08 Mar gonch
How come gonch are funny and panties make us cringe?
*random thoughts from a funny-boned feminist*
Remembering the deliciously funny word “gonch” recently sent me down an unexpected rabbit hole considering society’s wildly different approaches to underwear depending on if you are male or female, and reminded me, yet again, of the infinite power of language.
Ginch. Gonch. Gonchies. Tighty-whiteys.
Just repeating these words brings a smile to my face and reminds me of being a kid growing up alongside my brother. At that age, being a boy seemed really desirable to me, as I was never an overly “girlie girl” and have often since recognized that I enjoy the company of boys/men as much if not more than alongside my female counterparts. For an as-yet-un-diagnosed feminist I could sense the power imbalance between us; they seemed to be in the driver’s seat, and I knew that I wanted that too. The boys just always seemed to be having more fun. They could tell the offside jokes. They were (seemingly) more comfortable in their bodies. They got to lead, to dominate the conversation, to fart in public, to pee standing up – whenever and wherever they wanted. My parents called my brother’s underwear “gonch” accompanied by a chuckle, but the same effervescence didn’t extend to me. Mine were called “underpants” and were somehow serious, something to be hidden. While his privates were called jokey things like a “weenie” or a “pecker”, mine were never even discussed.
With decades of life experience behind me, I have both lived and can now better articulate the ingrained micro-assumptions of gender disparity. That hard earned perspective provides me with new eyes to interrogate many aspects of life, from the globally influential down to the, well… underwear scale.
New and improved?
Modern day innovations in male underwear (though few) appear to be primarily about how it improves the man’s experience and seem to mostly focus on (sorry to be blunt), ball control. There are briefs if you like a snug warm hold, boxers if you like a breezy, baby-making jangle in your step, boxer briefs if you prefer a temperate, flexible option, and all with the requisite “access panel” which for the life of me I can’t imagine ANY MAN actually using. Technology advancements have offered men performance fabrics, which seem to be mostly about wicking that undercarriage funk one layer away, and perhaps the most helpful improvement I’ve heard of are the “ball compartments” for those of a certain age and elasticity that may need an extra gravity-defying lift.
On the other hand, female underwear inventions seem to never be about OUR comfort or enjoyment but instead are focused on how others experience our underwear. From the early days of the “lift and separate” bra, our garments were improved only in consideration of the eyes that would fall upon them. Thongs, to remove the currently unacceptable VPL (visible panty lines – OH THE HORROR!); hi-cut briefs, to make your legs look longer (wait… “look longer” For who? I can’t see my legs when my pants are on); or crotchless panties? I mean c’mon, I promise you that is not a comfortable garment. Or Spanx, which eliminates your muffin top by squishing all your subcutaneous belly fat in and up so that it temporarily resides just under your right collarbone for a few hours. I suppose the one truly woman-focused innovation of late is period underwear, which… I mean, just ick… I’ve spent my whole life trying not to have to wash period blood out of my underwear and now we’re supposed to just “flow” with it? I think my menopause can’t come soon enough.
Getting dressed, down
A friend recently told me he’d been in the position to see a woman’s matching bra and panties and made the audacious assumption that she’d specifically chosen to wear them just for the off chance that a man’s eyes (his) would see them. Even if this was true it made my eyes roll and had me fighting down the urge to punch him in the throat. Why must everything a woman does need to be a reflection of how a man sees it? That is two slippery steps away from saying someone “asked for it” by wearing one outfit over another. I guess I will only speak for myself when I say that if you are ever lucky enough to see my underwear I can probably guarantee it will not be matching and will likely have been chosen because it doesn’t ride up my butt or poke me with an underwire. I will also say that should you ever be in this position; you might also be about to experience what a strong independent woman chooses to do with her own body and that perhaps someone should let Victoria in on that secret.
Back to the brief
The nostalgic gonch reference made me laugh and got me to thinking: why continue to let the guys have all the fun? Both in real life and through a linguistic lens. They get funny, imaginative underwear descriptors like banana hammocks, grape smugglers, and nut huts, while women somehow got stuck with boring words like underpants, panties, undies, undergarments, briefs; confusing words like intimates; de-sexualizing descriptors like grannie-panties (tell me a man didn’t coin that one!); or the supremely dismissive “unmentionables”. So offensive is the mere idea of women’s underwear that we LITERALLY can’t speak of it.
I suppose knickers isn’t bad, but if you’re not of British heritage it sounds as highfalutin as a pair of bedazzled bloomers, and skivvies always sounded to me like something that still needed to be washed. I like the old-fashionedness of “small clothes”, but it lacks the goofy camaraderie of gonch.
So now what? I say a revolution is in order. I say we ladies claim/reclaim the power of language to serve our own purpose. I say improvements in women’s underwear should make us feel better, not be about the learned behaviour of constantly seeking approval from external eyes. I say it is high time we have as much fun describing the minutiae of our day-to-day lives as we can.
I like to laugh, so have been entertaining myself with a few new options to get the conversation started:
When you eliminate the extremes of vulgarity (sex, shit and all things ‘moist’-related) it is harder than you think to suggest things that might actually be said out loud in mixed company. At a minimum it has provided my sad and easily amused brain with an unexpected intellectual exercise and more than one belly laugh. Hope it does the same for you.