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Half-time for Half-wits

Posted by Rick · February 19th, 2004 · 7 Comments

Updated 2/19/2004, 7:30ish a.m.: This post bothered me when I was writing it. I awoke intermittently through the four hours after writing it continuing to be bothered. Dragging myself into day preceded by too-little sleep, I find it still bothers me.

My wife also notes that it surprised her; she says she’s not used to me writing “that way.” When I ask what she means, as a way of seeing if that will help me learn why it bothers me, she can only say, “It’s more direct than normal for you.” Maybe that’s part of what bothers me, but I think there’s more. And, on top of that, I’m deeply ambivalent about this point. That’s why I think, as I state in the body of this post, I’ve tried to avoid discussing this topic at all.

There is a wry, ironic point that I’m trying to make. And I self-consciously (i.e., “deliberately”) chose to draw out the irony by using the same approach in making my point that the people I most readily identify with use in stating their position.

But I find that what bothers me is perhaps exactly what made me choose that approach in the first place: I find it offensive. And since I find it offensive, I find this blog entry offensive.

So, as you read this entry, keep that in mind. If you’ve a mind to do so, please return for a follow-up posting, in which I intend to go into the point of this post, what I was doing with it and why I find it offensive. I’m also going to try to explicate the ambivalence.

If all goes well, I should post the follow-up by sometime the evening of February 19, 2004. For now, click the link immediately below to read my original, offensive post.

I was really planning to avoid writing on this topic. Heck, near as I can tell, just about every other blog on the Internet has either written about it or posted pictures.

This post is going to cost me my “card-carrying liberal” card.

A Ms. Roselle, whose name never previously registered with me and who I don’t think I know, sends me an email. It appears she got my name because someone she knows has me on his emailing list and he doesn’t know how to preserve email privacy by using the “blind copy” capabilities of his emailer. No real biggee, that. It’s not like I’m a shrinking wallflower. I can handle the unthinking “forgive-me-for-not-realizing-I’ve-lost-all-my-marbles-but-well-I’ve-lost-all-my-marbles-so-how-would-I-know?” crowd better than I can handle the unthinking conservative crowd anyway. After all, their mistakes are often just inane and almost always harmless and entertaining (primarily because they’re so far left, they’ve hardly a chance anyone will listen to them, let alone implement their occasionally detrimental beliefs).

She writes to tell me that she thinks America is “totally warped” because, after all, “a tit is just a tit.”

Now don’t get me wrong. I like tits. In fact, I like them a lot. When I see a woman in public who is apparently just dying to show off her tits, it takes a lot of restraint on my part not to oblige her by staring. I know that even though she’s a 38-DD stuffed into a shirt meant to barely conceal a 32-A, with décolletage reaching to her pudendum, I’m not supposed to notice. I remind myself that it doesn’t make much sense to expend all that energy looking, since there’s not a snowball’s chance in — well, you get the point — but I’d be a freakin’ liar if I tried to say I always succeeded in not losing control of my scrutinous vitreous globes. And I’m not trying to be nasty, either. If you thought I was going to say, “snowballs chance in heck that I can have sex with her,” that’s not what I was going to say. (I was going to say, “…that I would actually see her tits in all their glory.”) Tits are just one of many things in the world that are, well, pretty. They’re nice to look at.

Nevertheless, a large portion of the world cannot help but equate tits with sex. Heck, I’m not positive that my own reason for thinking them pretty and nice to look at isn’t because I’ve been conditioned to make that leap of illogic. I don’t think that’s my reason, but I could just be kidding myself. I am a basically-socialized American male, after all — and this isn’t really an attituded limited to the United States, France notwithstanding.

The fact of the matter, though, is that in the real world, showing off one’s tits on national television in the United States is just not socially-acceptable behavior. For whatever reason, Americans have considered that to be unacceptable behavior for at least as long as national television has existed. And before national television was invented, Americans thought that showing off mammary glands in public — at least human female mammary glands — was more than just poor taste. We’ve pretty much always considered it to be something that is reserved for only partial exposure; it’s either a necessary evil (if you’re a Puritan) or for — if you’ll forgive the pun — titillation (if you’re Hugh Hefner and any one of the millions of other Americans, male and female).

