NBC Features Brainless Segment on Topless Book

Hats off to “Today.” Oh wait, maybe that should be “Tops off.” On August 3, the morning show promoted the book “Uncovered,” by Jordan Matter, despite what the book covered, or rather, what the book did not cover.

The book is a collection of photographs of, as Meredith Vieira explained, “average women willing to bare it all for the sake of equality.” And NBC had no qualms about devoting a more than five minute segment to promoting Matter’s “art.”

 It began when “photographer Jordan Matter set out to see how his fellow New Yorkers would handle a little breast.”

“There was this whole taboo issue around women’s bodies,” Matter explained, “and the most public way to address that issue would be to photograph it publicly.”

How that promoted equality or strengthened women is a mystery. And while the book may have attempted to address the issue of body image that is indeed a problem with women, it objectified women’s bodies while it attacked and mocked the idea of modesty.

The segment cited a 1992 ruling which made it legal for women to go topless in New York State, and Vieira beamed, “Some may never exercise that right … But many seem liberated.”

“It started initially with the Janet Jackson wardrobe malfunction,” Matter explained, “And we were taught to believe this was an extravagant thing that we were all to be ashamed of. And so I started photographing people in the streets of New York to see the reaction. What happened was, it soon became a liberating experience for the women I was photographing to the point that I hadn't expected that at all.”

But liberated from what? It became obvious in the segment that “Uncovered” has linked itself to the modern feminist movement, “liberating” women from the “bonds” of modesty.

Matter defended his use of a picture of a nine-year old girl. “…what it represents to me is a question of at what point does a girl become a woman and learn that her body is something that needs to be covered up and something she needs to be ashamed of?”

But Matter’s conclusion that modesty and covering up is linked to shame is wrong. Rather, modesty demonstrates an inherent respect and pride for the beauty of the female body and recognizes the respect owed to women, a respect that arises from something other than their bodies.

Objectification, not shame, is the major issue with women’s bodies. But Matter’s “art” project promoted objectification, even if it was an unintended consequence.

“Alright, some lingered, admired the view,” Vieira admitted, and Matter related a story of how one man came up to him and thanked him. The segment also featured two men commenting on the project, “You gotta enjoy yourself in life, that’s what it’s about. We’re only passing through. We’re only a number,” and pointing to the woman posing topless, “She’s got two lovely numbers.”

Doesn’t really sound like a blow was struck for equality.