Sunday, September 27, 2009
A Tale of Two Tit Exposures: Janet Jackson, President Obama, the FCC, and Gender
Five years ago much of the nation erupted into an extreme panic after viewing a portion of Janet Jackson's right breast; her nipple was concealed. This was a classic moment of "Americans are from Mars. . .Darren is from Venus." I simply could not understand the (fake) outrage -- especially with so many partially and fully uncovered nipples brazenly presenting themselves daily on television and in the print media. The anti-nipple protests were also louder than criticism of the still ongoing and still unnecessary war in Iraq.
Gender and Toplessness
Many feminists have explored the gender dimensions of toplessness, and American nipple-hysteria has presented many occasions for engaging in critical analysis of this issue. Breastfeeding is probably the most intriguing example of nipple hysteria. Women who publicly feed their kids the "natural way" have caused moral outrage across the country. Based on some of the reactions, I fear that many people who apparently could not resist watching public breastfeeding before complaining about it will undoubtedly become blind or even serial killers. We should definitely stop this breastfeeding menace before it gets out of control!
The FCC's recent decision to re-investigate Janet Jackson's wardrobe malfunction -- after a string of court losses -- leads me to ask the following question: How can the FCC honestly go after CBS and Jackson again when President Obama's nipples have provided the stimulus for millions of magazine sales? A gendered approach to the issue clearly exists. Women's nipples are indecent unless they are in porn videos or feeding babies in a remote location unknown to other Americans. By contrast, men's nipples are not smutty. In fact, they are presidential. Why?
PS: Of course, Obama is not the only male to go topless without offending the nation, but I think it is interesting that the FCC is investigating female nipples while the executive head of all federal agencies (including the FCC) has gone topless in the media without incident.