers looking for something other than a fashion accessory.

    I don’t want to hate the women who claimed that they needed two inch heels for their jobs where they stood all day long. I don’t want to hate the women who wanted the pointiest toed shoes on the planet to cram their feet into because it was dressy. When you’re faced with the same idiocy day in and day out, it’s hard to remember to blame you know who for the idea that a woman shouldn’t be comfortable in order to feel sexy.

    I quit about the time they started selling spa products (for the empowerful woman to soak her feet in after her empowerful no-sweat non-workout). I made good friends with men’s workboots, which may not make me empowerfully sexy, but let me run three blocks without twisting my ankle.

  41. I didn’t know people even wore corsets anymore, outside of S. & M. sessions; I certainly never would’ve looked for them on a tennis court. Next up, I guess, for some foreign markets, the foot-binding running shoe, and some racy ads for the do-it-yourself home genital mutilation kit.

  42. guerillawomentn.blogspot.com

    Thank our lucky stars—Twisty’s back to blaming. At this point I don’t even care what the object of her disaffection may be. And on Woman Suffrage day, too! Extra credit points.

  43. This just proves, my love, that (regardless of what you may think) the universe isn’t unrelievedly hostile to you. Just as the Alps were clearly raised for the benefit of the Romantic poets, and the London slums for the benefit of Hogarth, this idea could only have come into existence as an inspiration for one of your posts.

  44. blog.myspace.com/28371978

    Basketball in heels? Heck with that! How about the new fad sweeping Europe, no doubt soon to hit American shores: running races in stiletto heels?

  45. For those looking for a decent sports bra, check out the C9 by Champion. There are many styles but the one that I like is the one made out of this ‘Duo Dry’ fabric and is ‘seamless.’

    These are available at Target and are regularly priced at $16.99….but wait for the sale (which is usually every 4 weeks) and get them for $14.99. BTW, this is the most I have ever spent on a bra.

    However….be forewarned. These C9 bras are made in different countries and as a result are sized differently. I don’t buy products made in China so I never tried those on. A size Large fit me if made in Taiwan or the Dominican Republic….but those made in the USA size Large were too small…..go figure.

    This bra compresses well…but what I love about it is that I can put it on and take it off without having a tug of war and pulling my shoulder out of place…you know? It comes in shitloads of colors….even the mandatory pink. I liked the steel gray and dark fushia….some colors were only made in China. I fear that eventually all of the bras will be made in China…..as are all purses and lamps. It is going to be a saggy and dark place in the US when China gets upset with us. We probably won’t miss the purses since no one will have any $. IBTP for this loudly and often.

  46. I have been lurking on your blog for a while, and I have nothing more to add to this post, but I wanted to say thanks for one of the most eloquent and poignant criticisms of consumer “culture” I’ve ever read.

  47. roseconnors.blogspot.com

    Well, I have to agree with Buttercup. The only man you’ll catch with consumerized empoweredness, you’re not likely to want. And he won’t want you long unless you keep up the girliness from dawn to dawn. It took me a while, but I finally figured out at only 32B, a bra is superfluous. Didn’t a man invent the brassiere anyway?

    Twisty, keep it coming!

  48. saraarts.com

    Every time I see the brand Nike I think of the Jay Leno joke: “Nike. Because little hands make great shoes.”

    I wonder how many starving child sweatshop laborers it takes to make one sports corset. And I wonder what the price point is for such a garment.

  49. Well, you know, if you play sports and don’t wear makeup and girly shit, somebody might think you are a *gasp* lesbian!

    And *gasp* lesbians means women won’t take their daughters to the ball game.

    Wasn’t that the WNBA motto?

    As for the corset, I might be with Betsy on this one, at least functionally. In terms of marketing spin? Absolutely horrid.

  50. We really did think, as hedonistic commented, that girliness was something you bought at the mall. Grrrr.

    Other than a noticeably womanly shape, that’s about the only place I can get girliness, personally.

