Burkini and the Breast: Sisters in Feminism

When I started this blog back in January, I had no idea I’d be writing so much about boobs.  In fact, believe it or not, IRL I don’t given even my own breasts that much thought unless I pop a wire or something, but here we are.  I’ve already written about imposed modesty here and why I think the Free the Nipple movement is important even if you prefer to keep your hooters covered here.  But I am not done.  Ok, today’s blog isn’t really about boobs (sorry), it’s about the Burkini.  Kudos to whomever coined my new favorite term.  The next round of coffee is on me.

If you haven’t actually seen a Burkini, here’s a picture of the beachwear for those women desiring full coverage.  Surprisingly enough they are gaining some popularity among all types of women, not just the Muslims who inspired the style.  You might want one if you are a skin cancer survivor, for example.  Also, they look really comfortable, like they might keep sand out of places you don’t want sand.

burkini

Unless you live in France.  French authorities are actually demanding that women wearing too much clothing on the beach disrobe.  Burkinis are banned.

Let’s first dispense with any pretense that this is about feminism.  Feminism is about women wearing whatever the hell they want.  So if a parade of topless women walks by demanding the right to tan their ta-tas wherever men can go topless, that is feminism.  If most women on Le Sandy Shell Beach cover body parts X, Y, and Z, but a FOREIGNER shows up covering her whole alphabet and you object, that is not feminism.  That is Islamophobia.  See the difference?

If you want to have a conversation about how women all over the world are oppressed or controlled by the societies in which they live, please be my guest.  It’s a great conversation to have, but let’s dig a little deeper than shaming women for what they choose to wear.  Let’s talk about how women in the US only make 79 cents for every dollar men make. Or about how there are so few women in American politics.  Let’s talk about that.

Modesty is not an absolute.  It’s a cultural construct.  You can say it’s about religion if you really think you can separate religion from culture in any useful way. But this means you accept a variation in religious norms. If you really believe that Christian women cover their breasts because God requires modesty, but Muslim women cover their hair only because Muslim men are sexist pigs, then just go ahead and admit to us all that you have no tolerance or understanding for other cultures or religions other than your own.  And yes, I am ashamed of you.  You should work on that.

Let’s try an empathy exercise.  You are a strong independent woman of means, and you decide to expand your horizons by traveling to the planet Stripteaze to gaze upon the rubied shores of the Double D Mountains.  Upon your arrival, you are required to remove all your clothing and walk naked through the streets in front of all the Stripteazians.  If you think this might make you uncomfortable or you wouldn’t want your mother to do it, maybe you can begin to imagine how a woman raised wearing a hijab feels when asked to uncover her head.  Naked.  That’s how she feels.  Naked and exposed.  And none of us should have to feel vulnerable about our bodies.  Whether we wear a Burkini or nothing at all.  That’s feminism.

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God did it! Prayers Answered in Mississippi

People believe some crazy shit in the name of religion.  Whether or not you think magic underwear is more crazy than talking donkeys, dragons, or the sin of mixed material fabrics is largely a matter of cultural indoctrination.  We all have family legends and local superstitions that probably look nuts to outsiders, but that’s ok.  We should all be able to get along even if the particulars of our irrational belief systems don’t always match.  As long as these beliefs don’t become a matter of public policy.

Here in Mississippi, it’s always a matter of public policy.  The South is known for being particularly religious, to be sure, but I’m not sure that means Southerners are more pious, that their faith goes deeper.  It seems to mean, instead, that they make more appearances at church, and they simply refuse to acknowledge the separation of church and state.

Principal Lowanda Tyler-Jones crossed a line when she anointed desks, pencils, doorways, and students’ heads with holy water as she prayed for them before a standardized test.  Maybe this is acceptable behavior in Clarksdale, but it is a clear violation of students’ rights not to be anointed with holy water by a batshit crazy person. Somebody call the ACLU!  The ACLU Is very busy here, by the way, and is being helped out a lot by the Appignani Humanist Association which handles the regular lawsuits against my kids’ school for locking children into revival meetings in the middle of the school day.  You know it’s only the lawyers that win in these situations.  I feel marginally ok about this because I get invited to their pool parties.

But wait!  You will never guess what happened!  Her prayers were answered! The test scores were great!  Maybe the holy water is the key ingredient you’re missing if your prayers are going unanswered.  Can  you can get it on Amazon?

