19 Aug 2014, 2:54pm

The Body Politic

I feel my inner old fogie [she is inner, isn’t she?] when I see a bra strap.

Because certain women in my youth [but never men] would hiss something or give a nastily appraising eye on the morals of someone who wasn’t vigilant of keeping her bras strap hidden. It reminds me of the Muslim women who used to police each other for a stray hair slipping out of their hijab. Cover it and hair can be inferred. One props up the “happy fish” (as John Lavery put it) on cloth slings to make them more prominent and make arrowhead scoop necks and dangle jewelry to point the eye but somehow it’s the bra strap that is the fall guy of being too overt.

There was a hurried tuck and blush to correct. Maybe it was unkempt like a zipper down but I still occasionally hear “hussy” or “whore” come out of the ancient chorus in a back room of my head when I see a slipped strap or mismatched shirt so the bra shows on the outside.

It seems symptomatic of what we think the body is and what clothes do. Assuming it is not warm enough to exist naked, or that it is too sunny to not hide from cancer, why do we wrap ourselves in cloth?

Is it to display beauty, selectively show bits and celebrate color and be peahens or peacocks?

Or is it to hide shame of being born evil, but must ventilate without being too morally judged or tempting?

You may recall the Skirt length significance from a couple years ago from matronly on up. Funny, does this happen with men’s shirt cuffs? Or there’s other nonsense governing skewed ideas of mores there. Or do men police each other for being flashy and study at one shirt cuff length and chastised for a short-sleeve too long and loose?

To hit middle of the acceptable for time and place isn’t to get off the merry-go-round. To become the Suicide Girls and rewrite rules of engagement is still engaging the news cycle rather than overwriting the rules. I suppose any nudge changes the centre point.

Skin doesn’t equal sex and shape doesn’t. We know this and yet don’t any more than we can distinguish our truths from our fictions.

Sexualness is the context of the act. No one while being in public going about their daily life is likely promenading, intending to provoke sexual response. They are living.

If there is intended provocativeness it doesn’t matter what cloth or lack of cloth is there. It can’t be missed.

If it can be neutral for kids to run around in swimsuits or change their clothes on the beach, why is it any different for adults to? If kids must hide, who is it from?

We police one another for imagined of what might happen, for rules that are misguidedly reinforcing the notion that if you show your ankle, or wear non-sombre colours, or tailored clothes, or move your body in a large gestural box, this is related to morality or conflated with sexuality.

It’s understandable since people are looking for signs, for indications of interest. But the clues are flickering not constants like BMI or clothes put on hours before the context.

before and after
[Both are photoshopped incidentally.]

In a way bras are allowed to be scapegoating Eve. To display breasts is to play the game and to hide them is to refuse to play the game which is presumed as lack of awareness and intelligence of the game of gender roles and supporting the great mass of society.

The neutral human form is male as any health intake form or biology chart shows. Males can stand in for females but not the reverse. Like the news from April how the co-screenwriter of Noah explained that white people are neutral and can stand in for everyone, explaining why his picture had an Ark and no people of colour. He felt a mixing of “races” would be distracting and artificial construct. I don’t know where *he* lives but when the average face varies to a degree.

I remember riding the city bus from Palm Springs to Cathedral City to Indio. The land went from tall-walled and irrigated, people from white and tall to pure desert and shacks and all the people getting shorter and browner. I feel Ottawa is less zoned but then on the bus, I know I’m near the crossing of Somerset whenever the average ratio of asians increases. I go towards South Keys and suddenly there are people in hijabs and buildings with arabic-lettered signs. As church let out in the neighbourhood, black people came onto the sidewalk talking. I see a black person now and again around the shops, more so at poetry readings.

We still are in our racial encampments. We are still in our gendered encampments. It is more diluted and porous than when I was growing up. People are just people and yet in a room there’s a density of females clustering together and males clustering together. If it were random, wouldn’t it mix more often?

Why can’t gender be neutral? Why prevents females from being neutral? Why aren’t shapes neutral?

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