    I prefer to refer to it as being in drag.

  51. They know that loads of people like to use sports clothes, or clothes from sports brands, just because it’s fashionable. I think the market they have in mind is women who like to look sexy while they are lazying around in logoed garments”

    Oh Nia, you are so bang on with that!

    We have these creatures in our neighborhood – we call them the MILF brigade. They teeter around in high heels and logo tracksuits, sporting tanorexic features, overdone hair, and fancy nails. I even saw one of them wearing “lifeguard” drag and was pissed off because I knew that she couldn’t swim to save her own life, let alone anybody elses.

    Why all the let’s pretend games? Why not, um, you know, Just Do It? Because you might break a nail, that’s why!

  52. While I suspect it may have been a typo, I think we do need “pubic rites” to sort this crap out. BtP is a very effictive pubic rite.

  53. stridulations.blogspot.com

    Eeeewww, if you exercise in that thing, you might get sweat all over it! Gross! I mean, would you get sweat and melted makeup and stuff all over a $200 designer sweatsuit? Seriously, what’s next? Spike heels for jogging? A French manicure for rock-climbing? Thong bikinis for cross-country skiing? Frilly pink lace-trimmed silk-velvet covers for racing-bike seats?

    CGG got it right: What I despise most is consumerism as empowerment.

  54. Product description, taken from Nike’s website:

    Dri-FIT fabric wicks away moisture for rapid evaporation.
    Mesh side panels in key areas enhance breathability.
    Shoulder straps and halter tie promise support and flirty appeal.
    Feminine design lines accentuate the body.

    Flirty appeal?

  55. I can’t believe women have been getting away with running in flat-heeled running shoes all these years.

    Can someone please NOT tip off the empowerers?

  56. Mandalay, I have to take exception to this:

    “This one looks relatively loose–suitable for yoga or something where it gives the appearance that you’re exercising but actually just trolling in the gym meat market.”

    YOGA IS EXERCISE. It’s hard work, and it’s the yoga classroom is usually all-female, so it’s hardly a pick-up joint. Bog, I get tired of people thinking yoga is just a bit of swanning around in matchy outfits. Before dissing yoga, try it. It might not involve a lot of grunting, sweating, and bouncing around, and no points are scored, and there are no fancy machines with beeping and booping bells & whistles, but it’s still hard fucking work. Take a real yoga class and you will find soreness in muscles you didn’t even know existed.

    So, no, the “sports corset” would be impossible for yoga, which requires the ability to breathe deeply, and control ones’ breathing. Also you must be able to bend, twist, and balance.

  57. Perhaps the sports corset is what you wear when competing in the recent “stiletto run” sponsored by “Glamour” magazine (I believe I read about that here first).


  58. Ah. I see rumblelizard beat me to it. Apologies.

  59. Sports corset. SPORTS CORSET. I’m just looking out for war, famine and death now.

    I see the sportially-corseted model in the pic is accessorising her look with the undoubtedly practical and utilitarian selection of huge, heavy earrings, a necklace, lasered armpits, full make up and a blow-out. Wow, she looks so totally Empowerful! Until the shoelacy bits around her midriff come undone and get trapped in the stairmaster and she Isadora Duncans herself in half, anyway.

    But still, what a feminine way to go! Powerful, feminine, and unexpected, indeed.

  60. Dear Twisty,

    You are one of very few voices of feminist reason and clarity on these Internets. I thank [insert deity of your preference here] for your web presence and your constant spot-on-ishness. On the many days when I feel that people just don’t “get” my brand of feminism/boycotting/patriarchy-blaming, I always know I can find community at IBTP.

    Kudos on this particular post, by the way. It’s so hard to convince The Others that the “I Feel Pretty” commercial is not “cute.” If only they would pull up a corner of that cute pink rug, they would see the insidious Patriarchy Bugs lurking around. Thank you for never being afraid to pull up and shake out that rug!

    Speedy recovery!

