TV Show Teaching Women to Be Sexy While Grocery Shopping Prompts Outrage Over Sexism in Italy
A fresh new ridiculously sexist hell has emerged out of Italy this week, in which a state broadcaster attempted to teach women how to shop in a ‘sexy’ way. In the show Detto Fatto — which normally involves a panel solving problems posed by the audience — a woman wearing a crop top and a pair of short black leather shorts instructed viewers about the best tips and tricks to appear to be shopping in a supermarket with “extra intrigue.” This, she demonstrates, can be accomplished by pushing the trolley as if doing a ramp walk (decisive steps, butt out), arching one’s back while reaching for a product on a high shelf, and raising a knee in the process to add extra spice.
The show also had advice for a woman bending down to pick up something she had dropped: “I would squat with one knee more bent than the other, keeping my legs closed so I don’t spread my legs to make the situation more vulgar,” the presenter said, treading that impossible line between sexy and too sexy.
In response to the tutorial, Italy’s agricultural minister, Teresa Bellanova, tweeted, “For how long must we continue talking about women in a false, stereotypical way, with stiletto heels, sexy moves, always perfect, mermaids or witches?”
The tutorial, while ridiculous, feeds into a narrative we’ve seen countless times before: that women must look put-together at all times and perform sex appeal and attractiveness even while doing the most mundane of chores. Storylines reinforcing this trope have become a staple in movie supermarket scenes, in which a (most likely) recently dumped woman, unshowered and in sweats, runs into her ex, who has gotten himself a hot, new, scantily-clad young partner, who invariably looks ‘better’ than the woman depicted as a sorry sack. The dread the protagonist feels at being caught at her supposed worst in public is one many women are conditioned to feel when they don’t put effort into their appearance before stepping out in public — as if looking their ‘best’ is a service they provide to the rest of society.
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To be clear, choosing black leather shorts or sweatpants or anything in between for a trip to the supermarket remains a person’s own choice and outside the ambit of any judgment or scrutiny. But what the latest tutorial furthers is a societal expectation that women are there to be looked at, evaluated, and objectified constantly. It’s a toxic, self-perpetuating cycle. Research shows when women suffer constant, unrelenting objectification, they start self-objectifying, turning the gaze inward and looking at their own bodies as only suited to or worthy of someone else’s desire and approval. The normalization of this practice then naturally leads to insecurity about stepping out in public, for fear of censure lest they look too dumpy, too messy, too careless, too unapproachable, too undesirable.
While there’s nothing wrong with wanting to look desirable, it’s the imposition, the mandate that jars the conscience. Such an unsaid compulsion can wreak havoc on not just women’s mental health, but also warp their own self-perception. Constantly looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, in conditioned acceptance that one’s self is designed for public consumption and scrutiny, is a tedious ordeal that women often impose not just on themselves but also on other women.
In an ideal world, we’d dress however we’d like to go grocery shopping, bend down in whichever fashion, push the shopping cart in whatever way. But for it to feel like a real choice, people would need to stop looking.