Cami Secret: When classism underlies feminist snark

Just the other day I was getting dressed for work and found myself super annoyed that I would have to wear a camisole under my shirt. Wearing camisoles is fine in the winter, and they let me wear wrap shirts and other interesting necklines to work and not show everyone my boobs. But when it’s super hot and sticky outside? The last thing I want to do is put on an extra layer with an extra set of straps, just so it can ride up and get all up in my business. “Wouldn’t it be great if they invented some sort of panel that you could attach to your bra so you didn’t have to wear a whole extra layer?” I thought.

What do you know – it exists!

Jezebel had this for comment:

Buying work-appropriate tops and making your asshole boss stop looking down your shirt can be such a hassle! Finally, there’s Cami Secret, a cheap piece of cloth that snaps to your bra, giving you “custom cleavage.” Control that flesh, ladies!


Okay – I agree that the ad was totally lame and maybe just a little bit sexist. It’s not a woman’s fault if her male colleagues are pervy. Perviness, like rape, is always the fault of the perv. Also, there is no reason for that dude to be leaning over her desk like that. This parody video for “Boob Apron” pretty much demonstrates the kind pervy attitude (that men are entitled to women’s bodies) we’re talking about here.

Okay, so we’re getting snark from the feminists and parody-snark from the not-so-feminists, but is that much snark really warranted here? Infomercials are easy targets. Is the product necessarily dumb because the ad is? Should I feel dumb for wanting a product like this, especially when lots of work-appropriate attire is designed to be worn with camisoles? (Clever business model, fashion industry.)

While I agree that the patriarchy has historically controlled women through notions of modesty and “appropriate dress” (and still does quite often in many parts of the world – burqas being the extreme example), Cami Secret seems less about controlling women and more about providing a tool that gives control to women. At it’s core, this is a product that gives women more control over their wardrobe.

The Consumerist also has some snark for Cami Secret:

Now you can wear your lowcut top to work without worrying about your boss staring down your shirt, then quickly and easily remove it for after work drinks with the girls. It’s as easy to dispense with as your pride.

It’s interesting to compare the reactions to Cami Secret to those of Spanx, another product that works within the systems that control women’s bodies. Spanx is a man-made fabric that you wear under your clothes that works like a girdle or corset, to both “hold you in” and smooth out your unsightly cellulite. So why do feminist women embrace Spanx (or at least discuss it respectfully) and snark at Cami Secret? Well, I would argue that it started with Oprah endorsing Spanx and the leagues of middle and upper class women who embraced it as a result. Spanx is socially acceptable and sold in trendy, upscale boutiques. Cami Secret is considered  “trashy” and sold via infomercial.  I hate to say it, but I think that the Cami Secret snark overload has as much to do with classism as it does with sexism.

Do we really need to be ashamed of wearing a “faux” camisole? Is wearing an actual camisole some sort of mark of dignity? I think the fact that The Consumerist mentioned “pride” is evidence of classism and the “real” vs. “faux” value system – the same system that makes it “classier” to get real granite countertops rather than ones made of man-made materials that look virtually the same, last longer, and are easier to maintain. It is also the same system that makes it “classier” to wear real fur rather than faux fur, even though the fake stuff is cheaper and doesn’t involve killing animals. The “Boob Apron” parody guy might have a point about the Cami Secret being manufactured in sweatshops, but is there much evidence that regular camisoles (especially ones that are comparably priced) aren’t?

The Cami Secret provides a relatively inexpensive way make tops more versatile so you can stretch your budget and your wardrobe. Since women are not all the same and have personal preferences regarding cleavage and necklines, it also seems like a great way to customize your clothes to get the look you want.

Is that really something to snark at?


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