April 19, 2011

Boob Hysteria

BBC News
Earlier this month a woman attacked a Gauguin painting at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. while screaming "this is evil," it "has nudity," is "very homosexual" and "bad for the children." If that isn't sufficiently ridiculous, the media's coverage of the incident makes the situation even more bothersome. Comments Dr. Marty Klein, author of America's War on Sex: "this is America—and if a painting involves Tahitian Women, the fear of sex can’t be far behind. So depending on what station you watch, you saw half the painting (duh, the upper half); all of the painting, but with a banner “Gauguin Painting Attacked” modestly covering the models’ breasts; and on fair-and-balanced Fox stations, the entire painting with the nipples blurred out." 

It's boob hysteria once again!

Remember the public outrage when Janet Jackson’s nipple popped into view for about half a second during the Super Bowl halftime show in 2004, a "wardrobe malfunction" leading the FCC to fine the television station, while Europeans shrugged their shoulders in disbelief.
Think also of the outcry when Nicollette Sheridan bared her back in the sketch full of sexual overtones that introduced Monday Night Football. Keep in mind it was a promo spot for the sex-drenched television drama "Desperate Housewives," a show that nonetheless ranked second nationally that same year, scoring high viewer ratings even in conservative areas that had voted for “values” and Bush, also that same year. 

In the US, the sexualized female remains a target of horror and judgment in a culture that apparently obsesses about sexuality while bemoaning it. Which, for example, causes women to cover up beneath tents when breastfeeding in public.

And this extends to children. I remember reading in the Star Tribune, just a few years ago, about a mom who had been kicked out of a public pool in a Minneapolis suburb for letting her PreK daughter wear only a bikini bottom without a top.

I thought of this incident last summer when taking my toddler daughter to our local municipal pool where even little babies wear bikini tops. At one point, I decided to test the limits and let her run around naked. Eventually I was approached and notified by a lifeguard that she needs to wear a swimsuit. When I asked if just a bottom was okay, I was told that all young children need to wear either a swim diaper, swimsuit, swim trunk, or bikini while in the pool, but a top is not necessary. And I was told that it is okay for her to be naked if I am changing her near our chairs, but if she goes into the water she needs at least a bottom. 

I do realize the sanitary issues with respect to little babies bathing in public pools, though I have never figure out if this means she can be naked as long as she's out of the pool--say, for a extended "changing" period? But consider this: How often do you see kids running around naked on the beach in the US, the way you  in, say, Europe?


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