One could even argue that Janet Jackson would not have bothered to show her tit on national television if it wasn’t such a shocking idea. To her it was just a tool to boost her popularity and ensconce her reputation as some kind of brave artiste. And even though I thought it was a nice enough tit, it was a pretty un-original approach to showing one’s “avante-gardeness.”

The Yellow Times article about the idiocy of thinking that Janet’s unannounced titillating tit unveiling which was included in Ms. Roselle’s email notes,

The cheerleaders, a vacuous bunch to be sure, can show it all the way to the panties. Who cares if you don’t see their nipples; the effect is still the same. If the “offense” of the breast is sexual, the cheerleaders are much more offensive than Miss Jackson. Her breast was not a turn-on. If it was a clothing malfunction, I’m sure many “shocked” women, deep in their hearts, can understand. We’ve all dived into the deep end of the pool, came up, and found one hanging out of the suit. Feel sorry for Janet: most of us don’t have that moment in front of hundreds of millions of people.

There’s more than one problem with this characterization — and I’m not just pointing out the vacuous pot calling the kettle black. First of all, the argument appears to be that if you “can show it all the way to the panties,” you ought to be able to show it all…period. That’s a slippery slope if ever I saw one. You don’t even need the Vasoline-smeared, sparkling cheerleaders to have a problem standing on that one.

The thing in the United States is that — somewhat to my disappointment, I’ll confess — while you can show it all the way to the panties, that’s as far as you can show it. The suggestion that a thing is about to be presented to one’s eager eyes is not the same as the presentment. One might as well argue that since “Happy Days” frequently hinted at Fonzie “scoring,” they might as well show the actual consummation of his theoretically-numerous sex acts on prime-time television.

And one has to ask whether it’s the far-left vacuity, hypocrisy, or merely self-delusion that causes Emily Reinhardt (the writer of “A tit is just a tit“) to argue that

[t]his little white boy exposed a member of one of the most powerful and bizarre African-American entertainment dynasties. To speak of the racial aspect of Boobgate is more taboo than to speak of the sexual, but it is a pathetic irony that the interracial duet ended with a long-standing tradition of American racial relations: a black woman being molested by a white man. Strom Thurmond and Thomas Jefferson are giving thumbs-up from their graves.

Ms. Reinhardt doesn’t just assume, by implication she expects that her readers will assume, that Janet Jackson, the African-American entertainment dynasty, was so stupid and self-hating (or overwhelmed by her relative status as “a black woman” to Justin Timberlake’s “white man” status???) that she was not actually playing a part in an interracial duet — she was helping perpetuate “a long-standing tradition of tradition of American racial relations: a black woman being molested by a white man.” And why should I disagree with Ms. Reinhardt? I mean, it’s impossible to conceive of this any other way. I could never believe that Janet Jackson and Justine Timberlake were naively-liberated enough to view this just as a “man-woman” (and not a “white man-black woman”) thing. I mean, sure, I can believe they’re liberated enough to have him rip off part of her bodice on national TV, but I can’t believe they’re liberated enough to get past the race thing.

(Truth be told, I think they not only did not have Ms. Reinhardt’s racial hang-ups, but they also believed that the “attack” was not so much an attack as a positive and exciting manifestation of lust. I certainly understand that their lack of consciousness of this as an attack is the very thing that makes this theoretically-socially-imprinted paradigm upsetting to “more enlightened” folk. However, I think that it’s entirely possible that it’s this way only for the “more-enlightened” folk. To a certain extent, there’s a question here of intent. You don’t have to buy that; just cogitate on it a bit, rather than merely being socially-imprinted yourself by “more-enlightened” folk.)

And if Ms. Reinhardt is such an advanced thinker — so advanced that she agrees with the French that American attitudes about sex are quaint — then what’s with this?

Speaking of the Jackson clan, maybe it was out of family loyalty that Janet pulled this stunt. It removed her brother’s woes from the front page, at least for a nanosecond. But Michael Jackson should be getting more attention that one meandering breast. Indeed, if he showed more interest in breasts, perhaps he wouldn’t have the problems he is facing.

So Michael Jackson, yet to be convicted of any crimes (except in the press and, maybe, Ms. Reinhardt’s mind), should be getting more public attention? And that because he’s (according to Ms. Reinhardt, apparently a close personal friend) not interested enough in breasts? Are my comments here any more absurd than Ms. Reinhardt’s speculation that Justine Timberlake re-enacted a long-standing tradition of American racial relations?

