Is gender normative underwear basically a mental chastity belt?
Have you ever thought to yourself, “GOD, I wish granny panties were OK to wear? They sure are comfortable, and really, who cares about being feminine?” The problem is, we’re rigorously trained to look good, be constantly appealing, and play our gender. You might not agree with that mode of thinking, which is why the creators of PLAY OUT created a line of underwear, especially for you.
PLAY OUT is a line of boxer-brief-style and trunk-style underwear that is comfortable, aesthetically pleasing, and . . . gender-neutral! Dissolving all ideas of gender-specific sexiness or body idealism, this line presents underwear for both sexes. Think about how many times you got your lace panties in a twist – literally. This fashion line (although clearly, it is so much more) solves that. Instead of itchy, too-little, up-your-butt undies, PLAY OUT offers what is both logical and revolutionary.
To continue their fight against gender norm conditioning, they’ve created a 2015 ad campaign featuring three breast cancer survivors, all of who’ve underdone double mastectomies and who chose to go without breast reconstruction. Also featured is Rain Dove (an androgynous model who is absolutely incredible.)
The campaign was done along with FlatTopper Pride, a breast cancer support community that focuses on unilaterally and bilaterally flat LGBTQ people who choose to go without breast reconstruction. I think this is absolutely beautiful; the emotional, physical and mental pain that comes with breast cancer shouldn’t be worsened by societal expectations of the body. There is a bravery and courage in these women that we all can learn from, and I’m glad this campaign chose these survivors to focus on.
When watching the video campaign and looking at the photos, viewers are basically asked to question: “Why do I need to label what I’m looking at?” Needless to say, it’s a conversation that needs to be had.
I asked PLAY OUT’s co-founder Abby Sugar how she embarked on creating this line if there were any boundaries to its success, and what her inspirations were.
She told me pretty honestly, “Starting any business is scary and hard. But once we realized we really couldn’t find what we wanted out in the market (gender-neutral, fun, comfy underwear), we were pretty positive that we needed to start making it ourselves. We started out doing a Kickstarter to help us raise money for our first production run and received most of our support and backing from strangers – which means this wasn’t just an idea that we and our friends were into, but that the greater population wanted too. That was really encouraging.”
She explained that taking gender out of the equation actually made for a more creative experience:
“Creating gender-less underwear allows us to express our creativity and design a product for humans in general, vs. fitting into a certain societal expectation of what lingerie & undergarments are supposed to be, or how they’re supposed to look. Rather than be concerned with what styles/colorways should be worn by each gender, we wanted to create a fun, sexy, comfortable product inclusive of everyone – marked by our signature bold colorways and graphic prints. As Rain (Dove) has said, ‘Clothing isn’t gendered; it’s a thing.” When you put on an item of clothing, it is what you as a person are wearing. You don’t become male or female for wearing it.'”
I love this campaign because it gives beauty and empowerment back to the bodies that aren’t always considered ideal. Also, underwear aside, I think the campaign sparks a real conversation around the meaning of gender and our unhealthy obsession with it, but I also want to add that a woman (breast reconstruction after surgery or not) who identifies as the feminine is still as feminine without her breasts. I think that’s really important to note, too, and I think this is achieved here as well.
“I model the human spirit…the human condition. Not the human culture. To me, a binary divide in our system through gender is superfluous,” said Rain Dove. “PLAY OUT moves beyond into human interest – they push the concept that if you love it and it feels good, go for it, which is how I live my life. How could I not get involved? Plus, the perfect body is your body because it’s yours.”
The moving film was shot and directed by Thorsten Roth, the models are Melly, Emily, and Jodi, and they were shot by Candace Doyal (Emily and Jodi) and Nomi Ellenson (Melly).