Bookshops in the US have apparently censored images of Andrej Pejic bare chested, because although he is a man, “customers might think he is a woman”. And apparently the sight of female breasts is offensive and horrifying to their clientele. Sadly, they are probably right that leaving the image uncensored will cause screams of horror. Yet I would make a fairly large bet that there are magazines with blood, dead people, or other images of gore and violence, that are happily displayed front and centre in those same bookshops.
I find this deeply puzzling. There is a lot of screaming about the sexualisation of children, but much less about their exposure to violence and gore. My 8 year old’s teacher recommended that she watch the news and read newspapers to extend her reading and current event knowledge – but we won’t let her watch the news. It is far too distressing, and she does not yet have the skills to process it, or understand that the bad stuff gets reported and sensationalised because it sells, and that there are good things happening every day that just aren’t “worth” reporting.
I have often felt out on a limb because our children watch very little television – and what they do watch is carefully selected. At 8 and 4 they have never watched commercial tv, and we switch the radio off when the news comes on. I felt somewhat vindicated when I read a recent article in Melbourne’s Child in which an academic described research that shows that children who watch the news often wind up more anxious right into adulthood, and that they become hypersensitized to the possibility of bad things happening to themselves, and the people around them.
The Age today has a headline on its website about a grandmother being beheaded. In Spain. It had a different headline yesterday, no less horrifying, about the same story. We hear all about traumatic things happening all over the world, with no perspective. Headlines screaming about people dying in horrific ways tend not to specify that it was a long way away. And you know what? I don’t think it’s only kids who become anxious as a result.
We are bombarded with violent, horrifying images and stories every day. And each one that happens is rehashed repeatedly, before it is allowed to fade from the headlines (until the 1 month, 6 month, and 1 year anniversaries, and so on ad nauseam). But breasts – oh my goodness, please protect us from those! (To say nothing of bottoms.)
My 8 year old gets very grumpy on hot days, when she sees boys going about shirtless, because she feels it is massively unfair that they can, and she can’t. And I can’t explain to her why it’s fair – because it is manifestly not. It’s a weird, artificial construct. It’s ok to show blood, gore and guns, but save us from skin – that stuff’s dangerous.
If I were to put an image of a breast on this post, I would probably get into trouble for not having an adult-content warning on my blog. And yet naked people are something all of us will encounter in our lives (we hope!). Nakedness is as natural, and harmless, as a newborn baby. Violence, on the other hand, is something we hope not to encounter, and that I think we’d all prefer to protect our children from. So why do we allow images of that everywhere, and wildly censor the human body?
I just don’t get it.