  61. palimpsest.typepad.com/frogsandravens

    suitable for yoga or something

    Jezebella beat me to it. You do indeed have to be able to move and twist and inhale in yoga.

    You also need to be able to hang or stand upside-down without your boobs falling out the top!

    (Not to mention that yoga, strictly speaking, is not about image and consumption, but being true to one’s true self and compassionate to others.)

    On the other hand, it’s all too easy to envision a self-styled fashion “yogini” wearing this to look “sporty” on a date.

  62. for what it’s worth, the PR flack at American Glamour magazine wrote back to me when I filed a huffy complaint about stiletto runs a few months back. She disavowed the relationship between American Glamour and the European Glamour magazines sponsoring these idiot-a-thons. Not that the US version of Glamour is by any means sinless.

    I still haven’t figured out why anyone thinks a vagina/womb/uterus is “empty”. It so clearly is NOT. Like, my skin isn’t really all that white – more of an pale apricot – yet people keep saying I’m “white.” And a vagina without a dick in it is “empty”, a uterus without a parasite in it is “barren” and “pre-pregnant.” I guess we are always becoming, aren’t we, waiting for the Man to Make Us Into Something Useful.

    Stupid patriarchy. I hate those guys.

  63. hexpletive.blogspot.com


    There are actually those of us who benefit from supportive undergarments that put pressure on the lower back. My hideous beige elastic support garment is a fantastic, medically sound thingummy which I love dearly, especially when I’m going through a bad time with my back.

    So there was an initial thrill of excitement when I read the words “Nike sport corset”. I’m thinking “Good lord! Has a major sportswear label finally manufactured something based on the medical needs of a subsection of the community, rather than their own need for profit drawn from people convinced by advertising that wearing brand name sportswear makes them trendy and/or attractive?”

    The answer, of course, is no. It sure as hell doesn’t look supportive to me, and unless the back differs wildly from the front, it’s not going to help my poor twisted spine remain ouch-free. Back to the hideous beige, I guess.

  64. trashtalksback.blogspot.com

    My first comment on Twisty’s blog is this: Twisty kicks so much ass MY feet are sore. And what with a gimpy leg and all. Totally awesome, to say the least.

    I know a little bit too much about corsetry. At one (sad and demeaning to me now, but empowerful as hell to me then) point in my life I actually considered shelling out 400 bucks to have one made for me. *Shakes head woefully at former self*

    As I get older I actually grow glad that I’m not what the world thinks of as “pretty.”

  65. Somewhere someone was saying that this post had brought out some sporty corsetry defenders but I’m happy to see that was reported in error.

    Thanks to the title 9 linkers and other tips on where to find sports bras that actually support those of us with an overabundance of boobular material. I’m so tired of the back and shoulder pain. Next time I have decent benefits I’m definitely looking into reduction surgery.

    Sports corset, honestly, I’m just shaking my head over that one. The only thing missing from that add is the pole. Oh, wait! There is a pole and it’s horizontal! Perfect.

  66. Beth in Michigan, you might want to try the Enell (a.k.a. Oprah’s Sports Bra). I’ve always had trouble finding sports bras that actually work and that I can still put on without spraining something in the process. The Enell I just got is the best sports bra I’ve ever purchased – easy to put on hook front (it goes on like a vest) and nothing moves (nothing!) once it’s on. Yet I can still breathe, which is hard to do with the pull-on sports bras if you’re as big as I am (40 DD). I got mine here, but if you google, a lot of places sell them.

  67. nicolecriona.blogspot.com

    I hate to say it (please don’t kill me everyone) but i LOVE that corset, anti-feminist spin or not. However, I don’t hate saying that I am huge fan of your blog!!
    Love from Los Angeles,

  68. I cannot believe all of you. Please don’t tell me that no one gave the good folks at Nike the opportunity to defend themselves. OK, let’s let their online catalog do the talking:

    First off, the corset pictured is the “Statement Energy Corset” and it is “sizzle-licious.” It is a “Fitness Dance” item, so clearly, yes, it is appropriate for all of your striptease workout needs. “[Its] close-fitting style keeps you looking sexy in the studio.” And all this can be yours for a mere $95.00 (plus shipping). My word, what’s more empowerful than that?

