Today, fashion mogul Diane von Furstenberg told The Cut that women over a certain age should not go sans shirt. The site asked what she thought about Instagram’s policy on female nudity, which has been debated heavily lately after Scout Willis went topless in New York to protest the app’s banning of female breasts. Here’s what the
She reminded us that censoring nudity is, after all, a very American question. (And that summer is best spent on a yacht.) “When I’m not working, I’m on a boat. I’ll be around the Med,” she told the Cut. “I’m European, so — I always used to be topless when I could afford to. You can only do that when you’re very young.”
But, we asked, is there a cutoff? “To be topless?” she responded. “Forty. Some people more, but after a while, no.”
I agree that censoring nudity is a very American thing; after all, the MPAA would rather censor female orgasms than ever limit the amount of violence our minors can virtually participate in. Our culture is more okay with guns than bodies, unless those bodies are being used for specific (often negative) purposes, whereas many, many other countries are a-okay with both female and male bodies. And yet, even though von Furstenberg is from one of those countries (Belgium) and she seems fine with nudity itself, she is still pushing forward the harmful yet common idea that there is a specific time when women’s bodies suddenly expire and no longer can be considered viewable.
It’s a highly pervasive idea in our society that women over 40 are suddenly no longer sexy, and if one does manage to be considered a sex icon still, it’s a total anomaly and she’s basically a freak of nature. And yet, men like Brad Pitt (50), Antonio Banderas (53) and George Clooney (53) are still considered sexy male leads that can get any lady, whether she’s 21 or 45. (JUST KIDDING, they would never cast a female lead next to those guys who’s 45.) Those guys can go shirtless in movies constantly, but women are supposed to cover up–at most, they can wear a low-cut dress. And yet, women who are over 40 do still have breasts and bodies and all that, so why shouldn’t they go topless?
I mean, Diane Keaton was what, 57 when she filmed that topless scene in Something’s Gotta Give? And she looked fantastic! But that’s actually besides the point completely, because what matters is that she is a human being and human beings have breasts. Shockingly, as we age, our bodies do not spontaneously become bound to fabric and incapable of getting nude; for women, our breasts do not shrink into our bodies and become substituted with lumpy sweater vests instead of boobs. We still have tits, so what’s the problem with having them out?
The idea of “pulling off” looks is something that often teeters the line of being body-related versus style-related. For example, if a woman wears a controversial dress that has a bizarre silhouette, but accessorizes it well and utilizes hair and makeup to enhance the overall look, then by all means, it is fine to declare that she is “pulling it off”! However, if a publication’s idea of “pulling off” a look involves the woman’s body being the definitive factor–as it almost always is when it comes to bathing suits or nudity of any kind–then that’s where it gets ridiculous. In fact, Huffington Post has an entire gallery called “Topless Over 50: Which Actresses Pull It Off?” which implies that some women cannot pull off being without a shirt when, in fact, they can literally pull off their shirts and be topless regardless of how they look underneath.
It is exhausting to keep track of when, where, and how women’s bodies are allowed to be naked. I mean, yes–obviously do not be naked on the subway or other public transportation. I don’t think anyone should be shirtless on the subway because your body’s sweat should not get all over seats or the skin of other human beings. But when it comes to just general shirtlessness, men’s bodies are almost always given a free pass to be displayed sans top regardless of what kind of shape they’re in or how many wrinkles and sunspots they have developed over the years. By reenforcing limits on women’s bodies via age, we simultaneously reinforce gender guidelines and double standards–not just on Instagram, but everywhere.
Image: Something’s Gotta Give (2003)