Let’s Hear It For The Spanx

So what if Adele wants to wear four pairs of Spanx? She isn’t sending women back to the age of girdles, like some feminists believe.

Adele at the 2012 Grammy Awards.

On Sunday, NBC aired an interview with Matt Lauer and Adele as part of an hour-long special on the pop singer. During the segment, Adele told Lauer that she wore “three or four” pairs of Spanx at this year’s Grammy Awards. When he asked if she liked the way she looked that night, she said, “I loved it!”

For fans and media who follow the British pop star, it came as no surprise that she was proud of wearing the famous tummy tuckers. Adele is well-known for her confidence and attitude, especially when it comes to body image. Of course she wears her shapewear like a four-layer badge of courage — she’s Adele.

But not everyone thinks wearing Spanx is something to be proud of. An essay on CNN today by sociology professor Orit Avishai urges women to see shapewear as a symbol of oppressive beauty standards — the same way feminists in the late ’60s viewed girdles and bras.

“With our dollars, we support the very object that constrains us,” Avishai writes. “When we wear shapewear, we buy into messages that equate women’s power and abilities to the size and shape of their silhouettes.” Avishai points to Adele as an example of someone who’s fallen victim to these messages.

Oprah, proud Spanx owner, and Spanx founder Sara Blakely.

Avishai makes good points about how women shouldn’t feel the need to conform to ridiculous beauty standards. But she fails to recognize how the relationship between women and shapewear has changed over time. (She also doesn’t acknowledge the growing number of men’s shapewear lines.)

Yes, in a perfect world, no one would care about bulges or pantylines or unflattering mom jeans. But in our world — where thinness is glorified not only in tabloids, but also in corporate America — I can’t help but think Spanx are a smart, healthy, normal alternative to juice fasts and “thinspo” boards.

“Mirdles” and some old-school girdles.

Most women today don’t wear shapewear because they feel forced to look thin in front of their husbands, friends, neighbors, or mothers. I don’t wear Spanx on a night out to look more like Kate Moss, and neither does Adele. (In fact, she’s been pretty vocal about not wanting to look like Kate Moss.)

Women today wear shapewear to work. They wear it to social events — impressive ceremonies, galas, or receptions. They wear it to feel more confident and more comfortable in their surroundings. They wear it when they want to feel composed, whether they’re performing in front of millions or presenting to a boardroom. Because the obvious truth to anyone who’s ever worn a pair of Spanx is that it doesn’t actually make you look that much thinner. It doesn’t actually take five pounds off your frame. But it does smooth out your curves — make your bulges less bulgy — and erase your pantyline. It’s a confidence booster. And a lot of smart, successful women would agree, that’s a good thing.

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