Gimbling in the Wabe – Blinders

by Sharon Browning

gimbling header

(In which there is profanity as a point of discussion and talk of partial nudity in the same vein;
even though it’s all pretty genial, consider yourself warned.)

I was perusing Pinterest the other day, looking for ideas for a dinnertime meal that all the disparate palates in my family maybe, just maybe, might agree upon, when I came across a picture of a t-shirt, presumably for sale, I love tacossomewhere, that someone (a bot, maybe, who knows?) thought was cute or cool or worth sharing.  It was grey, and it had a clip-art style taco on it, and in block letters it declared “Holy shit, I <3 tacos.”  A short ways later there was a tank top (women’s), black, with “butter yo shit” across it in lower case letters.  Almost immediately after that I saw a white tee with a pink candy-conversation heart on it (like gets handed out in grade schools across the nation on Valentine’s Day) with the words “eat shit”, in all caps, kind of in your face, emblazoned across the graphic.

I wasn’t offended by any of these shirts (in fact, I kind of liked the “butter yo shit” one, being a “cook” who doesn’t hesitate to use butter as often as possible).  Yet I couldn’t help but think that it really says something about our society when wearing a witty (presumably) article of clothing trumps public decency.  Now, wait!  I’m not eschewing any kind of dress code, nor am I peering over my pince-nez’s at anyone.  I’m not a prude!  But I’ve been thinking a lot about the filters that we erect around our perceptions (see last week’s Gimbling in the Wabe for more on that), and how the information we let in – or don’t let in – to our own mindsets can color the way we see life (or block it out), and it seems to me that a logical progression of this thought leads to the blinders that we may also put up around our own perceptions.

Such as thinking that wearing a shirt that has both scandal (profanity!) and joy (tacos!) in public couldn’t possibly do any harm worth worrying about.

Now again, as with filters, blinders can be an important and valuable part of who we are.  Some of us simply can’t process certain types of input or stimuli; we need to be able to not only filter information that may alarm or even harm us, but be able to block it from our lives whenever possible.  For example, I have a hard time with gore.  I simply cannot stomach it.  So if I happen to go to a horror movie, or action/adventure movie where there is going to be a certain level of grossness, you can bet I’m going to shut my eyes whenever the threat of bloodletting occurs.  Probably even block my ears, too, because sound is something I seem to be sensitive to, as well.  (And no, I don’t scrutinize wrecks when I drive past them.)  The same thing with stress.  If I am stressed – even when watching, say, my favorite sports team in a close, important competition – I’ll close my eyes and cover my ears when things get too intense.  I suppose I could walk out of the room, but I still want to be present – just protected.  I figuratively blind myself to what’s going on.

This is adding protective blinders, and I’m pretty sure it’s valuable to our wellbeing.  Of course, there’s the other end of the “blocking things out” spectrum, where one turns a blind eye to things that really should be seen.  That’s not good.  But to be honest, I’m not thinking about extremes here, I’m wanting to look at the stuff in the middle.

There’s nothing wrong with declaring “Holy shit, I love tacos!,” especially if you do love tacos.  But – and here’s the rub – isn’t it quite possible that declaring “Holy shit, I love tacos!” on a shirt that is displayed in public shows a willingness to erect blinders around one’s social vision?  Regardless of the wearer’s views regarding public profanity, if there is a fairly good chance of someone else being offended (say, the parent accompanied by elementary school aged children who must then explain/deal with youngsters parroting the saying; or older and/or more traditional types being upset by it as a matter of principle), is it really worth displaying that kind of flippant self expression?  That which is considered witty amongst friends is not necessary appropriate elsewhere.  Yet it seems that we as a society are encouraged to flaunt what we share and how we share it while relaxing behind blinders that either make us unaware or uncaring as to how our interactions impact others.

This can happen even when the motivations are good.

On August 23, a few hundred women gathered in Gold Medal Park here in Minneapolis in solidarity with the 8th annual “National Go Topless Day”.  It was a “celebratory declaration that being topless in public should not be a ‘men only’ activity,” according to the StarTribune, the local newspaper.  The event’s Facebook page further stated, “As long as men are allowed to be topless in public, women should have the same constitutional right.  It is time for women to achieve the same rights.  Skin is skin.”

I agree with the thought behind this process.  It ties in to how men that should be held accountable for their behavior, rather than women having to curtail behavior in order to enable a male default allowing them to act/react any way they want.  I get that, I’m all for that.  I’m also all for desexualizing the primary focus of women’s bodies, perhaps especially the breasts (huzzah to all those breastfeeding moms out there!).

However, there’s a time and a place for this sort of initiative… and now is not yet the time.  Pushing for the right to go topless is fine for young women who are proud of their bodies, but in our society – at this time – body shaming in general is still way too prevalent (even among young women who are proud of their bodies) for this kind of movement to be positive for all (or I believe, even a majority of) women.  There needs to be a heckuva lot more work done in the area of accepting others’ body types as fine and dandy (even or especially by young women proud of their own bodies) before further exposure of the female (or male!) body could be demanded as a right without further inflicting more anxiety and shame on women who don’t fit the young/healthy norm – those women who are obese, who are older, who are infirm or disabled, who have a negative body image, or simply women who are not in as good of shape as they could be.

Make having a non-young/non-fit body more socially acceptable and less apt to be publically shamed, and then we can talk about how it should be a woman’s right to bare her breasts in public.

Which isn’t to say bringing attention to the double standard or need to even the ante is a “bad” thing (and that does seem to be the focus of this group – I don’t want to throw shade on their intentions).  It’s just that if it were to go any further, if there were to be a crusade on behalf of a certain segment of the population (women), then all of that segment of the population should see a real benefit, rather than the benefit going to a smaller, vocal group.  If any significant portion of the impacted population would find the outcome of the crusade, in reality, at best hefting an unrealistic expectation and at worst an added burden, then the focus should instead become the deeper need (in this example, body shaming vs body exposure).

Otherwise, the crusaders are simply putting up blinders that keep them from seeing an issue from any other angle than their own, which could end up being quite hurtful.  Whenever we speak for others, or whenever we decide to assert our own sensibilities outside of our own controlled environment, we need to step back, evaluate our filters and check our blinders before we form opinions or take actions that impact others rather than just ourselves.

Right?  That makes sense, doesn’t it?  Or am I being obtuse, myself?  Could be.  It’s happened before, even though I’m working on it.  Filters and blinders… they’re difficult to deal with, sometimes.  Totally worth the effort, though.

But I still haven’t found any good options for dinner.

~ Sharon Browning

Related Posts