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Keeping Abreast of Decency

Today our national leaders are meeting to discuss decency in the corporate media. In other words, while a US-induced global conflict rages, they're talking about boobies and nasty words. And they seem to be doing it with a straight face.
I didn't watch the superbowl. I never do. But if I had known Janet Jackson would be unveiling corporate media hypocracy, among other things, during the halftime show, perhaps I would have tuned in after all. Certainly the fallout (no pun intended) has been more than entertaining.

We have it all in American media. We have "reality" shows about everything from real life cops exploiting the broken pieces of people's lives to beautiful yet amazingly shallow women and men in thongs wallowing in hot tubs ala the 1970s. We have every kind of freak show. We even have pornographic "news" shows that glorify war to our children, making light of real-life terror and carnage by sanitizing it all into maudlin stories about "hometown heros." And yet, in the midst of all this, America freaked out over a breast. My God! It was just a breast!

My initial reaction to all this is to laugh. I mean, it's funny. Who would have expected such pious and puritanical outrage over a mere breast in the 21st century? But, on thinking about this more, there's something not so funny about it after all.

Women's bodies are objectified every day in the corporate media. They're used to sell everything from power tools to underwear. Bare breasts seem to be acceptable if they belong to half-naked, half-starved women writhing around in their Victoria's Secret trusses, selling products along with themselves. It's fine for Bally's or Ferrari or Coors to uncover bits and pieces of women's anatomy for a buck. But God help the woman who takes control over her own body and whips out a breast at will, with no corporate sanction and no advance notice.

As I watch the furor unfold, I am constantly seized with the urge to remind everyone, it was only a breast. Unleashed without the patriarchal authority of controlled commerce perhaps, but a breast nonetheless. We all have them. Who hasn't seen one before? Why are they so scary to American authority? Why is it legal for a man to remove his shirt in public, but not a woman? Why is Mel Gibson's breast prime time, but Janet Jackson's breast "indecent"? Why is it acceptable for corporations to profit from the objectification and exploitation of women's bodies, but not for a woman to freely choose to uncover her own body?

I don't have the answers to any of these questions. I don't think anyone else does, either. The truth is, the boobie issue smacks of double standards (again, no pun intended), and the transparent attempts at self-righteous indignation over Janet's breast make no sense. It is particularly revealing (!) that the corporate media chooses to replay the Janet Boob clip over and over at every opportunity, even as they posture about the shocking indecency of it all. When they reply it, after all, they're using it for commercial gain, and the mighty breast is again bent to the will of corporate profit rather than individual choice.
Decency goes WAYYYYYYYYYY beyond what this article touches on 26.Feb.2004 09:38


It has to do with the indecent president killing 40,000 Iraquis for money, not weapons or terrorism. I has to do with the indecent congress authorizing this massacre basically because they are racist murderers. It has to do with a stupid population that has been told there is now no real reason for a war which they still support because they are too fucking stupid to realize that they are being used and had. It has to do with a media that is the absolute antithesis of decency in everything they do and for every reason they do it. Decency has to much to do with racist honky redneck imbeciles sitting on church pews supporting death and genocidal killing all around the world while making sound and fury about abortion, which they practice. Decency is the toll paid for having reached this point in amerikkkan history - it seems american whites are totally out of touch with what decency is and has been for decades...

I know 26.Feb.2004 11:32

Diogenes Laerteis

If everybody could see breasts (for free), nobody would buy beer or cigaretttes in hope of seeing a breast.

Commenters missing the point 26.Feb.2004 12:42


In the 21st century, women's bodies are still being objectified and used as toys at the same time they are reviled as somehow "indecent." This is the point. As long as our bodies are for sale to others, but not for us to control on our own, we are not free. As long as women face arrest or censure for exposing parts of themselves that men expose every day, we are not free. And as long as our bodies are seen as unclean, indecent, and immoral, we are not equal citizens.

It IS just a breast. How funny and how frightening that it took an unlicensed bare breast to spark a debate about decency in the media, when we have for so long been treated to homicides, rapes, animals being eaten alive, racist, sexist and homophobic shock jocks, and something called "the littlest groom."

Abandon corporate media.

Note to Self 26.Feb.2004 12:52

John Ashcroft

"Bare breasts seem to be acceptable if they belong to half-naked, half-starved..."

Oh yeah. That reminds me. We need to ban that $@&*%@! National Geographic!
It's been on newstands and coffee tables and in doctor's offices right where children could see it, for decades!

Sharp point 26.Feb.2004 21:00

Diogenes Laerteis

They don't sell -- bait and switch -- women whimsically. They do it for reasons (pl).

One of those reasons is to sell beer and cigarettes, four-bedroom split-level bungalows, foreign wars, crooked presidents, cocaine, and all the other shit men buy because they imagine there is a stupid woman chained to it. Another reason, the same actually, is to induce them to tune in again next year, with hope.

i 27.Feb.2004 16:39


right on about comment about racist whites being out of touch with decency.btw i think mlk said ''content of character'' because thars what the african american HAS to offer to our society.character , because this place has got enuf machines and poisons!!

Author is Correct 01.Mar.2004 15:22

Some guy

The reason that AOL wants part of it's $10m investment to sponsor the halftime show returned, is that no one was talking about their ads after the stupid bowl was over. They are pissed because Janet Jackson one-upped them and stole for free what advertisers across the country paid $2.25m/30 seconds for. Good for her. Janet Jackson wins. for now. but Michael Powell seems to be on a mission to get revenge attempting to enact new decency laws. hypocracy abounds. Banning "pornography" is not the answer. that is as much as i know.

"Pornography?" 07.Mar.2004 15:14


To Some Guy,

A breast is not pornography. Catwoman tried to make the point that men have so hypersexualized women's bodies that women's bodies are the physical embodiument of All That Is Sex according to our male-dominant culture, and you've gone and proven you can't divorce the SEXSEXSEX from the sight of a woman's breast.

A bared breast isn't "pornography" unless you come from the point of view that women's breasts exist primarily to provide masterbation material. That is part of the problem, Some Guy, men's inability to see female breasts as anything but sexee and porny, and in America 2004 that still means dirty and taboo despite the Sexual Revolution's attempt to give female sexuality some of autonomy male sexuality has always enjoyed.