  69. Thank you, Shinypenny, I will definitely check that out!

  70. minitruth.com/adairdevil

    I hate to defend the Sharapova ad (which is annoying) or Nike (which is just one big problem), but I thought the point of it was something else: Maria Sharapova hasn’t won a major tournament, though she is highly ranked. A lot of the discussion about her is about her looks. The ad has everyone *but* her singing how pretty she is; then she slams an ace past her opponent, her play is the topic, and everybody shuts up. Disingenuouis, sure, to use her oh-so-pretty face in an ad supposedly insisting that people pay attention to her talent rather than her looks. But a shade different from “empowerful enough to be pretty and pretty good at tennis!” More like, “empowerful enough to make people stop talking about how hot she is.”

  71. Oh give me a break. They are never going to stop talking about how hot she is. It’s a requirement now for her career. She’s also moved into selling that or she wouldn’t be doing this ad. They’ll stop talking about how good she is at tennis anyday soon, and if she has the loss of self to pose for a porny ad, she’s considering the Playboy offer and will cave as soon as they hit her price.

    Which is not to say she does not have the tennis chops, just that that is beside the point, women are not NOW going to be allowed to make it on that alone. Her fame rests not one whit on the tennis.

    Did Billie Jean King and Martina ever make as much? Naw. And their equivalents today do not either.

  72. Yeh Beth in Michigan I too consider reduction but I never quite have the jam to go through with it. Although, I did tentatively ask a new physician and he will sign for it so it’s covered. But I’m skeeeeeeeered.

  73. shawn forrest

    Lots of excellent info and i really injoy your site so i was wondering if you would like to exchange links i just started a web forum called sportsgator.com all sports all the time. The reason for this is that i am a 31 year old male living in BC Canada i have a wife 12 year old twin daughters and a son who’s 7 i recently fell at work 30 feet and am going out of my mind with time on my hands so i started this forum. This is not a sob story……well maybe it is, but its real and if we exchange links possible we could send more traffic to each other.

    Check it out sportsgator.com

  74. Maria

    I completely understand the unrest on nike’s sports corset, but on the other hand those damn things are pretty awesome for back support and breathing control. I am a tri-athlete and have been wearing a corset under my workout tees for years. I am actually glad that they are now making them in sport fabric. I have a bad back injury and I don’t know if I’d be able to run much without them. But yeah, I doubt that’s what they had in mind when they developed it.

  75. Carrie

    I just got linked to this page from another blog, and I just have to say, “WOW!” This is so well-written and right-on. THANK YOU for posting this. It’s definitely one to share.

  76. Fetternity

    I loved the entire essay. Well done and dead-on!

    With one exception: reducing the corset to a porn magazine accessory. I wouldn’t compare those cheap see-through jokes for a real, practical, honest-to-goodness corset.

    I wouldn’t make an athlete wear one for competition either. For shame, Nike!

  77. jael

    Ah, this piece popped up again today.

    And – it’s my all time fave essay at IBtP.

    Just mentioning it so it will appear with a new comment on the home page, and everyone can revel in its insight, humour and general awesomeness one more magnificent time.

  78. Shelby

    Thanks Jael. It is brilliant. I’ve just printed it out(shit, will Jill sue for breach of intellectual property rights?) and stuck it on the fridge in yet another subtle attempt to edumacate my 14 year old girl.


  79. Felicity

    Shelby, think I’ll print this out too. My sister was talking to to me today – the most likely person to make a face and be perturbed by anything feminism- ‘how do I get involved? ‘Cos you know… it’s all true what they say isn’t it.’

