Friday, August 04, 2006

National bipolar disorder about tits

OK, actually femininity in general, but "tits" will probably get more hits from Google wankers. I refer to the two extremes of Puritanical modesty vs. titty exhibitionism and the high-volume, self-righteous, straitlaced moral outrage that invariably follows. On one end of the spectrum, you have people who are offended by images of breast-feeding. Note that the partly visible nursing boob in question was on the cover of BabyTalk magazine, not Penthouse. "There's a huge Puritanical streak in Americans, and there's a squeamishness about seeing a body part — even part of a body part... It's not like women are whipping them out with tassels on them! Mostly, they are trying to be discreet," says the editor. You go, girl. Then we have my old favorite Michelle Duggar, she of the nuclear-powered uterus, who just doesn't have enough to do with taking care of more than a dozen kids but she has to MAKE HER DAUGHTERS' DRESSES HERSELF so as to ensure sufficient "modesty," as she explained on a TLC documentary a while back. Check out this photo from 1994 (she had only 14 kids then) and note how her snazzily gigantic Peter Pan yoke goes right up the larynx. Apparently she ran out of white cotton fabric for the girls' dresses (maybe she's using it to make modestly baggy undies for the boys). No wonder more women don't breast-feed. I myself always tried to be discreet (refraining from nursing while giving a talk to a roomful of people, for example), but damned if I was gonna sequester myself in shame in some grimy public bathroom and nurse while sitting fully clothed on a toilet.

On the exhibitionist extreme, you have women flashing The Girls just to get attention (and they certainly get it), such as Janet Jackson's wardrobe malfunction, in which a one-second shot of a nipple pushed news of famine and war off the web and TV for several days. Or the everyday fashions of the rich and tacky such as Bai Ling or, God forbid, Pamela Sue Anderson, self-made cheap floozy whose career took off after she went haywire with breast enlargement.

Then we have the worst of all — kiddie spas — which have wonderful results such as sexualize girls at a very young age, addition to driving home insecurity about their looks, and building a whopping case of privilege and superficiality. The mothers justify it as teaching their daughters about hygiene and good skin care. Give me a fucking break.

Let's talk about male grooming instead, especially Jewish male grooming. This arose from a discussion with Ben of the word "haberdasher." He said they sold toupees while I maintained they didn't and sold mostly hats (he was wrong but I wasn't entirely correct either). Through some byzantine web surfing, I came upon some headgear that no Jewish man should be without, such as Velcro to keep your yarmulke (called kippahs in Heblish or kippot in Hebrew) from falling off. Its brand name? "Kippon," of course. Or these lovely hand-painted yarmulkes marketed as Mazeltops. Guests at Jewish wedding and bar/bat mitzvahs often get a souvenir kippah printed with the person's or couple's name. Scroll down on that site to see a new bovine take on this idea. Finally, this isn't specifically Jewish, but have you ever heard of toupee tape? Neither had I. This is way more embarrassing than bikini waxing or denture cream, don't you think? Note that it's actually called "toupee/lingerie tape." Are we talking about Miss America swimsuit contestants? Thong issues and basic wedgie avoidance? Looks like Bai Ling (again) could have used some.

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