Though the questioning reached a new pitch with the story’s appearance online today, it started almost as soon as the profile first appeared in the print edition of the Sunday Times. “Where are Natalie Portman’s pants?” Garland Waller, director of the TV Graduate Program at Boston University, asked in the Huffington Post.

As Waller points out, the photos chosen for a major publication such as the New York Times’ T Magazine are carefully considered. Editors are involved, and the photographer of course, as well as a crew of people attending to every aspect of the subject’s appearance. Details down to the lighting are scrutinized.

The problem with the images, if it isn’t self-evident, is how they portray Portman. Though she’s a successful and accomplished woman, the camera primarily emphasizes her body, and the innuendo of her pantslessness. As decades of photography have done to women before her, the pictures needlessly sexualize her. While sexuality is a part of being human, here it’s practically the sole focus.

Pants, of course, have a weighty historical significance in women’s fashion. Amelia Bloomer advocated for them to literally free women, both from the cumbersome, restrictive hoop skirt and from their secondary role in society. It’s a shame to see a woman such as Portman deprived of hers.

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