    It just makes me think, as I really couldn’t convince her/ her friends myself, there might be something in the air which is enlightening many more girls and women on their on terms (hopefully). Maybe the current sexism is just a little too obvious.

    (I mean, sport corsets)….

    I think people will start to see feminism isn’t that uncool; and I think defending sexism is losing its edge.

  80. MKH

    “What I despise most is consumerism as empowerment.”

    You said it all CGG.

  1. Twisty does it again at PunkAssBlog.com

    […] This most recent post by Twisty Faster should be required reading for all women between the ages of 14 and 35. Graduating high school seniors of both genders should get a copy folded into their diplomas. It should be reprinted in Seventeen and Teen People. It should be adapted into a children’s book. […]

  2. Diary of a Shopaholic: Countdown to Liquidity « Hedonistic Pleasureseeker

    […] Jodi Dean’s essay Buying Gender caused a light bulb to go off in my head: Women, and now girls, are under enormous pressure to buy lots and lots of STUFF to prove their femininity to the world at large. After all, without all this purchased stuff on our bodies: makeup, hair goo, jewelry, and varied and expensive clothing, how will anyone be able to tell that we are female? God forbid we be confused with men, who, by the way, cannot be bothered with such silliness and expense. Twisty’s essay on Sports, Corsetry and the Empowerful Woman drove the message even further home Oh, god, the expense. With decent pantyhose costing in the double digits now, can woman even afford the charade anymore? Wait a minute: Were we ever able to afford the charade? No. At last check, women were, on average, making about 80 cents on the dollar do men for the same kinds of work, so we have less disposable income in the first place. We spend a higher percentage of our disposable incomes on our households and our children than men do. Because of our pesky reproductive systems we spend much, much more on health care than men do. No wonder even professional women still have bag lady anxieties. If we’re spending all of our monetary leftovers on hair, makeup and shoes, what is left for our security? Nada, unless we run toward the arms of a wealthy man who promises to make us feel safe and secure and drowning in pretty things. The stuff romance novels and Lifetime TV shows are made of. […]

  3. sonitus.org » Blog Archive » Sports, Corsetry, and the Empowerful Woman

    […] I Blame the Patriarchy […]

  4. links for 2006-08-27 « Jet Grrl

    […] Sports, Corsetry, and the Empowerful Woman at I Blame The Patriarchy (tags: Feminism Action Blog) […]

  5. RandomBird.com: Now with Elvis, thank you very much.

    […] And contrary to what the “I Blame the Patriarchy” Blog says, I’m not a “moron” because I’d exercise in a corset. I’m rather well-accomplished for age 25 and look good in a corset. And that is what makes the Sports Corset edgy-ironic: Not because it’s a juxtaposition of dysfunctional form; but because I am okay with being sexy based on society’s constructs and I understand that. I’m not afraid to both talk about Derrida and how I’m afraid I can’t give good head. I’m fine being an independent woman and someone who likes to be tied up and handcuffed. It is, in short, I believe that creates the line between edgy-ironic postmodern sexuality and dumb slut. […]

  6. Ladybug O’Clock » Blog Archive » (you think) i feel pretty

    […] Some great intellectual minds have recently panned this commercial as a return to that riotgrrrl / “post-feminism” trope that never seems to quite die. The basic sentiment going around is: “Look – Maria’s a great tennis player and Nike just had to go and focus on her prettiness. As if no matter how gifted you are, as long as you’re female, you have to still make sure you’re beautiful.” […]

  7. Sex at I Blame The Patriarchy

    […] Register « Sports, Corsetry, and the Empowerful Woman […]

  8. Liberal Serving

    The Empowerful Woman…

    Twisty recovers from injury and illness enough to deliver an apt attack on the semantics of mediocrity:I allude to the confident, photogenic, entirely fictitious female who inhabits TV ads, “Sex in the City,” Oprah, and the popular imagination. Tod…

