Her response was a brilliant reminder why we should never shame a woman over what she wears.
You’re an actress and comedian who, after supporting roles in everything from Parks and Recreation to CSI: Miami has finally been handed the reigns to a television show of your own. You get invited onto Seth Meyers’ late night talk show to fete it. You get the works – hair, makeup, wardrobe – and sit down for a hilarious conversation. You’re on top of the world.
And then you go on Twitter to find that people are shaming you for wearing a blouse with a cut-out over your cleavage.
That’s what has happened to Natalie Morales, best known to many as Lucy, Aziz Ansari’s girlfriend on Parks and Recreation. The actress visited Meyers’ talk show to discuss her new series Abby’s, in which she plays a woman running an illegal bar out of her backyard. But all any of the misogynists online wanted to talk about was her chest.
“What happened to the centre of Natalie Morales’ shirt,” one demanded. “Did she get it caught on something coming out on stage?” Another said: “Why are your boobs hanging out?” There was also one lovely person who called her an “attention whore”.
“The dress you were wearing,” another said. “I’ve got to say, Seth Meyers is a true pro! Didn’t. Look. Once! Because I’m sure Natalie, if somebody was wearing a similar dress, across from you, with that much cleavage exposed! You would have been looking too!”
On YouTube, where a clip of Morales’ interview was posted, the comments were just as disappointing. “How he maintained that eye contact throughout I don’t know” one person wrote. “You owe an apology to Seth for putting him through that,” another person said. “Damn you double sided tape!” read another charming comment.
Morales wasn’t going to let everyone steal her moment with talk about her chest.
“Apparently people are making a big deal out of cleavage like breasts haven’t been around since the actual beginning of human kind,” she tweeted. “Get a LIFE. It’s a body part. A great one, but so are eyes and arms and fingers. I DO NOT HAVE TIME FOR YOUR MUMMY ISSUES I GOT SHOW TO PROMOTE”.
Her fans came out in support, tweeting “If I had those boobs I’d wear that exact outfit all the time” and “YES!!! I really can’t believe people are focused on this when they could be focused on Abby’s which is going to be amazing and a much better thing to focus on”.
But, still, Morales’ experience exposes how women – especially those in the public eye – continue to be policed online about how they look and what they wear. They’re forced to gussy themselves up in designer threads and full hair and makeup to work the promotional circuit, but are slammed when they put a toe out of line.
Wear a nice blouse, as Brie Larson did on The One Show, and misogynists on the internet will tell you to cover up. Move inside the venue of your premiere because you’re cold and it’s the dead of winter, as Emily Blunt did in December, and you’ll be branded a diva. Dress up and make an effort, as Beyoncé did at a concert in South Africa, and your male colleagues – in Beyoncé’s case, Ed Sheeran – won’t make an effort at all. Wear a visible bra, as Meghan Markle did to a wedding, and people will clutch their pearls in consternation.
In this, as in so many other things, women can’t win. They really are damned if they do and damned if they don’t.
But at least some are fighting back. When people tried to tell Jennifer Lawrence, clad in a gorgeous Versace gown at a London photocall last year, to cover up, she told them very politely where to stick it.
“This is sexist, this is ridiculous, this is not feminism,” she wrote on Facebook. “Overreacting about everything someone says or does, creating controversy over silly innocuous things such as what I choose to wear or not wear, is not moving us forward. It’s creating silly distractions from real issues. Get a grip people. Everything you see me wear is my choice. And if I want to be cold THAT’S MY CHOICE TOO!”
As women, what we wear and how we look is our choice. Say it with us: it’s our choice. If we want to wear a low cut top, it’s our choice. If we want to get dressed up and ultra-glam, no matter the weather, it’s our choice. If we don’t want to do any of those things, it’s our choice. All of it, everything, is our choice. The misogynists lurking in the swampy annals of YouTube comment threads and Twitter mentions need to get this into their heads.
And if they can’t? Well, at least we have Natalie Morales to tell them what’s what.