Naked.

March 23, 2007

Here’s a topic likely to drive the wrong sort of traffic to my site. First thing’s first: this is not pornography. This is not voyeurism, as such. It is, however, about empowerment.

I spotted on Flickr a set entitled Support Topless Women. Now you see why I placed the disclaimer at the top of the post; no doubt this entry will attract attention either via Google or via the various appropriate tags.

The purpose of the set seems vague. Certainly the last photo in the set celebrates a woman’s right to be topless in public in one part of New York. Which brings up the question: why, in the enlightened 21st century, is it actually an offence in some places for a woman to walk around topless?

Let’s think about this.

Primary sexual characteristics are those parts that are required for natural procreation. The external genitalia, to use such a horrendously clinical term, are the bits that we can see and, erm, touch. I can understand people covering these parts, for reasons of hygiene, dignity, etc. The other guys on the street don’t need to be embarrassed when I gleefully swing past them, for example.

Secondary sexual organs are the bits that help define us. Things like facial hair, muscular definition and strength, general body shape, placement and volume of body hair, placement of body fat, etc. The things that make women women, and men men. These things are never as ubiquitously offensive as, say, a naked penis in the bakery section of the local grocery store. Some people may be offended by a muscular man, just as some may be offended by a naked breast, just as some may be offended by a hairy back.

So why exactly is a naked breast considered illegal by some, while a hairy back is not? I’d wager that more people would find a hairy back more offensive these days than a naked breast.

Of course, I can understand that the idea of exposing breasts on the street as casually as you would a Somerfield bag is a scary one, especially given the number of men around who barely manage to scrape together the requirements to join the human race. But that’s not my point.

Why is the naked breast, arguably a thing of beauty in the same way the rest of the human body is, such an offensive thing to some people?

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F_email.

March 9, 2007

Attached to International Women’s Day, just passed on Thursday, Cisco have launched F_email.

Now, the F_email scheme is apparently aiming to improve the tech skills of women in some nations which might not traditionally be thought of as “tech rich” nations, or indeed nations where more traditional values still hold onto societal roles. If done in a “gently, gently” manner, this certainly isn’t a bad idea.

So why then is it labeled as it is? Isn’t even the very name of this scheme tremendously condescending? To me, it screams “you’re different, but that’s okay. We’ll help you out. We’ll give you the extra help you need to achieve what the men already can.”

I’m sure Cisco means well, but I really don’t think something like this helps.