  9. Feminist Law Professors » Blog Archive » Sex and the Empowerful Woman

    […] Two recent posts by Twisty Faster at “I Blame the Patriarchy” provide fairly compelling, if not jump-startling, reading for the summer-stupified academic brain: Sports, Corsetry, and the Empowerful Woman and Sex. Here’s a short excerpt from Sex: Radical feminists are not the enemy. We’re not even a bunch of homely old frigid prudes jealous of all the hot sex we’re not getting. Patriarchy is the real sex police. By convincing you that you’re hot when you cave in to its psycho demands, it has turned you into its slave. “Well, what of it?” you say. “What I choose to (a) do in the sack or (b) wear to work or (c) have implanted in my chest is none of your beeswax.” […]

  10. The penis may be evil, but the vagina is empty and we can’t leave the little fucksticks homeless. at PunkAssBlog.com

    […] Twisty’s recent corset patriarchy blaming brought out (and we knew they were out there) female defenders of the sporset. The sporset, as I will be calling the sports corset since it deserves a stupid name, is a corset that you can wear during exericise, because nothing says “breathe” like “boning.” […]

  11. Les Faits de la Fiction » A quick lesson in grammar for would-be patriarchy blamers and future sister fuckers*

    […] This has been a public service announcement from Les Faits de la Fiction. We now return you to your regularly scheduled program, already in progress. […]

  12. Awareness doesn’t require a makeover at PunkAssBlog.com

    […] The blogger ACG at Perfectly Harmless linked to Kyso’s post on RandomBird and the sporset, but her real target was BJ Inflamist Twisty, who took the sports corset to task. […]

  13. Thinking about complicity. « A Bird’s Nest

    […] So here I sit, agreeing with Twisty while wearing heels, eye makeup, lipstick, jewelry, and a low-cut silk tank top. It’s a good thing I’m wearing pants, or I might actually implode. Will I go home tonight, clean out my wardrobe and burn my naughty underwear? No, I won’t. And that makes me a hypocrite. And that makes me uncomfortable. [U]ntil the psychotic global system of dominance and submission gives way to a sane one that doesn’t fetishize oppression, there is no solution to the buzzkiller political problems inherent in all heterosexual boinking. That’s right. No solution. No happy ending. No scenario wherein prancing in a pink sportcorset can be construed as a politically neutral act. No ‘egalitarian sex’. […]

  14. Definitive proof of the blaming lobe at PunkAssBlog.com

    […] One of the many many things lost within the whole sportset hoo-haa and the subsequent metacommentary on arguements themselves, is that the advert for the sportset is yet another piece of definative proof for the existence of the “blaming lobe”, as all peice of propaganda for the patriarchy are. […]

  15. Secondhand Sun

    Soccer and Me, Part I: Girl vs. Boys…

    So the same scene repeated itself nearly every game. We took the field against an all-boy team, and some cocky thirteen year old twerp would look at me and laugh. “Hey, it’s a girl,” he’d call out to his teammates. Not long after, if he happened…

  16. "Sports, Corsetry, and the Empowerful Woman"… at core/dump

    […] Source: Sports, Corsetry, and the Empowerful Woman at I Blame The Patriarchy […]

  17. Fashion Week: Presidential candidate division at I Blame The Patriarchy

    […] I have written extensively about misogynist couturiers who get rich fetishizing femininity. But in case you missed it, my position is this: fashion designers hate women, from Gaultier to Nike. It makes no difference if they’re gay men or the sisters of gay men. To wit: […]

  18. Empowerful, McG. The word you’re looking for is that your girls are “empowerful.” at PunkAssBlog.com

    […] I think I’m catching Pussy-fever! They’re so hot, so inspiring, so empowerful! I didn’t realize that feminism could be so sexy. If anyone needs me, I’ll be on the iTunes store, downloading all the patriarchy-blasting, paradigm-shifting songs they’ll sell me. […]

