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Don't try to be sexy at the Grammys

By Dean Obeidallah, Special to CNN
February 10, 2013 -- Updated 1839 GMT (0239 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • CBS sent a wardrobe advisory e-mail to Grammy attendees to cover up well
  • Dean Obeidallah: The note is not only hilarious, it's also sexist toward women
  • He says maybe CBS is trying to appease conservatives like Laura Ingraham
  • Obeidallah: Artists should be able to dress as creatively and provocatively as they choose

Editor's note: Dean Obeidallah, a former attorney, is a political comedian and frequent commentator on various TV networks including CNN. He is the editor of the politics blog "The Dean's Report" and co-director of the upcoming documentary, "The Muslims Are Coming!" Follow him on Twitter: @deanofcomedy.

(CNN) -- "Be sure that buttocks and female breasts are adequately covered." "Thong type costumes are problematic." "Avoid sheer see-through clothing."

Is this the new edict of a religiously conservative government that wants to make sure that men -- and especially women -- are covered up? Could it be the dress code for visiting the Vatican, the Wailing Wall, the Dome of the Rock or other holy sites?

Nope, these words are actually part of the wardrobe advisory e-mail that CBS sent to attendees of this Sunday's Grammy Awards. Yep, CBS, the network that brought you a promo during last week's Super Bowl for its show, "2 Broke Girls," featuring the show's young female stars writhing on a stripper pole, is now concerned about sending the wrong message.

Dean Obeidallah
Dean Obeidallah

The language that CBS used in explaining its clothing recommendations is actually hilarious -- it seems to have been written by a cross between an elderly lawyer and Goody Procter from "The Crucible."

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Here are some of the highlights: Talent should, "avoid exposing bare fleshy under curves of the buttocks and buttock crack." What exactly is "fleshy under curves" and why does it sound so oddly hot? (And by frowning upon the showing of buttock cracks, does this mean that many of the union plumbers working at the Grammy venue may also have wardrobe problems?)

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CBS wants attendees to avoid outfits that could "expose female breast nipples." And the network also put its foot down on clothes that expose the "bare sides" of breasts, aka, the famed and increasingly popular "sideboob."

However, the most bizarrely worded wardrobe line is that talent must, "be sure that the genital region is adequately covered so that there is no visible 'puffy' bare skin exposure." What exactly is "puffy" bare skin? Is that code for some word I don't know about? And why did CBS put the word "puffy" in quotes? It sounds even dirtier that way.

New Grammys dress code: No breasts
The green Versace dress that Jennifer Lopez wore to the 2000 Grammy Awards might be her most iconic look to date. "Those fashion moments happen by mistake -- you can't plan things like that," Lopez has said of the risque ensemble. But daring looks like this may be a thing of the past if CBS gets its way this Sunday (February 10). Let's look back at the Grammys' most scandalous styles.
The green Versace dress that Jennifer Lopez wore to the 2000 Grammy Awards might be her most iconic look to date. "Those fashion moments happen by mistake -- you can't plan things like that," Lopez has said of the risque ensemble. But daring looks like this may be a thing of the past if CBS gets its way this Sunday (February 10). Let's look back at the Grammys' most scandalous styles.
Scandalous Grammy looks
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My big question is this: What caused CBS to be so concerned that this year it issued a written wardrobe advisory? CBS has aired the Grammys for more than 40 straight years, dating back to 1973. Obviously over that time we have seen some pretty risqué outfits.

Could it be because CBS wants to appease conservatives who freaked out over the outfit Beyonce wore while performing in the Super Bowl halftime show?

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Right-wing radio host Laura Ingraham protested Beyonce's outfit with a sarcastic tweet: "Very family-friendly dancing S&M by Beyonce. What every girl shd aspire to. #waronwomen."

A writer at "The National Review" penned a column entitled, "Put a Dress on," demanding that Beyonce not wear a "black teddy" on stage but something less revealing. (Of course, if similar language was espoused from people in the Muslim world, these same conservatives would denounce it as Muslims attempting to oppress women, but it's somehow OK when they do it.)

The real reason is unclear. CBS declined to officially comment but sources there stated that a similar verbal wardrobe warning had been given in the past.

What is clear is that this wardrobe advisory is not gender neutral. Its very language tells women what they cannot wear. "Female breasts" must be adequately covered. "Female breast nipples" must not be exposed.

Even where there's no specific gender reference, we all understand that no one is concerned that Bruce Springsteen, who is nominated for a Grammy this year, will show up exposing the, "bare fleshy under curves" of his buttocks. No, CBS is more concerned with making sure that women are properly covered.

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Beyond the apparent sexism of the wardrobe advisory, we also need to keep in mind that freedom of expression is not just words. Freedom of expression also includes expressing yourself through the clothes you wear, especially for the talented musical artists attending the Grammys.

These performers should be able to dress any way they choose, both men and women. A big part of the Grammys is enjoying the range of outfits worn, from the glamorous to the provocative to ones that make you wonder what was the bet the person lost that made them wear that outfit -- I'm looking at you Nicki Minaj, who last year dressed like a bright red version of "The Flying Nun" and was accompanied by a man dressed like the pope.

And of course, if someone wears an outfit that truly violates FCC regulations, then CBS should not allow that person on camera. That is not only CBS' right, it's CBS' obligation. But the CBS wardrobe advisory note goes too far -- it both hampers creativity and imposes restrictions that are sexist.

I hope that at Sunday's Grammys we see people dressed as creatively and provocatively as they choose. Part of me even hopes that Bruce Springsteen wears an outfit that exposes his "puffy" bare skin -- whatever that may be.

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The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Dean Obeidallah.

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