Seriously, Ms. Reinhardt: Which is it? Do we feel pity because Janet dove into the deep end of the pool and came up in front of hundreds of millions of people only “to find one [breast] hanging out of the suit”? Or do we get pissed off at her, Justine Timberlake, or both, for glamorizing the white man’s molestation of black women? Or do we honor devoted sister Janet for her willingness to sacrifice her modesty in order to get her brother’s plight off the news, if only for a few moments?

The simple fact of the matter is this: In the United States of America, for whatever reasons (good, bad, indifferent or just uptight), showing naked body parts in all their glory on national television is unacceptable. We may hint around about it. We may even test the limits of just how close we can come to showing completely naked body parts on national television. But whether from residual intelligence or out of respect, we don’t, as a nation, push them out there with nothing but a pewter nipple collar — not even for two seconds — for people who would rather not experience the results of our liberated attitudes.

And for those of you rabid far-left liberals, I herewith demonstrate to you just how offensive it is: Ms. Roselle, since you so strongly concur that it’s such a trivial thing — so quaint a thing over which to be offended — that you had to email me that getting worked up over it was “totally warped,” would you mind showing me your tit?

Yeah…. Somehow I didn’t think so.

Categories: Social Issues


7 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Steve // Feb 19, 2004 at 7:03 am

    You are warped, Rick.

    But, that’s OK, you’ve got great boobs.


  • 2 Rick // Feb 19, 2004 at 8:19 am

    Thanks, Steve. I actually intend to discuss my boobs in the follow up to this which I hope to post by tonight.

    As noted in the “Update” section that I added to this comment a few minutes ago, I’m in the odd position of being offended by my own post.

    I intend to dig into the original point, the style I used and why I find it offensive in the follow-up.

  • 3 Harry // Feb 19, 2004 at 9:03 am

    I must admit, I have more of a problem with the simulated violence of the act, the fact that an article of clothing was torn off another person. I would not have had a problem even with this if it were a drama show, shown in the evening, with fictional characters portrayed by actors. Drama reflects our world and sometimes art reflects unpleasant realities of our world.

    But this was not a dramatization. These were stars who act as role-models, targeting their product to a younger audience, many of whom would be sat in front of the TV at that time.

    Whether or not all the layers of clothing were meant to come off is irrelevant, in my opinion. The fact that a woman was seen to have her clothes ripped off by another person makes it a simulated assault. If a young, impressionable boy were to re-enact that with a class-mate, they would likely be suspended – and rightly so. Race has nothing to do with it, except that society appears to have chosen to treat pre-meditated and racially motivated crime more severely (not an expert on this, just a layman’s perception). I do not believe this was racially motivated except in the mind of those who see discrimination everywhere.

    Public exposure of a body part has little to do with my distaste at the entire affair, but it did exceed the current social mores, making it inappropriate for national television. But it concerns me greatly that the simulated violence of the act does not raise eyebrows, while the revealing of a body part causes outrage. It sends a very subtle message: “if a man rips off a woman’s clothes, then the woman should be shamed for exposing herself”.

    It is an excellent example of the media’s control of the opinions of the population. To the marketing moguls, violence is ok. After all, violence promotes fear, fear promotes the need for security, security can be found by buying a safer car, better cleaning products, security systems, the latest drugs. Sex can sell, usually by showing a person what they do not have, making them feel they need it (fear of not having) and can have it if they buy. Mix the two…

    Sex has also been a standard means of social control throughout time. Some species of animals allow only the strongest alpha-males to breed; strange cults through the ages that controlled the sexual behavior of those they recruited. Sometimes is it not so obvious, armies denied sexual release then promised the right to rape and pillage makes them fight harder – even though the sexual nature of the build-up is not overt. Many religions, when they become secular powers, develop strict rules of sexual conduct, control that primal aspect of the people and you control much more. So the sexual overtones of the performance will naturally create outrage in those who seek to control other people’s lives, whether for personal gain (send donation for the latest glass cathedral to be erected) or from a fear that if someone else thinks or feels or acts differently, it is a threat to their self worth (after all, what if the ‘other person’ is right?).

