Sexy or skanky?

You can take an online quiz and decide for yourself: Is a woman who wears a tank top in the summer a skank?

Published May 22, 2007 4:54PM (EDT)

A reader just alerted us to what she called a "charming feature" on Time Out New York's Web site -- a quiz called "Sexy or Skanky? You Decide!" (The subtitle: "Rate the fashion of these potentially spring fever-afflicted New York women.")

Readers are then invited to scroll through a gallery of photos of New York women, eyes masked for anonymity, and vote on whether their outfits are "sexy," "skanky" or "neither." (There's no equivalent quiz featuring men.) Charming indeed.

Some thoughts:

1. What's up with that potentially last-minute-written awkward subtitle? And how, exactly, would being afflicted with a potential spring fever affect one's fashion choices? (Do you walk around with a special thermometer?)

2. I looked through all these photos, and I'm wondering if growing up in Manhattan has somehow raised my definition of "skank." I mean, I was expecting to see photos that would put Britney to shame -- but some of the women in here have been put up as potential skanks for ... wearing tank tops. Have these editors never actually spent a summer in the city? New York is hot. And humid. If a woman is a "skank" because she wears a cotton dress, then color me skanky -- and rest assured that I'm a hell of a lot cooler than I'd be if I had on pants. (Nota bene: You can apparently also be considered skanky for wearing jeans and a T-shirt.)

3. The article's clearly a joke -- it's part of TONY's "We So Horny" issue, after all. And anyone who has been in Manhattan in July knows that some seriously poor fashion choices occur. (I once spent a block agonizing over whether I should tell the woman walking in front of me that her underwear was completely, embarrassingly visible through her dress.) But I think it's sketchy to encourage people to judge women as vixens or skanks based on their outfits, especially when they didn't know that their pictures were being taken -- let alone that the photos would be posted on the Web for the whole city to rate. It's like having someone put up your photo on "Are You Hot or Not?" without your permission, except this time, the subtext is: "Are you a slut?" There are already enough people out there who think that if a woman wears a short skirt, she's "asking for it." Do we really need to provide them with an online quiz?

By Catherine Price

Catherine Price is an award-winning journalist and author of Vitamania: How Vitamins Revolutionized the Way We Think About Food. Her written and multimedia work has appeared in publications including The Best American Science Writing, The New York Times, Popular Science, O: The Oprah Magazine, the Los Angeles Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Washington Post Magazine, Salon, Slate, Men’s Journal, Mother Jones, PARADE, Health Magazine, and Outside. Price lives in Philadelphia.

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