Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Pantyhose: ethnography of an object

   Pantyhose have been a common western commodity since the 1960s.  These articles are created by a man, Ernest G. Rice, and patented in 1956.  Although these articles seem innocent and often practical, there is a deep rift of controversy and erotic connotations behind the scenes when it comes to the use and purpose of pantyhose.  Pantyhose were a big deal when they come out to replace the old style of stockings women wear to cover their legs while wearing skirts shorter than the ankle.  It was often the case that workplace and school uniforms required pantyhose as an article that women and girls are required to wear.  Hose are often worn by women to keep their legs warm or to help buffer the discomfort from shoes.  Some individuals like the way pantyhose can cover imperfections of the skin such as varicose veins, scars, and blemishes.
   Pantyhose begin to strike up controversy from the beginning.  Not only was Ernest G. Rice’s copyright and patent contested by other inventors of similar articles, but during the 1960s and 1970s was a strong wave of feminist thought that advocated boycotting articles such as the pantyhose and braziers (men’s inventions to suppress women).  The argument was that women should not have to use these articles to become the perfect sexual objects men desire.  This did not stop the hose from becoming a highly popular commodity up through the 1990s.  The hegemony of pantyhose had taken hold of western society.  With the turn of the century came the popular style of keeping legs bare, thus the pantyhose were no longer needed.  However, it is still currently fashionable to wear hose with formal wear and in the colder months tights become a fashionable way to keep legs warm.
   An unusual fashion for pantyhose has come to light recently: “mantyhose.”  These pantyhose for men may have started with the medical use of compression socks for vascular problems or they may have been spurred by the boon of keeping legs warm in addition to other types of pants.  This odd pantyhose fashion may have had a more erotic starting point.
   There has been a fetshization of pantyhose from the time of their creation.  An appeal to long, slender, hairless, and smooth legs was invigorated by the invention of pantyhose.  The sexualization of pantyhose was inevitable, and we can see that in the advertisements of the 1960s and 1970s.  It became an incredibly erotic sight to see a woman in nothing but pantyhose.  This interest also spurred a re-occurrence of images of women in the old fashion stockings and garter straps.  There is a tale of bondage and submission to be told about women encased in this hosiery.  The garments give a glimpse of the pressure the women are constantly under.  In the community of drag queens, pantyhose are necessary for the trade; to represent the female means to submit oneself to the pressures she lives with.  Some fetishists who wear pantyhose seek the pressure of being encapsulated by layers of nylon or spandex; full body stockings are popular for this kind of erotic game of dress-up.  Fetishists who enjoy wearing the hosiery often seek the tactile pleasure from the experience. "[Pantyhose] provide a certain amount of applied force, as if hundreds, perhaps thousands of hands were applying pleasure wherever the nylon touched or the nylon pulled away, leaving a split second vacuum only to reapply again." says Rantali, an internet fetish blogger.  Pantyhose have a history of being very soft and silky to the touch.  Fetishists who seek to put others into pantyhose may often extend the experience into a more direct form of bondage and literally tie up their partner using the hose.  Using the pantyhose for this purpose really removes the original function of the hose and changes them into a new object only with some residual memories of its previous form (Baudrillard).
   There is a movement of value in this commodity in the economic and the social markets.  In the past, pantyhose were a hot commodity and have recently lost the interest of the public; the economic value is depreciating due to changes in style.  The social value of the pantyhose is changing from respectable business woman garment to a drag queen’s #2 wardrobe necessity.  Though the business woman is not much different than the drag queen in that they both follow their interests and make money while looking good, there is a difference in the cultural groups in which they conduct business in.  The social capital accumulated by both individuals and their pantyhose can be high or low depending on the way they display their taste in hosiery (Bourdieu).  Taste is a big factor in how others are judged.  In a business setting, the drag queen’s attire (hose and all) are in bad taste, and vice versa, the business woman would not easily fit into a crowd of drag queens.  These two individuals remain connected through pantyhose and through the message each is trying to send out.  The business woman is trying to portray a figure of conservative and sexy feminine power.  The drag queen is also displaying sexy feminine power but with a campy style or over exaggerated femininity.
   Tasteful or tasteless, pantyhose are the hegemonic tool to make women perfect or they are the tools of the trade for a cross dressing man.  Used as clothing, medical apparatus, a face covering for convenience store robbers, or an erotic device of bondage, pantyhose fit well into many functional niches.

Monday, November 12, 2012


I can't get out of my house.  And that is not because its snowing like crazy out side.  Or is it? I haven't figured it out yet.  Whatever the case, I haven't been able to leave my house in days and every time I try I get so nauseous and uncomfortable.  I always had a fear when I was a child that I would be one of those people that becomes fully or slightly agoraphobic and a hermit.  Actually, the thought of just sitting safely at home with no worries or problems seems like a very nice lifestyle.  Snapping back to reality, I fully understand that I cannot perform most of my duties for school, work, or family sitting around all day.  I've got to leave some time.  But my problem is bigger than agoraphobia right now.  I have never really felt the stress and uncertainty of a school senior until this moment.  I always sided with the high school teachers who said the slackers were experiencing "senioritis" and they deserve to flunk and stay another year.  Am I a slacker? Is that really why I can't get out of bed in the morning or commit myself to the 1.5mi bike ride to class.  I can't seem to define what exactly I'm afraid of.  It might be the terrible cold, the lonely campus, the stupid bike ride, the boring class lecture, or maybe... maybe I'm afraid to graduate.  I'm afraid that once I have that diploma I am going to accrue all of these monstrous responsibilities that I've never had to deal with before.  I'm going to have things to take care of and it is uncertain right now that I will be able to care for anything.
I had a strange morning a few days ago where I sprung out of bed an hour early with panic in my heart and I began putting my unnecessary belongings (mostly clothing) into big black trash bags. All I could think was "I'm going to graduate and I'm not going to be able to find work; I'm going to be homeless. I need to downsize my belongings to fit in a portable duffle bag. Everything else has to go."  And I was crying because I so love all of my adorable little knick-knacks that decorate my home.  I was terribly sad that later I was going to have to replace everything I had worked for.  What if I stay homeless forever? What if my dog and I have to sleep under a freeway overpass for months because I can't find work?  I didn't throw these things away... yet.  I've decided to hold onto them until the last possible moment.  But all I need is another panicked morning to tip me over the edge.
I've told my academic adviser that I'm going to work for a few years before I can afford to continue onto graduate school; this is a white lie.  I am going to work to save up some money, however I do not really want to get a job related to Anthropology.  In fact, I would very much like to get a simple job for a few years, like being a clerk at a department store or a waitress at Applebee's. I'm so incredibly burnt out on this subject field that I am getting to the point where I want nothing to do with it.  I've come up with several places to send my full academic resume so that my academic adviser will be satisfied, however I do not really intend to pursue these jobs.  I have the know-how to jump back into the scholarly world once I've roamed for a while.  I just want to be somewhere where I have the fewest responsibilities, a get paid just enough to get by, and maybe put a little in the bank.
Maybe one of you, my readers, can tell me what to do about this senioritis.  How can I shake it? Or how can I cope with it? Any experiences yourself?