    All in all, a storm in a C-cup.

  • 4 Rick // Feb 19, 2004 at 11:33 am

    Harry, wouldn’t “tempest in a C cup” be funnier?

    Or were you doing an impression of Biff from the “Back to the Future” series? (With his famous lines such as “Make like a tree and get outta here” instead of “Make like a tree and leave.”)

  • 5 abi // Feb 20, 2004 at 5:38 am

    Silly me…here I am exposing my breasts, one at a time, in public places, almost every day. Had the right one out in a children’s play park yesterday, as a matter of fact. I need to find a way to get paid to do this.

    (Settle, petals, and don’t buy any plane tickets to Scotland. I’m a breastfeeding mother. Tits out in public is normal behaviour. Which is *my* take on how screwed up this whole thing is…)

  • 6 Rick // Feb 20, 2004 at 7:04 am

    You’ll get no argument from me that Americans have “issues” relating to the human body. I *deserve* my “card-carrying liberal” label for my attitudes on that.

    Yet the issues I’m trying to address in this post — and hopefully I’ll do a better job on the next post about this — have to do with how one group of people judges the values of another. At heart, it’s part anthropological problem and part metaphysics.

    Some of the people (around here, at least) going off on how “quaint” and/or silly and/or stupid the *average* American is behaving about the situation have, in my opinion, failed to recognize that they, like the people they love to mock, are subject to the forces of socialization as well. That they’ve got a different set of beliefs that they feel make more sense and/or are more humane and might even *be* more of those things is often as much an accident of their place in the veridical physical, physiological and sociological universe as is the fact that those they mock have “the more provincial” view.

    And I tend to agree that the minority view on this is the better choice, but my agreement is irrelevant to my point. I, too, am subject to the forces of socialization.

    And not just me and the other liberals I know, but even the best thinkers of the world, even those who are the most thoughtful on these issues, are, themselves unable to completely escape enculturation.

  • 7 Bob // Feb 20, 2004 at 8:51 am

    OK campers, we’re missing two points here…

    1 – This is America where everyone has a ‘right’ to anything. Usually the smallest minority can make the news by the mere mention that someone (usually the government) is violating their ‘rights’.

    The pendulum swings very far in America as regards sex and things sexual. There are those you enjoy orgies and those who don’t even get undressed to take a shower. They both have the ‘right’ to do as they please.

    What was violated here was the tacit agreement that there were ‘safe’ zones where those leaning more to the conservative side (especially those with families) could feel reasonably safe that the risks were low and those who lived in an opposite world of values would not challenge them there. This is the world of network TV. Tease but don’t flaunt. And the FCC was the referee making sure no lines crossed.

    It is exactly this agreement that was violated. I feel badly for those who thought that the Super Bowl was about football, that their children would see heros in the making. This was a stage for legends of sport and that was always a ‘safe’ place. (Yes, athletes are often NOT role models but that usually takes place OFF the field).

    The breast exposure was a desperate act of two artists who feed their addiction to public attention by doing and saying outreagous things fairly often. These two were no longer being identified with the ‘hot’ musicians, they were on the slippery slope to ‘has been’.

    The list of these attention addicted types includes those who get fifty hour marriages annuled (Britney), get notariety for taking the virginity of a ‘good girl’ singer (Justin), go to rehab as an excuse for felony public behavior (Courtney Love), have 14 year old children check into rehab for alcohol and drug abuse (Ozzy Osbourne), etc.

    Jackson’s act was completely out of bounds. If CBS gets fined per station as the FCC is threatening I am fully in agreement that Jackson should pay, not CBS. I agree that she should not have been anywhere near the Grammy Awards (those awards are for musicians anyway, she didn’t qualify).

    This society, if it to continue to honor the ‘rights’ of everyone and survive, has to establish buffer zones. It’s obvious that a buffer zone was violated for profit by a desperate entertainer. That entertainer should be punished in a substantial monetary way since that will effect their quality of life and that, as we all know, is what they value most.

    2 – My second point is that Jackson and Timberlake are not musicians. Please don’t call them that. They are entertainers, much like seals that balance beach balls on their nose. They are a curiosity that does not endure the test of time. They were invented by marketing machines of huge record companies. They don’t exist in real life.

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