Wearing Spanx Does Not Mean That I Am Oppressed

Also, Adele is a genius.

When Adele realized at the Grammys that she couldn’t quite inhale properly enough to belt out a performance of her mega hit “Rolling in the Deep” with four pairs of Spanx on, she took two of them off.

This little tale has elicited quite the response since she told it to Matt Lauer a few weeks ago. (My reaction was something along the lines of, Wait, more than one pair at a time? She is obviously a genius.)

There is one ilk of response, though, that has crept up time and again, one that I wish would go away almost more than I wish Internet-troll commenters suggesting Adele join Jenny Craig would go away: that she, and any woman who slaps on something as apparently demeaning and oppressive as Spanx under her Armani, is basically undoing decades upon decades of women’s rights progress.

According to one particularly oh, come on CNN article that I read, the thinking goes like this: In the 1960s, strong women burned their bras and tossed away their girdles and demanded that women start to earn pay equal to men in the workplace, equal power in the home, and equal respect, basically, in life. They would not conform to what society or men wanted them to do—or look like, for that matter—any longer. Therefore, today, when a woman slides on a pair Spanx before wiggling into her dress, whether it’s to head off to the office or amaze millions with her simply astounding vocal talent, she is, for all intents and purposes, flipping a big well-manicured bird to all the women who fought for equality.

Oh, Christ on a bike, I say: How about she just wants to look good in her damn dress?

I’m a big fan of Spanx, and not just for the occasions when I slide them on before wiggling into my own dresses, though I do think it’s one of the most magical products on the market. Really, I’m a big fan of whatever makes a woman feel beautiful and confident and strong before stepping out her front door, whether that’s dying her hair some shade of eggplant, applying four coats of Bluemercury’s most expensive mascara, wearing a backless shirt to show off her newest ink, or stepping into a pair of inarguably heinous, nude-colored, biker short-esque undergarments. And who is any other woman to judge what another woman does to feel her best—let alone what she’s got on under her skirt?

Articles like this written under the guise of feminism actually tend to serve the exact opposite purpose of what they seemingly wish to accomplish. Because in the name of chastising women for giving into whatever this writer thinks a woman is giving into when wearing Spanx, she actually gives women no credit, and sells them short. She presumes that any woman who goes this extra step to look the way she wants to look is doing so because she thinks that in order to, say, get a man or land the job, she’s simply got to shake that ass, and that that ass had better look good while she’s doing it.

But the thing is, pretty much every woman I know—and yes, I know a lot of amazing, confident, strong, self-assured women—likes to look good, first and foremost, for themselves. It’s wonderful if their husband thinks they look beautiful in a certain blouse, or their girlfriend compliments them on a new haircut—but the thing that really gives them a little extra hop in their step throughout the day is if they feel good about the way they look. Even Adele herself, every single time she talked about Grammygate, earnestly exclaimed, “I loved it!” when referring to the way she looked and felt in her gown that night, layers of Spanx and all, in a tone that any woman who has ever loved the way she looked in a certain ensemble—or who’s spent an evening uncomfortable and unsure about a certain aspect of her appearance—can understand.

The irony of this hullabaloo, of course, is that the inventor of Spanx, Sara Blakely, recently became the youngest woman to join Forbes’ World’s Billionaires list without the help of a husband or an inheritance. She invented the product and built the company with her own extreme hard work after making a $5,000 investment—her life’s savings—in herself at the age of 27. The sole purpose of her product is to make women feel good about how they look, and to date, she and her company have donated nearly $18 million to various charities around the world, specifically ones that educate and empower women and girls.

Seems to me the only things Ms. Blakely and her Spanx are constraining are the things every woman who buys a pair wishes to smooth, cinch and lift before taking one last look in the mirror and stepping out into her day.