Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Flashback: Women's group tries to ban hairy-chested men from pool

Really off-topic, but sometimes we need a laugh because the gravity of our posts can be overwhelming. Here's a bizarre little article that I thought was both hilarious and mind-boggling at the same time.  It's about a New York country club in the mid-30s (this was reported in the June 29, 1936 Ottawa Citizen) discussing a women's group's protest that tried to keep hairy-chested men out of the pool. (h/t to A.R.) The men should either "denude their hairy torsos or wear shirts," said the women.

I don't know how this particular protest worked out, but I don't think it ever became a larger movement.  Still I wonder, what was there about chest hair that offended these women?  They didn't seem to have a problem with hairless chests -- you know, men who look like boys.

It reminded me of the story we reported last year when Britain's most popular theme park banned men from wearing the dreaded Speedos.  Among the lessons to be gleaned from that little incident were the following: when women are told to cover up on airplanes (obviously because their attire will engender arousal among the male clientele), the feminists had a conniption, and the airline backed down, because the issue was framed in terms of discrimination against women.  But when men are told to cover up, obviously because some women think the sight of male bulges are "gross" (not "arousing," mind you), everybody is just fine with it, no one dares scream "discrimination," and the arbiters of all things gender-related -- the cackling hens who write features articles for major dailies -- give it their blessing because they don't want to see men wear Speedos. Never mind that some men want to wear them (for reasons that are none of my business).

But let's flash back to the flashback for a moment:  the women's movement to get men to cover up their chests obviously never took off.  And this failure was rather strange because there were strong forces of morality at work to compel men and boys, hairy or not, to cover up.  It might seem strange to us, but into the 1930s, it seems, many people considered it immoral for men and boys to walk around shirtless.  In fact, some youths were arrested for baring their chests.  This is an article from Pittsburgh in the mid-30s:

Just think how far our notions of morality have come since then. Whether that's good or bad, I don't know.  But here, in the year 2010, some of the boys primp and preen as much as the girls, and some of them seem to want to be objectified. Is that good or bad?  None of my business. But here's what we've come to -- and this may not be safe for work -- the home page for Abercrombie for Kids, a store that supposedly targets consumers 7-16 years old. 

Yikes. I don't know what to say about that link, except we've gone from teen guys being arrested for playing ball shirtless to teen guys' bodies being sold like commodities in the marketplace.  I'm wondering if it deserves to be called "progress."

Now I'm sounding like those damn women's groups trying to get the guys to cover up.  Sorry. I'll have to watch myself.