  19. FAQ: what do you mean by "Not my Nigel"? (feminist abbreviations/jargon) « Finally, A Feminism 101 Blog

    […] empowerful: used to reveal how sexist marketing appropriates “empowerment” in order to persuade women into yet more sexual displays for male titillation [Twisty’s post coining the term] godbag – religious authoritarian, theocrat (not used to describe tolerant believers who respect the rights of others to make their own choices) “I’m not a feminist, but” – a common utterance by those who notice and are disturbed by instances of sexism, and totally agree that something should be done to combat such sexism, if only they could argue against such sexism without perhaps being mistaken for one of those humourless, hairylegged, manhating feminists. (i.e. folks who have been intimidated by the strawfeminists(see above)). Often women who disdain feminism while describing the benefits of feminist-earned rights to work, child care, education, vote etc as “basic rights”. “Nice Guys™” – There are two types, which often overlap in one individual: 1.a guy who believes that the simple act of being decent means that the universe owes him a girlfriend.[defn from Mickle] 2. men who are looking to date a woman with the appearance of a supermodel, and yet they continually whine about how “women don’t like nice guys – they only want good-looking assholes” [source] [more at the NiceGuy archive at Heartless Bitches International] pornulated/-acious – extremely sexualised women’s fashions, usually uncomfortable and impractical as well as emphasising the vulnerable flesh of female secondary sexual characteristics. PUA – Pick Up Artist. Sexual predator as serial scorekeeping seducer. [link from theriomorph] The goal of PUA as a sport is to defeat the minds so inconveniently attached to ladybits rather than treat women as people who could enjoy sexual fun together with egalitarian men. A growing movement designed to persuade both men and women that this reduction of gender relations to a hunt for sex is a reasonable and sane model for human interaction. […]

  20. Why I am a radical feminist « Intelligent Dissent

    […] am a radical feminist because I believe feminism must challenge traditional notions of femininity and female […]

  21. Girls Rock! « Frieda the Flying Panda

    […] for a way to explain not only what “empowerment” is (as opposed to, say, being “empowerful“) but also WHY it is such an important cornerstone of feminist experience–so important, […]

  22. Sigh.. I was going to write about my trip.. « Infernally Sinful

    […] Ok now that I have done that. I will give you a link to the blog entry that sparked my ire and interest. http://blog.iblamethepatriarchy.com/2006/08/26/sports-and-corsetry/ […]

  23. leave husband, kill children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism, become lesbian… « Puer Dixit

    […] can be boiled down into a simple injunction guaranteed to make the modern lady ten times more Empowerful: Enjoy yourself while you can–but not in a way that is actually enjoyable. Or scares off […]

  24. Kiki’s Delivery Service, flying, and gendered power. « Gender Goggles

    […] or a “success in a male-dominated traditional career.” The first is really only “empowerful”, feminine by not powerful, and the second is powerful but not feminine, since it carries with it […]

  25. If bare midriffs and short-shorts really made athletes run faster — Hoyden About Town

    […] Strange how the costumes are moving in opposite directions on the short-long axis. At the next Olympics I expect these empowerful women to be running in Sports Corsets. […]

  26. Patriarchal Catch-22 « Welcome To The Third Wave

    […] be a feminist choice? Obviously not – I may be a third-wave feminist, but I don’t buy into the “empowerful” bullshit. “My choice to conform to and reinforce this patriarchal trope is a feminist choice […]

  27. Objectification « Urocyon's Meanderings

    […] with “women” and “sexual”, objectification must be something sexy (and even empowerfulling). With the popular connotations of a tantalizingly forbidden kick, it even sounds like something a […]

  28. I Choo-Choo-Choose You | Birthday Bread Horse

    […] in the feminist/ladyblogging community knows about I Choose My Choice feminism (a division of EmpowerfulCorp). Basically, there’s a well-trodden and tiresome pattern in which women defend […]

  29. Mother’s Day « The Seedbed

    […] No, wait! You’re a MILF! Awesome! How empowerful! […]

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