I wish she had been more careful in what she had asked for, though, because the students did not become more academically proficient in the long term. They performed very poorly the following year when they aged up to a different school.  Also God did not give them the right answers up front.  According to an almost $250,000 investigation by an independent company paid for by your tax dollars, God had to erase a lot of wrong test answers.  You’d think God might understand that Tyler-Jones meant she wanted the kids to KNOW the right answers not just GET the right answers.  God must be a literalist. Or possibly an ass.

Further investigation revealed that Ms. Tyler-Jones instructed teachers to coach students and change their wrong answers.  God helps those who help themselves. The principal is in plenty of hot water over this, and it doesn’t look like her prayers are going to keep her out of jail, but what I want to know is why didn’t someone say something when she was running around sprinkling scantron sheets with the blessings of the pope?  Did no one think this might be a warning sign?  Is this woman even Catholic? It’s more of a Southern Baptist kind of place.  If she is Catholic, is she more justified in using this tactic?  Catholics please weigh in.

We shouldn’t be surprised if people think that they can justify their own behavior as long as they invoke the name of God. Not if that’s what’s being taught from the pulpit. This is the same state where the Mayor of the Capital City has publicly admitted he believes praying for our potholes to go away is an actual solution to our infrastructure problem.  I keep thinking that must be taken out of context, or he meant it sarcastically as in, “People, we only have so much money, so all I can do is pray until y’all cough up a tax base I can work with,” but it turns out, no, he does really mean it.  After all, he said, “Moses prayed and a sea opened.”

I’m not going to weigh in on the theological implications of prayer or even on the psychological effects.  I would appreciate it however, if officials refrained from praying instead of doing their jobs.  That’d be great. Thanks.

 

Crime Against Humanity: Blood on Your Hands

In the movie Blade Runner (and also in the Philip K. Dick novel on which it was based), professional replicant hunter, Rick Deckard, administers a test called the Voight-Kampff.  The Voight-Kampff is a machine that measures minute changes in the pupil in response to various hypothetical situations. To fail this test is to be declared less than human, merely a replicant of a human.

This machine, it turns out, did actually exist at one time.  Only instead of determining if you were a replicant, it was designed (and not very well) to determine your sexual orientation.  It was called, I kid you not, the Fruit Machine, and was used during the McCarthy-era Lavender Scare.

Like a replicant, the fruit machine has been retired.  It is no longer an acceptable practice to strap people to chairs and show them sexually explicit pictures like in Clockwork Orange.  Maybe it is not surprising that over 90% of LGBTQ adults in a Pew Research study say society has become more accepting of them in the past decade and they anticipate it will continue to become more so.

Do not congratulate yourself.

In this same study, nearly 40% of respondents reported being rejected by a close friend or family member because of their sexual orientation.  These families are more likely to be Southern, and they’re more likely to be religious, and their children are more likely to commit suicide.

As many as 40% of LGBTQ youth have been reported to attempt suicide.  And the reported number is certainly low.  Let that sink in.  Four out of every 10 LGBTQ youth attempt to end their own lives.  So no, do not congratulate yourself.

Let’s be clear. The high suicide rate among LGBTQ teens is not caused by homosexuality.  The high suicide rate is caused by homophobia.   It is because our children have been harassed, physically threatened, taunted, and beaten.  It’s because they are kicked out of their homes and lose their jobs.  It’s because they face obstacles marrying their partners or adopting children.  And here in the South, it’s because this is all considered acceptable behavior in the Christian Church.

Not all Christians believe this of course.  Archbishop Desmond Tutu called homophobia a “crime against humanity.”

“We treat them” he said of gays and lesbians,   “as pariahs and push them outside our communities.  We make them doubt that they too are children of God—and this must be nearly the ultimate blasphemy.”

This is quite a contrast to those of you who consider homosexuality an abomination, considering you all claim to get your morals from the same God and the same book.  I know there are also some who try to take the middle ground, who are content to let God sort out the fags, who profess to hate the sin and love the sinner.  You would never lift a finger against a gay person and even refrain from the playground level slurs the LGBTQ community must endure every day. Then you sit in church and nod as your preacher condemns your neighbors, your friends, your children for how they were born.

That’s not good enough.  That’s not nearly good enough.

If you support a church that preaches hate, and you do not stand up in some way to object, there is blood on your hands. Period.  Every one of the more than 10,000 annual suicides by gay youth, they’re on you.  Because you have declared a human to be less than human.  I hope your God can forgive you because I will not.

If you are a young person dealing with the pressures of a non-conforming gender identity, it’s ok to ask for help.  Visit the Trevor Project or call 1-866-488-7386.