Category Archives: feminism, spandex tights, health clubs

Ya Gotta Look Somewhere!



The other day the New York Times ran a column in its “Modern Love” segment of the Style section headlined “My Body Doesn’t Belong to You.” The author realized that the ownership of her body was in question when, in her senior year of high school, she went to buy a bra and discovered that she had big breasts:  “Around then I realized that, in this world, there would be many instances when my body would not feel like my body.” Those instances were when men who were strangers ogled, groped, and asked her provocative rhetorical questions like “Are those real?” Groping and sexually provocative utterances are definitely unacceptable behavior, but is eyeing an attractive woman in the same league? I think not.

I recently exercised at a gym where a sign was prominently displayed saying “Please do not stare. It bothers other members.” Stare means “to look fixedly” and ogle means “to eye amorously.” I guess a woman can tell when she is being looked at fixedly, but being eyed amorously, it seems to me, is in the mind of the beholder (unless the alleged ogler is simultaneously drooling).

Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Art Carey once speculated that if it weren’t for the invention of spandex tights or leggings, few of the 36,000 health clubs, gyms and fitness centers in the country would exist. In other words, for young men and women, the health clubs are only partly for exercise and mostly for seeing and being seen by members of the opposite sex. I agree that the proliferation of women in tights (that often leave little to the imagination) is a major factor in the success of the exercise business.

I know that spandex tights provide support for a woman’s back, hips and legs in workout sessions, but now you see women in tights everywhere. I know that this is a horrible question to ask, but why is spandex the attire of choice for so many women? I would anticipate the answer that spandex is comfortable; it stretches. But you see lots of women wearing spandex tights in hot weather despite the fact that spandex, which is made from chemicals, is hot and itchy. At the risk of being called a male chauvinist, I suspect that women wear spandex tights everywhere and in every kind of weather because they want to be looked at, stared at, and perhaps even ogled.

Getting back to the author of “My Body Doesn’t Belong to You.” Does she really wish she had smaller breasts and thus were less worthy of others’ attention?  She says that her breasts elicited jokes but also “compliments from female [my emphasis] friends, promises that [her] future boyfriend or husband or lover would have plenty to be happy about.” But she is offended by such compliments. Seems to me that “owning your body” means not sharing it with another or others, which makes for a lonely, loveless life. Is that what she really wants, or is she so marinated in feminist ideology that she really doesn’t know what she wants? True believers tend to be that way. At the same time, you often hear older women (and men) complain that they now feel  sexually “invisible” and miss the attention that others paid to them when they were young.

As for me, I must admit that one of the pleasures of the gym is staring at (if not ogling) attractive women in spandex tights. One of my favorite movie lines is in one of the Harper films in which Paul Newman plays a private detective. In one scene, he is grabbed by some bad guys and thrown into the back of a limousine. Lying on the floor, he looks up and sees a beautiful woman who says, “It’s not nice to look up a woman’s dress.” Newman (as Harper) replies, “Well, ya gotta look somewhere!”  Yes, you do have to look somewhere, so you might as well look at something pleasing, like women in spandex.